Commentary: Sarah's Tea Party

Sarah Palin, former candidate for vice president of the United States, former half-term governor of Alaska, current darling of the ultra-right and perennial champion of no government or small government or some such, sarcastically asked attendees at the Nashville, Tenn., "Tea Party convention" two weekends ago how President Obama's "hope-y, change-y" was going and otherwise trashed government and the like in her speech. And the attendees loved her, of course.

And as for the ultraliberal pundits who just love to bash Palin, might I just cite something these pointy-headed liberals don't even recognize? That's right. Lots of the members of the Tea Party crowd made noise about being anti-government and in favor of small government and against all the intrusions of government into their lives ... one guy even attacked seat belts ... but how many of them demonstrated their anti-government credentials in the way Sarah Palin did? Yes! She was so anti-establishment that after being elected governor by the people of Alaska, she just quit! Now that's standing up against government!

It makes me a little melancholy, frankly, because I think about what a great statement she might have made if she and John McCain had won the 2008 election and she could have been in a position to resign as vice president.

Now Palin did say at some point in the midst of all this Tea Party stuff that she didn't particularly want to be the leader of the movement. Again, that's standing up for principle. Being the leader of it would be just a tad too much like being part of the government. And she's against government, which is why she was such a hero to the Tea Party people (and why, rumor had it, they were ready to go $100,000 for her fee thanks to a $549 ticket price for the convention or $349 just to see Palin).

These folks are disgruntled with Washington. Say "Washington" to a Tea Party person and be prepared to defend yourself. Presumably, they're also mad at the people in their own state capitals. They certainly have no use for President Obama, who cranked up evil ol' "big government" to try to prevent the Great Recession from becoming the Great Depression. Taxes? Put 'em up again. Don't need no stinkin' taxes. The country's direction? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It appeared from early news reports, in fact, that some of the attendees weren't even all that crazy about each other. One group claimed another group was profiting too much and tickets were too expensive. And then the major parties declined invitations, with organizers (reported The New York Times) saying the Democrats never returned calls and the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, copped out to a scheduling conflict.

The tea partiers likely were savvy enough to know that if Mr. Steele were a 16-year-old girl getting called for a date, "scheduling" would be pretty much the same as, "Sorry, but I have to wash my hair."

I must say that as much as I like Nashville, I do not regret the decision to pass it up. People mad at one other. Complaining. Talking about other members of the group behind their backs. Spending money on events and hotels. I mean, you can pretty much get that at just about any out-of-town family wedding. And at least you're guaranteed some free cake and lime-ice punch and perhaps a piece of chicken.

And while there's always the chance that a random cousin will do something embarrassing, it's unlikely it will be anything as bad as the performance in Nashville of Tom Tancredo, the former congressman from the galaxy of Nebular who reckoned in his tea party speech that President Obama was supported by people who could "not even spell the word 'vote' or say it in English."

Not exactly doing his Abe Lincoln impersonation there, was he?

Tancredo once ran for president on an anti-immigration platform, and he's the guy who was shouted down by student protesters last spring at UNC-Chapel Hill. The protesters were criticized by some within and without the university community for trying to stifle Tancredo's free speech. It now appears they weren't exactly silencing Socrates.

So let's see. What we have here is a movement that isn't really a movement because no single person seems to want to step forward to lead it, and a few people who did try to lead it got criticized by the others who didn't want to lead it. Everybody was criticizing Barack Obama. The movement's hero made a nice attention-getting speech but didn't have a lot of new things to say. And sometimes it seemed everything was in chaos.

Are we sure this was not the Democratic National Convention?