NBC's David Gregory Realizes What Tea Parties Are All About

A small group of liberal talking heads may be realizing that opposition to Obama is not, in fact, wholly irrational. Though it would be a bit too hasty to proclaim it a trend among the mainstream media, it has been a refreshing break from the smears usually hurled at the right by the nation's pundits.

First was Chris Matthews, who stunningly turned right and voiced his concern about an excessively large federal government, as Noel Sheppard reported this morning. NBC's David Gregory also came to his senses today, and admitted--his prior statements notwithstanding--that the Tea Party movement has been advocating the same principles that led to Scott Brown's victory yesterday (h/t Mary Katherine Ham).

Speaking on this morning's Morning Joe, Gregory characterized yesterday's special election as a sincere populist backlash against unpopular policies. The election was "about incumbency and whether government's working for you," he said. "That's what really cuts through all this is whether government is working for the people. That's what's fueling the Tea Party movement."

Well, yes, that is correct. A desire to keep America's politicians in check by reminding them that they will be voted out if they are not responsive to the people is a central tenet of the Tea Party movement. But this realization seems to have dawned on Gregory a bit late.

On an August airing of "Meet the Press", Gregory argued that town hall protests against congressional health care legislation--protests that morphed into the Tea Party movement in the fall--were "synonymous" with violence against the United States government and its leaders. Gregory even likened the protesters to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

All right.  But let’s talk about the tone of the debate.  There have been death threats against members of Congress, there are Nazi references to members of Congress and to the president.  Here are some of the images. The president being called a Nazi, his reform effort being called Nazi-like, referring to Nazi Germany, members of Congress being called the same.  And then there was this image this week outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a town hall event that the president had, this man with a gun strapped to his leg held that sign, “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” It was a reference to that famous Thomas Jefferson quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” That has become a motto for violence against the government.  Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, had that very quote on his shirt the day of the bombing of the Murrah building when 168 people were killed…

I’m talking about the tone.  I am talking about violence against the government. That’s what this is synonymous with.

Of course nothing about the Tea Party movement has changed since then--it is still strongly anti-incumbent, pro-market, and patriotic. It was never a violent or racist movement, nor was it dominated by folks who throw around historical epithets like "Nazi" or "fascist" (those individuals certainly have been present--and trumpeted by the liberal press--but have by no means hijacked the Tea Party movement).

A handful of the nation's pundits are beginning to realize that those values espoused by the Tea Partiers--the free market, minimal government intrusions, individual liberty--are appealing to voters even in states as liberal as Massachusetts. Obama's forays into the economy have turned Americans off to his agenda.

As Mary Katherine Ham writes, "if the media or Democrats had bothered to treat Tea Partiers' concerns with a modicum of respect in August, they might still have their Massachusetts Senate seat in January." I wouldn't hold my breath, but it is refreshing to see at least a couple pundits opening their eyes and looking around.

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