September 16th, 2009
12:01 PM ET

Tea Party isn't about racism

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Editor's note: John Feehery worked for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republicans in Congress. He is president of Feehery Group, a Washington-based advocacy firm that has represented clients that include News Corp., Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He formerly was a government relations executive vice president for the Motion Picture Association of America.

John Feehery
Special to CNN

It is altogether ironic that the one person to have a Sam Adams beer at the infamous beer summit, hosted by the president, was Skip Gates, the Harvard professor whose arrest led to the summit.

Sam Adams was the key revolutionary figure in the Boston Tea Party of 1774, the spark that lit the American Revolution.

And now, 235 years later, Tea Parties have sprung up around the country as a reaction against the rule of President Obama and the Democratic Congress.

It is unlikely that Skip Gates will be spending any time addressing a Tea Party in his hometown of Boston any time soon.

And unlike the popular perception promoted by some in the media, the Tea Party is distinct from the Republican Party, probably as distinct as Sam Adams beer is from Bud Lite.

The Tea Party presents the first truly grass-roots threat to the ambitious agenda of President Obama. Largely misunderstood as anti-tax activists, and attacked by congressional Democrats as a collection of crazy right-wingers, the folks who go to Tea Parties are not concerned primarily with tax policy (although if the Democrats move to raise taxes on just about everybody, that could change).

Instead, they are mostly motivated by out-of-control spending, towering debt, and the pervasive feeling that government is too big, too powerful, too unaccountable and too cozy with Wall Street.

While the Tea Party movement presents a threat to the Obama administration, it also presents a challenge to congressional Republicans. After all, many of the protesters have as low a regard for the GOP as they do for the Democrats, and they hold the previous administration in as much as contempt as they do the Obama White House.

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soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. concern denver Co

    The tea party is a day late and a dollsr short Bush already ran up the debit ..

    September 16, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  2. Patricia Cole

    Americans' upset with an over-reaching government is not racism, it is anger over our loss of freedom. Of course there are racists, but remember, racism can and does occur in people of all color. Whites are not the only racists, and the frequent play of the race card is nothing short of racism!

    September 16, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    The protestors need to find a new spokesman for their cause other than Mark Williams. He does seem racist but the people protesting in the streets do not seem to be as "far-out" as Mark Williams does.

    September 16, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  4. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    This is pure BS. If you look at the videos of the tea party protests there are thousands of signs about the issues, and thousands of American flags. Yet one or two dubious signs are found, and the whole movement is racist? Get a grip. Yes there is racism in America. Perhaps the fact that 99% of the AA in the country voted for Obama (including many conservative blacks) is the real racism. I'm sick of the race card, and so is the 50% of americans who disagree with Obama's far left policies.

    September 16, 2009 at 8:31 pm |
  5. Roger P

    It has nothing to do with race everytime the president is wrong everybody has the right to protest. Remmember obama said that if we pass the stimulos unemployment will not get over 8 percent just look and see what its at. Remmember anybody making under 250k will not see a single dime increase on their taxer, in one day he hiked the cigarette tax 60 cents. Now lets discuss ACORN teaching their so called agents helping PIMPS LIE TO OPEN UP BROTHELS and bringing in under age girls from EL SALVADOR for SEX now thats one great ORGANIZATION.

    September 16, 2009 at 8:27 pm |
  6. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    I've seen so much film and photo's of the tea party last weekend, but I saw it only in white, perhaps It's time for a new TV , or I need to double check my contrast button . The way I saw it was without color, just like a Klan rally. Racism is alive and well in America and all the ignorance that goes along with it. Every citizen in this country should stand united against any product advertised, perpetuating this crime. Racism is a Hate crime in this country . Fight Racisn for free, wont cost you a dime.Don't support Racism or turn a blind eye , even if it comes with a coupon .

    September 16, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  7. Donna Wood Lil' Tennessee

    Perhaps sir you doth protest too much that this is not a race issue for it not to be a race issue! Oh my but I do think that some of the protest signs were a dead giveaway!

    Donna Wood
    Lexington, Tennessee

    September 16, 2009 at 6:57 pm |
  8. SLM

    For those who ask where I was when GWB was around? Working, the economy was booming and business was great. Obamas policies will send more businesses over seas and more jobs will be lost. You want to pin healthcare on employers or make them pay a fine...........any idea what will happen? As a small business owner, I will tell you...........more jobs lost. It isn't rocket science folks, just a little common sense.

