Eleanor Clift: What Would the Tea Party Do?





[Eleanor Clift became a contributing editor of Newsweek in September 1994.]

The Tea Party movement is premised on love for the Constitution. Activists carry a pocket-size copy of the document to underscore their commitment to a strict application of its wise words. They believe that the policies President Obama is putting in place trample on the Constitution and sacrifice American individuality and ingenuity on the altar of a misplaced view of social justice. With Obama getting hit from all sides on his response to the oil spill, it’s time to ask how a government based on Tea Party principles would cope with the assault on America’s way of life in the gulf region.

The Founding Fathers never envisioned dealing with a hole in the bottom of the ocean causing such havoc that the president would feel compelled to get directly involved in stemming the leak and adjudicating whatever claims might arise. Judging from remarks made Wednesday in Washington by Tea Party adviser and booster Republican Dick Armey, Obama’s demand that BP pony up $20 billion (one year’s worth of profits) for a fund to compensate victims of the spill is so out of line with the Constitution that it’s another cardinal sin against the liberty and freedom of the populist movement aligned on the right against big government in Washington....

This is what happens when conservative populism meets reality. Cutting back the size of government is great in theory, but if the Tea Party crowd actually succeeded, mused panelist Barone, “will it prove just as unpopular as what these guys [members of the Obama administration] are doing?” Obama is struggling to get command of the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, and what he’s doing is far from perfect. But when voters consider the alternative, they should ask all these born-again property-rights proponents what it is they would do, besides call their lawyer.



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