Tea Party Activists Unite In Nashville To Protest Obama Leadership

Underway Hundreds of opponents of Democratic economic and health-care policies are convening in Nashville for the first National Tea Party convention. The grassroots movement formed in 2008 amid protests over policies pushed by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. And the group has been gaining steam ever since. The keynote address for the meeting will come from former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Host Michel Martin checks in with Joseph Farah, founder of the conservative news Web site World Net Daily. Farah is attending the conference, where he is also scheduled to speak to convention goers.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, finally, a nice gal finishes first. CNN's Candy Crowley will soon host her own Sunday morning news talk show. She is the first woman in years to have that platform to herself. We'll ask her about her plans in a few minutes.

But first, it's time for our weekly political chat and we are going to leave the Beltway behind and head to Nashville, Tennessee. That's where a thousand activists have assembled for the first ever National Tea Party Convention.

The Tea Party grassroots movement formed last year amid anger over a range of policies promoted by President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress. And it's believed to be gaining steam ever since. The keynote speaker, former Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin.

Joining us to talk more about what's going on is Joseph Farah. He's the founder of WorldNetDaily - that's a conservative news Web site and he's a speaker at the event.

Welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Mr. JOSEPH FARAH (Founder, WorldNetDaily): Nice to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: So how's it different than other conventions you've been to? Presumably, you've been to other political conventions. How is this different?

Mr. FARAH: Well, this is a very eclectic group and I think there's probably a fundamental misunderstanding about just who the Tea Party constituency is. A lot of folks, you know, assume that it's a - these are conservative activists. And I think that the folks I'm meeting, you know, are coming from all different backgrounds and political persuasions.

There are Democrats here. There are people who supported Hillary Clinton in 2008, and I think the thing that brings them all together is that they are just discouraged about the direction of the country. And they want to get back to basics. They think that the federal governments over the last year has been overreaching, exceeding the limits on its authority under the Constitution. And it's a very potent political movement.

MARTIN: What's the objective of the Convention? What do you hope to get done when you leave there - by the time you all leave there?

Mr. FARAH: I'm not an organizer of the convention and I'm not an activist myself. I'm, you know, I run a news source.

MARTIN: But why are you speaking though? You're on the program.

Mr. FARAH: Well, the organizer of the convention, Judson Phillips, said it best, I think, when he said Farah was a Tea Partier before there was a Tea Party Movement. And I think that's just the case. Back in 2008, when the country was lining up either behind Barack Obama or John McCain, I was saying none of the above.

I wrote a book called "None of the Above," and I explained to people, and I think the audience, that, you know, what's reached was primarily Republican audience. The idea was that, look, Barack Obama - it's not going to be the end of the world if he is elected because what's going to happen is you're going to see a grassroots awakening in this country like we've never seen before. And I don't know what it's going to be called but it is going to respond to the agenda put forth by Obama

MARTIN: So do you think "None of the Above" is kind of a core sentiment there?

Mr. FARAH: Yeah. I think, Michel, that there's going to be some surprises in November. If the Republicans think that what is happening with this Tea Party Movement across the country is just going to help them, they're in for a rude awakening. I think that this is more of an anti-incumbency movement than anything else, and people like John McCain in Arizona are going to have a real tough time getting these folks behind them.

MARTIN: I understand that - I take your point that you're there kind of as a, well, kind of journalist quasi, kind of thought leader. Does that sound about right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FARAH: I'll take it.

MARTIN: Okay. You'll take that. But the intention is to vote on a number of so-called first principles. Do you think that you are at a point where you could enumerate what those first principles are?

Mr. FARAH: Yeah, I think first and foremost, it's the Constitution. I think, when - I think people are responding to, you know, things like health care and looking at the idea of telling individual sovereign Americans that they have to get health insurance and they have to do it certain ways and it becomes mandatory, and this is being directed by Washington, really rubs people the wrong way. Not just Republicans, not just conservative activists. But look what happened in Massachusetts, you know, a state where there already has health care provision.

MARTIN: Which was advanced by a Republican governor?

Mr. FARAH: Yeah, exactly.

MARTIN: But, you know, but the Constitution is a living document. I guess that's one of the things that interest me about - which is why there's a Supreme Court to continue to interpret it. It's a living document. It's not a static document. So the question is - that's why there are nine people and they all get a vote on that court to determine what the Constitution does mean today. Do you feel that there is some, what, overriding interpretation that these folks are just ignoring? Or what - do you know what I mean?

Mr. FARAH: Well, there are a lot of folks on the Supreme Court who don't believe the Constitution is a living document and I don't subscribe to that. And Michel, if you do, I'd like to sit down with you and play a game of poker with living rules.

MARTIN: I don't play poker, darling, so

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: So that'd be a non-starter. We could do Scrabble but I don't think so poker. But - so you're saying it's not, but I guess that's what I'm asking you. So philosophically, you just don't buy that argument.

Mr. FARAH: No, no.

MARTIN: You think that the interpretation is very clear to those who are willing to see it (unintelligible), okay.

Mr. FARAH: That's right. The United States was founded under the principle of rule of law. And if the laws are living, then - and they have to be interpreted by, you know, nine high priests in black robes...

MARTIN: Well, by that standard - wouldn't people of color, people of African descent still be counted as three fifths of a white man if the Constitution didn't have an evolving understanding?

Mr. FARAH: No, no. We have a mechanism for amending the Constitution - one that involves getting the will of the people behind you. And that's how that was dealt with.

MARTIN: Okay.

Mr. FARAH: ...on the Supreme Court.

MARTIN: Well, we're out of time for now. So Joseph Farah, we appreciate your speaking with us. Maybe you'll come back and talk to us after the convention is over and give us a sense of what you think was accomplished there and how things are looking for the future. How about that?

Mr. FARAH: That would be fun. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: All right. Joseph Farah is the co-founder of the WorldNetDaily - that's a conservative news Web site. He's a speaker at this weekend's National Tea Party Convention and he joined us by phone from Nashville, which is where the Convention is being held.

Joseph, thank you.

Mr. FARAH: You bet.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.