The Corner

Re: Defending the Tea Party

Katrina’s piece on the homepage looks at how Tea Party–backed lawmakers have responded to the whirlwind rhetoric surrounding the Tucson tragedy. I caught up with Mark Meckler, co-founder and national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, late last night. He confessed to having been bogged down in a “media frenzy” over the past few days, and said he wasn’t exactly pleased with what he’d been hearing.

“What we saw is an example of the depravity of people in the media and in politics to exploit an unimaginable human tragedy for political gain,” Meckler said. “People like that really need to go home and look in the mirror and ask themselves if they like what they’ve become.”

Meckler reiterated that political ideology of any kind played no part in the tragedy, certainly not anything espoused by the Tea Party — that “nothing but insanity” drove Jared Loughner to commit his heinous act.

He also dismissed the idea that overwrought discourse was a problem in this country, pointing out that the United States has an incredibly low amount of politically motivated violence relative to other countries, even other Western countries like Great Britain and France. “We have a long and proud history of heated political rhetoric in this country,” he said. “That’s what free speech is all about.”

As a leading figure of a (somewhat polarizing) political movement, Meckler said he is frequently on the receiving end of some less-than-civil dialogue. But he just shrugs it off as part of the game. “It’s a full-contact sport,” he said. “Always has been, always will be.”

Meckler took comfort in the results of a recent CBS News poll that found that 57 percent of Americans do not believe a “harsh political tone” had anything to do with Loughner’s shooting rampage. “The American public has prevailed,” he said.

What really irks him are suggestions that “we need to watch what we say and how we say it” lest some unstable individual like Loughner be inspired to commit mass murder. “I personally don’t want my speech controlled by crazy people,” he said.

And what effect will the last few days’ events have on the Tea Party movement?

“None whatsoever,” he said.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...


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