    September 16, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  9. returntocommonsense

    Let's be fair – some of the people at this rally truly do oppose the President's policies because of their viewpoints. However, the vast majority of these "tea baggers" do not like the fact that a black man is in the White House (and yes I am white). You can try to deny it all you want, but with people like Mark Williams heading up the movement it's hard to deny the racial factor.

    I have never seen this type of viciousness towards any past administration no matter what their policies were.

    September 16, 2009 at 5:29 pm |
  10. Philoan M. Tran - Houston

    Get a reality check – the tax protesters are mostly White and they are holding up derogatory signs about Obama. Of course, it is about racism but they do not want to be called racists. If it was about big government spending, then why were they not out there protesting when Bush was bailing the banks and AIG out?

    September 16, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  11. Toni

    Not about racism?!?! Yeh, right. If that were not the case, then why not let the administration do some work before blocking their every move? Why was no tea being served for the past eight years? Come on people, we may have come here on different ships, but we are in the same boat now, so let's stop the false accusations, work together and pray for the country.

    September 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  12. Lampe

    You people are real FUNNY! Where were these people when GWB was President? I'll tell you where I was. Bit–ing, just like I am now. So let me get this straight. Just because GWB, made a mess of things, and got us into debt, it should be Okay for Obama to get us further in debt? Are you people serious. We need changes so people can afford HealthCare Insurance. What we don't need, and can't afford is a complete overhaul. I'm sorry but two wrongs DO NOT MAKE IT RIGHT!

    September 16, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  13. Eli MN

    just to add another two cents worth, if in fact the tea parties where not about race? why then do you think it is disproportionate whites in these tea parties. I am sorry but as a latino if you put me around a bunch of people who are clearly not comfortable with my ethnicity i will know, we minorities can smell it no matter how you want to disguise it.

    September 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Lisa in CA

    Amazing has it right - really, do the politicians live in such a bubble that they just don't get we are fed up? Our anger is not directed to Obama about healthcare but government as a whole (senate, house, White House) and their truly lack of understanding of what is important to the citizenry. Both parties can demonize the other as starting all this but the fact remains - we, the people of the United States of America, have had enough taxation without representation, enough of the lobbyists getting what they want at our expense, enough bailouts for the wealthy corporations at our expense and at some point in time our elected "representatives" need to face reality - not their spin on how we don't know what's best for us.

    September 16, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  15. Pat, Sacramento, CA

    I'm troubled by the sudden rage in these people–and it is rage, not discussion.

    When a person yells "I want my country back." I want to ask what is different from when Bush had our men and women dying at the rate of 3 and 4 per day? What is different when the Enron laughed because doctors were interrupted in the middle of eye surgery, or cars were crashing at intersection, or people were stuck in elevators. Why wasn't there rage then? We were held hostage to utility companies.

    When companies would reduce our retirement to one third and CEO buy airplaines....and I am still working after 63 years old. Why wasn't there rage then?

    Now they scream that their country is taken from them. What is gone??? What have they lost under Obama???

    Or is it rally that they don't want "Him" who couldn't be eligible to be president because he one of ........

    Well you know how the rest goes....because you know people who think like that..... are they the ones holding up the "witch-doctor signs"?.

    September 16, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  16. Jason

    These "Tea Parties" as they are being called now, were going on when Bush was president. That the media has relabeled them with the new administration is frustrating. Long before they were called "Tea Parties", citizens around the country were gathering to fight tax increases and government waste. Since the Healthcare debacle has started, others have glommed onto these meetings and they are slowly being transformed into "Tea Parties".

    So to all you asking where we were during Bush, I'll say, we were there, and we're still there for the same reasons. We want smaller government, and less nanny state.

    September 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  17. Michael Stahl

    Why would you have Mr Williams back on your program after his performance the last time. Do inane opinions and comments from people like this really deserve to be givin a national media platform? What possible benefit could this man provide to the national debate on anything.

    September 16, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  18. Dayna Walker

    Mark Williams, Tea Party Leader called President Obama a Indonesian Muslim, welfare thug and racist in chief. This is Anti Tax talk? Let's ask a 5th grader

    September 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  19. Jim Draper, Bossier City, La

    The only time when Race is not an issue in Southern States from North Carolina to West Texas is when the high schools suit up to play Friday Night High School Football. Then, Black is beautiful, not only beautiful but most times the "Fastest and Most Agile". President Carter deserves "praise" for having the courage to state what is so evident.

