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Scenes from the Tea Party: A Reporter's Notebook in Nashville

5 years ago
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The Birther Movement Lives
Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Website WorldNetDaily, opened his speech at the Tea Party convention in Nashville with jokes and questions about President Barack Obama's U.S. citizenship. To loud approval from the crowd, Farah said his dream is that if Obama seeks re-election in 2012, he won't be able to go to any city in America without seeing signs that ask, "Where's the birth certificate?" The fact that the rest of the media has declared the issue settled is proof, he said, that it's not.

Where Are the Young?
A funny thing about the break-out session "How to Involve the Youth in the Conservative Movement" – not too many young people showed up. Mishelle Perkins, a 44-year-old mother of five children, worries about the paucity of young people at local meetings. The Rutherford County, Tennessee activist came Friday to get some tips. Jordan Marks, executive director of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom, suggested that activists use Facebook, volunteer to speak at high schools ("bastions of liberalism") and simply do fun stuff that hooks high school and college-age kids. Marks described a bowling party he organized – "Knock Down the Pinheads of Communism." A strike equaled Mao, a spare, Pol Pot. Perkins said she supplements her children's education with books by Tea Party authors, but right now it's hard to get them too interested.

Tom Tancredo Was Right, Says Tea Party Organizer
Remarks that Tom Tancredo made on Thursday were just fine with convention organizer Judson Phillips, who praised the former Colorado congressman. Tancredo had said voters who "could not spell the word vote or say it in English" were responsible for putting a "committed Socialist ideologue" in the White House. Phillips agreed that those particular Americans "didn't understand what they were voting for."

Which Brings Us to Former Judge Roy Moore
The Friday luncheon speaker wants to be the next Governor of Alabama. That state's judicial ethics panel removed Roy Moore from office in 2003 for refusing a federal judge's order to move a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building. Ovations greeted his Scriptural references and Patrick Henry quotations. America's "borders are open to criminals and terrorists who now roam among us," Moore said. President Obama "has ignored our history and our heritage by denying we are a Christian nation," Moore continued. "An appeal to the God of hosts is all that is left." Either that or "300 million people armed in the cause of liberty." John Beal traveled from, Spokane, Wash., to support Moore. "I can't vote for him, but I can raise money for him," said the 66-year-old.
JFK Is Their Hero, Too; Al Gore, Not So Much
Democrats aren't getting much love in Nashville – except for President Kennedy. Several speakers have judged JFK the last Democratic president who stood up for America. On Friday, global warming skeptic Steve Milloy urged Tea Party members to become more engaged in environmental issues, often seen as a Democratic cause. But modern environmentalism, he said, is "totalitarianism." South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham was criticized for cooperating with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on climate change legislation; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's environmental efforts had Milloy calling for "reverse immigration." Milloy, who runs the website, questioned the sanity and morality of cap and trade supporters, whom he called "bad people."

Scott Brown for President?
New GOP Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts is second only to Saturday speaker Sarah Palin in popularity here. As his success is held up as a Tea Party triumph, it is clear his spirit is felt in Nashville.

Every Convention Sells Stuff
And the National Tea Party Convention is no different. T-shirts are popular, with slogans like "Keep the Change, I'll Keep My Freedom My Guns and My Money." For $89.99, you can buy a sterling silver tea bag necklace/pendant, decorated with your choice of gemstone. (Buy one, and the second is $49.99, with a free cup thrown in.)
First You Hate Us, Then You Love Us, Sort Of
In the beginning, the National Tea Party Convention held its media passes close. It was a "working" conference, the media relations team said. Organizer Judson Phillips said space and access were limited, with only Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and conservative websites, and WorldNetDaily making the cut. But by Friday, Phillips instead was bragging about media representatives from Canada, Ireland, France and even Al Jazeera English. (Germany has an especially large contingent.) C-Span is broadcasting sessions, and is streaming some events live. Phillips encouraged cooperation, though in practically every workshop and interview the MSM, or mainstream media, are named as complicit in the downfall of American society. A side effect of the wall-to-wall coverage: I've been stopped by several journalists anxious for reaction from a black Tea Party member. The guy from CNN looked so disappointed when I told him I was a working journalist, too.

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