Peggy Noonan Paints The 'Tea Party' As 'Spontaneous' - Downplays Beck As 'Shiny Object'


Peggy Noonan did her best to try to portray the "Tea Party" movement as some kind of leaderless, spontaneous, grass roots movement on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. She also really didn't want anyone to pay any attention to, as fellow panelist Charles Postel pointed out, the influence of Fox News and Glenn Beck have had in promoting the astroturf movement.

Noonan also tried selling the fantasy that this movement which is fueling the anger of the most extreme in the right wing base is somehow going to appeal to "centrists." Noonan knows full well that this movement has been co-opted by big business interests, that it's nothing but an effort to re-brand the Republican Party and that they're pushing the party further to the right.

You can read the transcript for the entire two segments here. Below are the portions highlighting Noonan's hackery.

ZAKARIA: Peggy, what do you think? Is this a garden variety --


ZAKARIA: -- conservative movement? Something more?

NOONAN: I think it is conservative, but it has potential appeal to centrists. I think it has some of the -- the Tea Party has some of the style and -- and spirit, if you will, of classic populist movements. It is anti-establishment, it is anti-elite, it is broad, it is spontaneous, it is still evolving. It is not something that is set.

It is not part of the Republican Party. It is a critique of and challenge to that party, and we'll see how that goes, how that relationship plays out as the Tea Party evolves.

But I -- I think it's very much within American tradition, and I also think it is where the energy is on the political scene right now.

ZAKARIA: So Bob, when does something that we would call modern populism -- in other words, not going all the way back, but when does populism as we would understand it begin in the modern -- in the modern era?

ROBERT CARO, AUTHOR, THE YEARS OF LYNDON JOHNSON: It's not only the when, but where. You know, populism started 48 miles north of Lyndon Johnson's hometown, Johnson City, in the depths of the -- the Texas Hill Country.

When you think of populism today, you say Lyndon Johnson's grandfather ran for the legislature on the populist ticket. His father didn't -- was a Democrat, but he was a true populist, who said to Lyndon Johnson, the job of government is to help people cordon the tentacles of circumstance.

That's what populism wanted. Populism was for social justice, where government's stepping in to help people fighting forces too big for them to fight themselves.

So when I watch the Tea Party today, try to appropriate the tag of populism, you really think that's really at odds with American history.

ZAKARIA: So Charles, would you agree with that? That the populist movement, in its essence, has really a kind of movement of -- of people wanting government involvement?

CHARLES POSTEL, AUTHOR, THE POPULIST VISION: I -- I agree with that, very much so. This is a good description. It was -- the epicenter was Central Texas back in the 1880s and '90s. Poor farmers wanted to use government to make a better life for themselves. They wanted to use government to make a better life for poor people, and that's the --

ZAKARIA: So what --

POSTEL: That was what it was about.

ZAKARIA: So what is the Tea Party?

POSTEL: The Tea Party is a conservative movement, not a populist movement. It's a conservative movement that doesn't think the government should make a better life for poor people, for -- for the common person.


ZAKARIA: Peggy, what do you think? Why is the energy there?

NOONAN: Because they feel, I think -- I mean, I spend a lot of time talking to and e-mailing with folks who were involved in various places in the Tea Party. They're so diverse in their thinking and some of them talk about the tenth amendment or some of them talk about this.

But the one thing that they have in common, and if they stick with this I think they will be very attractive in the future to centrist voters and thinkers. The one thing they have in common is that they are making a kind of economic protest against the federal government in Washington.

They're saying you are too big. You demand too much. You are changing the shape of too many things. You're regulating too much, and all of this promises to be bad for our country in the future.

But it's economic issues that they talk about.

I think, as they evolve, if they become involved in other issues, it may not be so attractive to centrists. But I think if they stay where they are and look to their knitting, it will move forward and be something very interesting and full of implication.


CARO: Well, you know, Peggy, you're -- you're perfectly right. It's economic interests they're talking about. The interests they're not talking about is social justice.

The whole idea of populism is that government must step in to help people fighting forces that are too large for them to help fight themselves. Who would say, in the interest of -- if you talk to the populist leaders and you said 39 or 40 million Americans don't have health insurance today, who in the original populist movement would not say then it's the job of government to step in and do that?

That's the terrible thing that's been lost in this debate. The whole history, the whole fight, you might say, for social justice in America is sort of being left out of this discussion of the Tea Party Movement.

NOONAN: Bob, are we confusing populism and the populist tradition with progressivism and the progressivist tradition?

