LAT's Oliphant Lets Joe Biden Babble Away, Part 1 of 3: On the Origins of the Tea Party 'Barbarians'

October 6th, 2011 6:01 PM

In a report filed at the Los Angeles Times's Politics Now blog earlier today, Washington Bureau reporter James Oliphant relayed a number of whoppers delivered by Vice President Joe Biden without anything resembling a challenge.

Breaking Biden's bilge into three sections, they involve his claim about the historical origins of the Tea Party, which Biden characterized as a collection of "barbarians" only a month ago (and as "terrorists" two month ago); his hit at Bank of America and its $5 monthly fee for debit-card use; and the nature of the "bailouts" which followed the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in the fall of 2008. In this first part, I will go after what Biden said about the Tea Party. An excerpt from Oliphant's writeup follows the jump (bolds are mine throughout):

Biden likens Occupy Wall Street to tea party, blasts BofA

Vice President Joe Biden likened the Occupy Wall Street movement to the tea party at a forum in Washington on Thursday, saying both were driven by middle-class frustration with government bailouts of corporate America.

“What is the core of that protest, and why is it increasing in terms of the people its attracting? The core is that the bargain has been breached with the American people. The core is that the American people do not think the system is fair or on the level," Biden said at forum sponsored by the Atlantic magazine and the Aspen Institute at the Newseum in Washington.

“There’s a lot in common with the tea party,” Biden said. “The tea party started why? TARP. They thought it was unfair we were bailing out the big guys.”

(Uh, just out of curiosity, didn't both Joe Biden and his boss Barack Obama support "bailing out the big guys" and for TARP? Why, yes they did.)

Citizens' underlying frustrations origins indeed began with TARP, but the frustration didn't begin jell into organized protests until February of 2009 in direct response to imminent passage of the Obama administration's stimulus plan. The St. Louis Tea Party tells us that "The 2009 Stimulus helped inpire the Tea Party movement in February 2009." Oliphant's own paper noted the following on February 27, 2009:

... a wave of images, blog posts and videos from a nationwide protest has been washing across the Web. The protests, dubbed "tea parties" by participants, were held Friday in several U.S. cities including Portland and Washington, D.C. as a response to what demonstrators see as unfettered spending and encroaching government as represented by President Obama's economic recovery plans.

An Associated Press photo at the beginning of the item has the following caption: "Protesters rally against the stimulus plan in Hartford, Conn." The word "bailout" and "TARP" do not appear in the Times's article. That's because it was the Obama administration's "economic recovery plans," which came to be known as "stimulus," which drove everyday Americans to demonstrate.

Jim Geraghty's take on the Tea Party's origins at National Review in January of this year mentions TARP, but in context the actions of the Obama administration in its early months dominate his treatment, and clearly were the organizing motivator:

You didn’t see the demographics that make up the GOP base – small businessmen, parents, members of the military – marching and waving signs because they were too busy working for a living.

... Enter the Obama administration.

Like most successes, at least a thousand figures are claiming fatherhood of the Tea Party phenomenon, but a key moment came Feb. 19, 2009, from an unlikely source: CNBC correspondent Rick Santelli, who launched into an off-the-cuff rant when asked to evaluate the initial moves from the Obama administration to deal with a housing market that had plummeted. “The government is promoting bad behavior!” Santelli shouted, accusing the administration of a plan that amounted to “subsidizing the losers’ mortgages.”

... Listen to a discussion of the debt and deficit at a Tea Party meeting, and you won’t hear a lot of numbers; instead, it is articulated as a moral issue, and a national moral failure. The spending spree of TARP and the stimulus — and a deficit exacerbated by plummeting tax revenues — is spurring Americans to look at the debt as a great horror inflicted upon their children and grand children.

Again, while TARP has been a particular source of concern among Tea Party sympathizers, it is not, as Biden claims, the reason why Tea Party activism began. It began in earnest as a result of the stimulus plan, and the sudden prospect, since fulfilled for three years running, that the nation was facing trillion-dollar budget deficits as far as the eye can see. Assuming he reads and remembers what has been written in his own newspaper, James Oliphant should know that, in my opinion probably does. But he still let Biden's babble and his sudden fake respect for the "barbarians" in the Tea Party go unchallenged.

The Occupy Wall Street crowd, in total contrast to Tea Party sympathizers, seems singularly uninterested in the size of the government's annual deficits. The only things the two groups appear to have in common is that their participants breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. As to who the real "barbarians" are, well, that determination has become pretty easy given the conduct of many in the OWS contingent.

Later this evening, Part 2 will deal with Biden's comments on Bank of America, while Part 3 will address the largely untold story of the original bank bailouts.

Cross-posted at