NBC’s Gregory: Tea Party ‘Predicated on Not Governing,’ Leno Links BP Oil Spill to Tea Party-Type Policies

On Monday’s Tonight Show on NBC, Meet the Press host David Gregory appeared as a guest, and, while Gregory seemed to initially defend Tea Party activists against suggestions by Jay Leno that the movement has had a double standard in its treatment of President Bush and President Obama, Gregory also questioned the ability of its members to take part in "governing" as he asked: "How do you have a movement predicated on not governing and then seek to govern?"

Gregory also seemed to agree when Leno asserted that deregulation policies, which he alleged that Tea Party activists endorse, have led to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

JAY LENO: Well, to me, BP is a perfect example. BP seems to have done this on their own. They don't pay attention. They essentially make their own rules because they pay off everybody. That's what the Tea Party wants. That's unregulated and look what happened.

DAVID GREGORY: Right, but in this case, right, you have a breakdown of regulations that led to getting contracts and their technology breaking down. But, right, I mean at some point, the government is the only entity that can clean up after a huge mess...

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Monday, May 24, Tonight Show on NBC:

JAY LENO: Well, let me ask you something about this whole Tea Party thing. And here's the part I don't get because it seems like this had been brewing for a while. I watched before Obama, like, the eminent domain law, where the government – the Supreme Court decided we can just take your property. That was one of the, since the beginning of American history, a man's home was his castle. That went away. We can wiretap citizens without warrants. I never saw these Tea Party people before. Why weren't they there for that? All of a sudden, now they show up.

DAVID GREGORY: Well, I think part of it is that they just weren't as well organized. The Tea Party in this incarnation, this is not a new idea that you had deficit hawks out there, and that, I think, is what animates them. I think after the Bush administration they were really concerned about their own party and too much government spending, and then with President Obama and health care and the expansion of government. And the other big thing was the bailout package. It was the TARP that really got them animated. And it's so interesting because there's all this railing against the Obama administration – what they’re really upset about it TARP, and that was under President Bush.

LENO: But yeah, but it's like, people don't understand, like, my favorite thing I saw a guy, an anti-health care guy going, "I don't want the government messing with my Medicare." That's what the sign said. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) And I go, "What are you doing?"

GREGORY: Right. And the other is, how do you have a movement predicated on not governing and then seek to govern?

LENO: Yeah.

GREGORY: How is that actually going to work? And I do think it's a real question – it's like with Rand Paul. I mean, he doesn't believe in one aspect of the Civil Rights Act, that you can tell and mandate to a private business that you can't discriminate. Well, where is the line between what government should do and what it shouldn't do? Should we have OSHA laws, workplace safety rules? What about the ban on child labor? Is that something the government shouldn't be involved in? So the question of what is the role of government, I think, is actually an important debate right now. And we're seeing it like with BP, you know, what should the government be doing?

LENO: Well, to me, BP is a perfect example. BP seems to have done this on their own. They don’t pay attention. They essentially make their own rules because they pay off everybody. That's what the Tea Party wants. That's unregulated and look what happened.

GREGORY: Right, but in this case, right, you have a breakdown of regulations that led to getting contracts and their technology breaking down. But, right, I mean at some point the government is the only entity that can clean up after a huge mess...

LENO: Let me ask you this. Is this Tea Party movement bigger than the Ross Perot deal first time around? Because that was really big.

GREGORY: That was big, but you also had to channel into a candidate who actually got votes and who ran for the presidency, but, I mean, certainly fueled similarly in government not working into debt. There's no obvious leader of the Tea Party. We don't really know what impact it's gonna have on the election beyond what's happened in Kentucky so far.

LENO: Okay, now, Sarah Palin, a couple of months ago was, "Drill baby, drill." – now President Obama's too close to the big oil company. It's so great. It's hilarious. I don't get it. It's one or the other. What is it?

GREGORY: I guess the criticism of the President has been that somehow he's been too deferential to BP in terms of what they want to do and how they're gonna use the – I mean, the problem is that BP has the better technology to take care of this thing, but government ultimately has to step in if the thing still hasn't been solved.

LENO: Let me ask you about this-

GREGORY: I feel like I have to keep watching this guy.

RUSSEL BRAND: I'm over here. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) You don't need to worry. Just "drill, baby, drill," Sarah Palin says. I agree. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) Just keep drilling.

LENO: Well, let me ask you about this, like, these politicians lying-

BRAND: I got stuck with an ice cube, Jay. I don't know what to do with it. It got it in my mouth. I can't put in back in the drink now. I mean, eventually it will naturally disappear.

LENO: Exactly, it's a problem that will solve itself. It will take care of itself.

BRAND: I'll put it here.

LENO: This Richard Blumenthal case, this guy lying about his Vietnam service-

(AUDIENCE LAUGHS AT RUSSELL BRAND)

BRAND: I am listening.

LENO: I appreciate that.

BRAND: You thought I was getting distracted by the melting ice.

LENO: I think we all need a a drink. David, can you come back and see us again?

GREGORY: I would love to.