I don't hear anybody in the Tea Party saying do away with Social Security.

POSTEL: (INAUDIBLE). Everywhere.

NOONAN: All right.

POSTEL: Everywhere.

NOONAN: In every movement there are some people. They --

POSTEL: No, no.

NOONAN: They are absolutely not saying Social Security should not exist.

POSTEL: They are (ph).

NOONAN: They are saying reform the entitlements. They are saying change the way it's set up, and they are seeing --

POSTEL: This is what you would like them to say.

NOONAN: It is what they are saying, and saying to me.

Now, they may be saying something different to you, but it is a nation of 305 million people. You are describing something that I'm not seeing, and so it leaves me confused.

This is a broad -- the Tea Party Movement is broad and evolving. Nobody's in charge of it. Nobody's telling it what to think.

POSTEL: The Tea Party Movement is a very well-organized, very disciplined movement, in my view. It has very important centers of power. The role of FOX News, Glenn Beck, is very important in this. It's not -- he's not just a -- a figure. He's just not one of the figures. He is a very important mover and shaker in the Tea Party Movement.

And what I'm describing is the stuff about -- about --

BROOKHISER: Free press. Terrible.

POSTEL: I'm all for the free press, but this --

BROOKHISER: They're not (ph) having an effect.

POSTEL: I'm all -- I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, but we should recognize that the -- that the -- that the FOX machine plays a fundamental role in the organization of the Tea Parties. And Glenn Beck is one of these people who's saying that -- that Obama is leading us -- or is a socialist, and leading us to --

BROOKHISER: The National Review Institute --

NOONAN: Charles, I think it's more interesting than that.

BROOKHISER: So the National Review Institute took a -- a poll about the Tea Party and -- and related phenomena, and of the respondents who said they had been to Tea Parties, one-fifth of them said they voted for Obama.

ZAKARIA: We have to break the discussion. We will be back to have more on the Tea Party, more on American politics, left, right and center.


ZAKARIA: So if Obama were a middle aged white man do you think there's many people would be saying he's taken the country away from me, he's -- he's not an American, things like that?

POSTEL: Well, I -- I think that my own view is that if Hillary Clinton were president, we would have -- we would have the same billionaires funding protest movements against her that we have against Obama. The Coke Brothers were just as passionate against Clinton as they are against Obama, and we would be, if she had pushed health insurance, we would be having the same cries of socialist dictatorship that we have today.

I don't think there's a difference. There's no question that the Tea Party is tapping into racist -- racist feelings.

BROOKHISER: (INAUDIBLE) because it's an important part of it.


ZAKARIA: Peggy, race?

NOONAN: I don't think that's what this is about. I think the Tea Party Movement is about a crisis in America and an attempt by people to deal with it in a way that is not driven by parties but is driven by individuals who are connecting through the internet, through various ways, and trying to move the ball forward in a way that they think is commonsensical and right. I think it begins with a sense of crisis, not with race.

ZAKARIA: And do you think -- when you look at this -- this moment that the country is moving left, moving right, ideologically where are we? And the obvious sense is that the conventional wisdom is Obama moved too far left and this produced a reaction.

POSTEL: Well, I think there's no question that -- that when you look at Obama's approval ratings, one thing we need to add into it is a lot of disapproval come from people on the left who doesn't -- who don't think he did enough, the public option, closing Guantanamo, the war in Afghanistan, there are many people who are discontent with Obama.

ZAKARIA: But they're not voting. Nobody's voting for the Tea Parties and Republicans -

POSTEL: But we haven't had -

ZAKARIA: -- because Obama wasn't too far left.

POSTEL: But we haven't had an election yet. So -- but when you look at the opinion polls of disapproval that's part of the disapproval opinion polls. The other side of it is, there's the Tea Parties have had an enormous microphone and whatever you say about it, having the most powerful cable network behind them is a tremendous microphone and -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Free speech. It gets -

POSTEL: Like all the time, man.


NOONAN: But I've got to tell you every time --

ZAKARIA: (INAUDIBLE) to be the -- the most powerful cable network, you mean the second most powerful cable network.

POSTEL: Whatever it is.

NOONAN: Guys, every time the left gets obsessed with FOX News, I know they're starting to lose. Get your mind off that. Talk to the Tea Party. Get out there with the folks, not just the people who e- mail you and declare themselves to be John Birch Society members, but forget that stuff.

Everybody's got a mike in America, everybody. What matters is the message that's going into it. Don't look at shiny, sparkling things. There are things below that that are more interesting. Glenn Beck is a shiny, sparkling thing.


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