The Senate’s newest Republican called it “sad” that Barack Obama told a laughing crowd of Democratic donors on Tax Day that he was amused by the antics of Tea Partiers, who the president said should be thanking him for cutting their taxes instead of protesting against his policies.
“I find it sad that the president gets personal with these groups who are just expressing themselves in a respectful manner,” Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown said Friday morning in Washington to a conference of Republican lawyers. “That’s the way our country operates.”
Obama, speaking to about 1,000 Democratic donors in Miami Thursday night, said he’s been “amused a little over the past couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes,” adding, “You would think they would be saying, ‘Thank you.’ That’s what you’d think.”
When asked about his general views on Tea Partiers, Brown — whose election in January has been hailed a sign of the power of the conservative grassroots activists — rejected the premise that the protesters concerned with runaway government spending should be solely credited with putting a Republican in the Massachusetts Senate seat for the first time in decades.
“Did the Tea Party movement help me? Sure they did. So did 1.1 million other people in my state and so did others across the country,” Brown said.
He added: “So to have one particular party take credit — I’m appreciative. But I had a big tent in my election.”
On Wednesday, Brown was noticeably absent from a Tea Party rally in Boston, leading some to question whether he’s snubbing a group without whose help he’d unlikely have won office. The senator was said to be busy in Washington attending a hearing on the Iranian nuclear program.
Brown took questions from the lawyers in Washington during the conference that included speakers such as former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.
Responding to one question, Brown argued that Obama’s health-care bill is not the same as Romneycare — state legislation passed during Mitt Romney’s tenure in Massachusetts that could alienate conservatives if the former governor runs for president in 2012. “With all due respect, they’re two different things,” Brown said. As a state senator, he voted for that legislation in 2006, though he pledged to vote against Obama’s plan during his U.S. Senate election.
Asked how his life has changed since becoming a high-profile freshman senator, Brown elicited laughter by saying his wife doesn’t put up with him, saying he wishes he spent more time at home with her in Massachusetts. “ ‘You asked for it,’ ” Brown said his wife responds. “That’s her new thing.”
He pointed out that since the election, he’s appeared on shows with Barbara Walters and Jay Leno and was even featured in a Saturday Night Live skit.
“It’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I remember swimming a couple days later. I almost drowned because I was laughing,” he said.