By Elizabeth Burke
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report
This week, we saw firsthand the fractious divide that is growing within the Tea Party movement. Under the generic “Tea Party” umbrella, there are actually many groups across the nation calling themselves Tea Partiers (I guess they finally figured out what Tea Bagger means). Problem is, there is still no unifying organization, no clear leader — I look forward to ex-governor Sarah “Refudiator” Palin and Rep. Michelle “Gangsta Government” Bachmann slogging it out for that role — and, worse, no clear message.
Two of the largest factions are the Tea Party Express and the National Tea Party Federation. Most recently, Mark Williams was booted from the Express train for writing a fictitious letter by a slave to President Lincoln extolling the benefits of slavery. His “letter” included this witty observation:
“We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!”
Williams’ wry racism (and cowardice — he has taken the letter of his blog) gave Bachmann the perfect opportunity to jump before a camera and create a new sect — the Tea Party Caucus. Boy does this Party love its parties! According to Bachmann, the “caucus” is little more than a big ear a-listening instrument by which Tea Partiers can clarify what the Tea Party isn’t. Please read that sentence twice.
Actually, don’t bother. Here’s a quote from Katrina Pierson, a member of the Dallas Tea Party:
“Racism is not a Tea Party principle nor is it in any bylaws. Racism is not the fight of the Tea Party. If black leaders want to come together in this country and put it on the table, then we can discuss that. As of today, please understand that racism is not an issue of the Tea Party, nor will it ever be.”
Well, I’m glad she cleared that up.
My other favorite is Keli Carender, a Seattle Tea Partier who is angry because Bo, the First Dog, supposedly has his own private jet:
“…I am done with mentality of this current Congressional leadership which to me appears to be extremely arrogant and some sort of aristocracy than the republic that we should be and the republic that we are. I’m tired of these double standards, that we’re not supposed to fly places but the presidential dog gets his own jet to go somewhere. I’m tired that we’re being lectured on things and how to live our lives but somehow this elitist class above us gets to do whatever they want to do.”
Um, Keli, someone might want you to tell this to the airlines so they’ll stop selling tickets. Thanks.
Who Feels Like Working, Oprah’s On!
Also this week, the Senate finally voted to extend unemployment benefits to those who are desperate to work but unable to find a job. Sadly, the jobs issue is the albatross — a better word is anvil — around President Obama’s neck, what with approximately 10 applicants for every spot available. Worse for the president, many of the unemployed would take jobs below their experience level or ability but can’t get hired because prospective employers believe they will leave as soon as a better job comes along. The unemployed should be so lucky!
This isn’t the same as asserting, however, that the unemployed don’t want to get off the government checkbook, don’t want to support their families, don’t want to pay their bills, don’t want to feel useful and don’t want to control their lives again — as Republicans, as part of their obstructionist strategy, believe, to their unpatriotic, everlasting shame.
While Republicans continue spinning the fantasy that the unemployed lounge in luxurious homes, watch daytime TV and live the life of Riley, complete with bonbons, back in reality, we’ve have all heard the stories of people sending out thousands of resumes with no response. Fortunately, many companies are starting to hire again — there is, at last, a dim light at the end of this very dark corridor.
But never mind that, especially when Republicans can play politics with people’s lives. Republicans like Rep. John Linder of Georgia, for example, who recently suggested that extending unemployment benefits keep people from looking for work. “And even when businesses are willing to hire,” he fumed, “nearly two years of unemployment benefits are too much of an allure for some.” Sure, Rep. Linder, for in many states unemployment is the golden goose! States like New York, where you’re entitled to a maximum of $405! States like Arizona, where the highest weekly benefit is $205 before taxes! It’s a veritable windfall!
Another Republican promoting the lazy-jobless philosophy is Tom Corbett, the GOP’s sterling candidate for Pennsylvania governor (he’s attorney general there). He told radio reporter Scott Detrow last week that extended unemployment benefits discourage the jobless from finding work. “The jobs are there,” he claimed, “but if we keep extending unemployment, people are just going to sit there. I’ve literally had construction companies tell me, ‘I can’t get people to come back to work until — they say, ‘We’ll come back when unemployment runs out.'” Damn straight, Tom! I mean, I’m getting $583 a week (the maximum in Pennsylvania before taxes) you betcha that’ll be enough to feed, clothe and house my family, pay my car note, pay my auto, home and medical insurance, and, well, I guess I better hope nothing else comes due! No job could possibly pay better than that!
I get that the GOP wants to address the budget deficit. But their credibility is nil. It isn’t as if they cared this much when Bush was spending every last dime like a drunk in Vegas with someone else’s money. If it’s the GOP spending every last cent, that’s fine? I just want to make sure I have the rules down.
Who Paid for the Food, Pedro?
Speaking of crooks and blowhards, let’s check in on our favorite corrupt, thieving New York state senator, Pedro Espada, Jr. Now that petitioning for his seat is completed, the race is really heating up. We all remember the senator’s, um, “record,”, right? We all remember how the state, the FBI and the federal government are piling up charges and investigations. This video says it all.
Meanwhile, where did all those signatures for Espada’s campaign come from? Anyone check them against the patient and employment records of the Soundview Clinic? I would.
And since New Yorkers for Espada actually filed its campaign finances on time (for the first time), it’s interesting to note that while his campaign asserts spending $41.17 at Key Food, this video clearly shows that it spent more than that. Unless Staples started selling fresh fruits and veggies, who paid for the food? And who paid for the van used to cart the food around? And who paid the driver and the guy handing out the food and who paid for the paper, the envelopes and the stamps used to promote this event? And who paid for the phones in Espada’s office to field questions about the giveaway? And who paid for the staff answering the phone? Even if the staff volunteered their time, the van, the gas and the food would all be deemed “value in-kind” and must be reported in Schedule A of the financial disclosure report.
Not only is Espada’s time running out, his desperation shows like a virgin’s sweat stains on her wedding night.
Which means things couldn’t look better for Espada’s chief rival, Gustavo Rivera. While current state senator beats his chest, claiming “God” is on his side, Rivera has been quietly and steadily gaining support, finances and endorsements — most recently the Working Family Party, Riverdale’s Ben Franklin Club and Oliver Koppell, a three-term New York City Council member and a former New York attorney general. I always believe in educating yourself about candidates, so here’s the link to Rivera’s website. (Full disclosure: I have recently done some field work for Rivera’s campaign.)
With the departure of Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, the only other Espada challenger worth noting, Rivera is poised to win, putting New York one step closer to restoring respect, civility and party unity to the legislature in Albany. That’s a lot more exciting to me than Tea Party “patriots” who are intellectually half in the bag.
Elizabeth Burke, a New York-based actor, has been involved in politics since her first campaign at age 16. Burke’s Law does not necessarily represent the views of The Clyde Fitch Report.