PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.—What if the Tea Parties sprung up a few years before they did?
That’s what several activists traveling here in Florida on the “Spending Revolt” bus tour discussed amongst themselves Wednesday.
“Imagine if we had done this under Bush,” said David Williams, a vice president at the Center Against Government Waste, suggesting that Republicans share part of the blame for the rising deficit. “We may not be in the position we are in today.”
Among Tea Party activists, the distaste for President Obama is undeniable. “BO stinks,” one activist wrote with a marker on the side of the “Spending Revolt” bus. Someone else wrote, “Obama, keep your change and don’t put it on my tab.” But wasteful spending didn’t begin with Obama, activists often argue.
It’s a common argument made by conservatives: the Tea Party is not just a reaction to President Obama’s election, but a “I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-anymore movement” directed at both establishment Democrats and Republicans in Washington out of touch with everyday Americans.
Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the chairman of the Tea Party-related organization FreedomWorks, wrote in his recent book, “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto” that contrary to what’s often reported in the media, the Tea Party movement was not sparked by “sore-loser partisans opposed to President Obama’s agenda,” but had its roots in the prior administration.
“They’re wrong,” wrote Armey. “The government expansion during President George W. Bush’s reign provided the fuel. And it was his Wall Street bailout that ignited the firestorm we see today.”
Patrick Mcpoland, a physician here in Florida, is a registered Republican who showed up to a “Spending Revolt” event at the Hilton Wednesday afternoon, telling The Daily Caller that Bush just “didn’t do much to cut spending.”
“We trusted Bush to do the right thing, and he didn’t do the right thing,” he said.
While Mcpoland said Bush had to deal with being attacked on Sept. 11 — which explains the increase in military spending— the former president also contributed to bigger government with his prescription drug benefit overhaul, and by not making a concerted effort to look for ways to decrease the deficit.
But Jim Martin, the founder of 60 Plus and a personal friend of Bush, says the “blame it on Bush” argument is “false.” Instead he points his finger at the Republican Party — and its congressional leaders — as a whole. “Republicans didn’t do what they said they’d do,” he said.
But if activists are frustrated with Republicans too, the Tea Party movement we know today didn’t appear on the scene until after Bush’s presidency was over.
“A lot of Republicans turned their back during the Bush years,” Williams said. “No one put the breaks on anything.”