    September 16, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  20. Doris

    This is the first time I have posted anything. But I am so angry. How can this be about race when the President is half white, raised by white grandparents, and his Mother is white. Why does no one talk about that!! So how did race become a part of anything?

    September 16, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  21. Anastasia

    Joe Wilson the man who broke 231 years of tradition when he screamed 'you lie' at the President during his congressionial address to the congress is a member of the Sons of the Confederacy, he is also the new hero of the tea bagger crowd. The SCV is an organization that, as the SPLC(Southern Povert Law Center) has detailed assiduously, has been taken over in the past decade by radical neo-Confederates who favor secession and defend slavery as a benign institution. If the sheet fits wear it! Wilson is a racist.

    September 16, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  22. Madeleine

    Joe Wilson's outburst was bred in the Petri dish of racism. What was so "emotional" about the issue? That there was a loophole wherein an illiegal alien would not have show citizenship in an emergency room? That was reasoned dissent?

    I am interested, for anyone who imagines this hysteria is not racism, in what would have been said by the Republicans if a Dem, black, female Representive shouted out "YOU LIE" during a speech George W. gave before Congress? This incident was vile and disgusting raw racism. And the Republicans now are taking this hypocritical high road response, is just more proof how they sold out to the corps and have no interest in working to create a sound policy that will save our children from the burden of health care cosing 40% of their pay, and ultimately having our country turn into a vast surfdom of Corporate Land Lords.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  23. Thomas

    I wish people would just give the president a break. The man hasn't even been in office for a year and people's faith in him is already shaken. Have some patience and faith in the system. As the old saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day". And also remember, he is not the only president to blame for the problems this nation faces.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  24. Heather,ca

    Its not grass roots. Its every day citizens saying enough is enough. You can't spend your way out of fiscal irresponsibility. China which owns us and financed the war in Iraq even knows that. They laugh at us. They knoiw we will never ever be able to pay off the debt with devalued currency.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  25. Outraged

    I was livid last night when I heard Jimmy Carter's comment that these Tea Parties and protests against healthcare reform are a form of racism, because our President of black. How dare he presume to imply that everyone who is opposed this healthcare bill and everything else our government is trying to force down our throats are racists. When is the race card going to stop being played in this Country. I'm not a "member" of these Tea Parties but I myself am against "big brother" taking over my freedoms, I could careless if "big brother" is black or white.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  26. sandy

    The place to look for wasted money is in our defense budget, not in trying to bring health insurance to 30-40 million uninsured Americans. The Tea Party protesters are tools, they just don't know it. Fear Rules the mob.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  27. Jenn S

    This is B.S. If in fact this tea party movement was really concerned with "out-of-control spending, towering debt, and the pervasive feeling that government is too big, too powerful, too unaccountable and too cozy with Wall Street" then why did they wait until Obama got into office to start protesting? Where were their voices the last eight years when Bush ballooned the national debt, eavesdropped on innocent Americans, let Wall St police itself, and trampled the constitution?

    September 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm |
  28. Grace

    I can't help but notice that the recession didn't start until Obama became a favorite for the win in the Democratic party... And just in case you're curious, I'm a conservative democrat.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:36 pm |
  29. Earl

    The Tea Party is not racist; they need all of the Nazi emblematics, insulting caricatures and separatist paraphernalia to ensure they have your attention. This is all rapped painstakingly under the banner of “Free Speech” which has simply become the 21st century “White Sheet” a new means of hiding the face of cowardly men and deluded followers.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  30. Mary Phillips

    Racism by any other name is still racism.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  31. Conserve' for USA

    Wake up left sided America and stop drinking the kool aid long enough and you will find out what is really going on. The tea party is made up of all parties, not just republicans. If you haven't been to one in person you have no room to talk. Main stream America is fed up with what the government is doing. You who think this is racist because it is against the president, who happens to be half black, have very small minds and I feel sorry for you. Is this race card going to be played the whole time President Obama is in office? Is this the only arguement you can come up with?

    September 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  32. hawaiicountyissues

    This Tea Party has been steeping too long. Race is the only thing it can be.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  33. Barbara

    Educate yourself and direct your anger at the right people. We didn't get where we are since January. The goverment for those who don't k now are made up of elected officials put into office by the majority of the population .... your "grass roots movement" don't include minorities how is that not racist!

