Becky Fenger Fenger Pointing

MARCH 2, 2011

Tea and political crumpets

On Feb. 27, 2009, the first National Tea Party was held in 48 locations across the country. Two years from the day, a big cake with a numeral two anniversary candle was brought onto the stage of the Phoenix Convention Center where the inaugural Tea Party Patriots' American Policy Summit was held Friday through Sunday noon.

Not wanting to buck the crowd of nearly 2,000 Tea Party Patriots in attendance (from the 3,300 chapters across the nation), I signed up online where I could watch all the general sessions from the privacy of my home. I missed the excitement at Expo Hall, but enjoyed the distinct advantage of the Virtual Summit while not wearing the Hoodie Footie Snuggle Suit that I mercifully didn't get for Valentine's Day.

The topics covered included tax reform, common sense economics, government waste, the debt ceiling, American culture, ballot security, better judges, border security, the media, and more. Where to start?

A bad case of the flu kept former Congressman John Shadegg from participating in a panel discussion, but his shoes were happily filled by the newly-elected feet of U.S Rep. David Schweikert (AZ-Dist 5). I like this man. He leveled with the crowd. "The debt is worse than almost anyone understands. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are off the books, as is so much more," he said. What happens in the next 10 days in Washington is huge.

Whether or not to raise the debt ceiling is not as cut and dried as it may appear, even though a poll of attendees showed that 94 percent opposed an increase in it. The statistician Schweikert makes a convincing argument that Republicans should demand and get big concessions if the debt ceiling is to be raised when we hit the limit in April or May (our Treasury Dept. is being deliberately vague about the timeline). Other panelists agreed that granting a number of short-term extensions in return for important fiscal reductions could benefit conservatives in the long run more than a die-hard line on not raising the limit.

When the moderator asked how the GOP could avoid the political consequences of a series of extensions and a number of "Yes" votes, Schweikert showed his courage by snapping back, "Screw the political costs!" He's convinced it would drive the Democratic leadership up the wall when Rs keep insisting: "You want my vote? Give me something. You want my vote again? Give me something."

He stresses that it is important to pass the Full Faith and Credit bill he's tirelessly pushing, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, so that the world knows we intend to pay our obligations. If we borrowed from China, we need to pay them back, in other words.

Three possible presidential candidates appealed to the gathering with strong messages: former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Georgia businessman Herman Cain, and Texas Cong. Ron Paul. Here are the results of the straw poll of the actual attendees: Cain, 22 percent; Pawlenty, 16 percent; Paul, 15 percent; Sara Palin, 10 percent, and Mitt Romney, 6 percent.

The results of the Online poll of Virtual Summit watchers were markedly different: Paul, 49 percent, Cain, 12 percent; Palin, 9 percent; Mike Huckabee, 6 percent; Pawlenty, 5 percent, and Newt Gingrich, 5 percent.

As usual, political operative and author Dick Morris was eminently entertaining (and fodder for an entire future column.) Regarding 2012, he firmly believes that whoever the GOP runs for president must be committed to the elimination of ObamaCare. He trusts all those in the forefront to do that, but he does not trust Mitt Romney. Romney has never admitted that his RomneyCare for Massachusetts was a mistake, despite numerous opportunities. His disastrous plan is so much like ObamaCare that voters can't get past that.

Interestingly, Morris has a problem with Tim Pawlenty. When he was governor of Minnesota, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency complied with Sharia Law so that Muslims could acquire homes. In effect, the state was allowed to buy the homes as a straw buyer, and then the Muslims would "pay rent." Although Pawlenty said he was unaware of this, Morris doesn't quite buy his excuse.

The real problem that Obama is going to have in getting re-elected, Morris stated, is oil. Americans are going to pay $5, $6, even $7 a gallon for gas at the pumps caused by Obama's energy and foreign policies, and life will get tough on the campaign trail for our Hope and Change President.