    September 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  34. Dano Cardoso

    Joe Wilson isn't racist – he just can't keep from yelling at the black President when he talks about Mexicans in speech. LOL

    September 16, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  35. Ricardo Ortega

    I do agree that we are being taxed into oblivion, the goverment taxes the people on everything and we have no saying in the matter. if we do not pay the goverment their taxes we get put in jail for tax evasion, since when is not paying taxes a crime? the rich do not pay taxes and they commit all the crimes but nothing happens to them. I voted for Obama and i'm very proud of that, he's a great man but the government is out of control with heavy taxation and run away spending. i still thing the republicans are a bunch of racist, ignorant biggots but i agree with them on this one issue.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  36. Linda Sante

    What a horrible mental atmosphere, how can fairness be found or justified?

    September 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  37. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    Racism exists and, unfortunately, is the fact that only when there is equal opportunity for blacks, is that it will decrease.

    Barack Obama occupies the highest office in the country, but It will not be easier for him. He will be the target of racism, there will be different with him.

    September 16, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  38. Barbara Ann Snowberger

    I think they do protest too much..pun intended...the raw nerve of racism has been touched by President Carter's remarks. Wonder what the ratings were on Soledad O'Briens Black in America series?
    What area's of the country were ratings the lowest, highest?
    Now that the scab has been peeled away, When does healing actually begin.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  39. Food Fascist

    By the way, the Boston Tea Party was to revolt against having local tea undercut by subsidized, cheaper tea- like what Wal Mart does to us daily – why are nt you protesting and boycotting Wal Mart?

    September 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  40. Jim Hurst

    Tea Parties are basicly driven by hate. Try asking people at the Tea Parties what there really there for, and you'll get some really crazy answers. They don't know either

    September 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  41. Mari

    Mr. Feehery,

    You are free to say anything you like, sir, but it is obvious by looking at the crowd of Tea-Baggers, that they are all ....... white. This is indeed about race. Here is why: During the Bush Regime our government grew more than under any other president, no one protested. Bush hid the cost of the Iraq war, no one protested; Bush APPROVED AND SIGNED the BILL allowing the BAILOUTS of the banks and Wall Street, these people did not protest.

    The leader of the Tea-Baggers, was on CNN with Anderson Cooper, and he said that the President of the United States, is "an Indonesian-Muslim-socialist-thug." Now, sir, if this is not a racist comment what is?

    September 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  42. Meredith S Whaley

    It was painful to me to watch David Gergen on Monday nite. His reaction to Mark Williams spoke for me. How can we be a government when we have no rational discourse, no civility, no respect. I would like for you to ask Mark Williams who pays for those shiny new buses they are using.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  43. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Look at the signs and then look at the people carrying them; they sure don't look like they are from Mars.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  44. tonedef

    Where were these people when bush was spending hundreds of billions of dollars and cutting trillions of dollars in taxes?

    September 16, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  45. Beverly

    Another thing – where were these "patriots" as they call themselves, when the Bush administration was sending this country down the toilet???

    September 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  46. Beverly

    I agree John – President Obama depicted as a "witch doctor"??? You wouldn't have seen GWB portrayed like that. they can state all they want until the cows come home that racism has nothing to do with. these people didn't vote for Obama. we all know the right wing nuts in this country led by Boss Limbaugh are doing everything in their power to undermine anything the President does. they are sore losers and loser all together. screaming people down, racist and threatening signs, – that's not the democracy i grew up with. they don't even attack the health care bill itself – their entire attack is directed at the President. So tell me another one folks.

    September 16, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  47. Denis Boudreau

    The enormous deficit of the US was cause by George Bush war. The current economic crises was also partly cause by his governement laxism durant the last 8 years. Yet, the Tea Party movement choose to direct it anger toward Obama and the Democrat who are simply trying to fix everything and have to deal with the mess left by Bush. Tea Party Party group is not associated with the Republican Pary? Really? Well, I'm quite sure that most "Tea Party" members voted for Republicans in the last election. Just ask arround if you want proof.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  48. Billy

    Mark Williams not Mike Williams

    September 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  49. John

    Give me a break. Just look at the vast majority of the signs these people are holding up at the rally's and also who the organizers are. Please don't insult us by saying it is a "grass roots movement"

    September 16, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  50. Amazing

    Is it so hard to figure out we are pissed off with all the government waste. It is our hard earned dollars they are throwing away and we all know taxes, fees or whatever else they try to call.........will go up. To try and call it racism is crap. To throw 8.5 billion to a corrupt organization like ACORN is insane. Pay attention to where YOUR hard earned money is going and you may be pissed off to. Unless ofcourse you don't pay taxes and are on the freebie band wagon.

    September 16, 2009 at 12:20 pm |
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