Amanpour: Tea Party an ‘Extreme’ Departure from Reagan’s Conservatism; Campaign Spending Bad for Democracy

ABC’s Christiane Amanpour on Sunday discovered “a long and venerable tradition of conservatism in this country” exemplified by Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley and “all of that sort of intellectual conservatism,” but she only showed respect for that tradition in order to contend “people,” who she failed to name, “are saying that right now, it's really gone to the extreme.” Repeating her “people” generality, she insisted: “People are looking at the Tea Party and saying this is not conservatism as we knew it but it's extreme.”

George Will retorted: “Which is exactly what they said about Bill Buckley and Bill Buckley's candidate, Barry Goldwater, who was supposedly representing the paranoid style in American politics.”

Later, during the October 17 roundtable, Amanpour fretted: “Where is campaign finance reform?” Will called the lack of legislative prospects on that front be “an absolutely wonderful development this year,” to which an appalled Amanpour wondered: “How can that be wonderful for a democracy, I mean not to know where all of this money comes from and who is putting it in?”

Will informed her: “What you're talking about with the amount of money is speech and the question is do you have to notify the government before you can speak on politics?” Amanpour then cited what a liberal Supreme Court justice told a liberal reporter: “The former Justice Stevens told Nina Totenberg, that you know, money doesn't speak.”

Amanpour’s citing of Reagan to discredit the Tea Party echoed the formulation forwarded Tuesday night by Jon Stewart. On the October 12 Daily Show, Stewart proposed to Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, one of the so-called “Young Guns” out with a new book:

Would Reagan be allowed to be a Republican these days, given the fact that he created an expanded federal government, he raised taxes like eight times, including presiding over the largest tax increase in the history of the country in 1982. He went after nuclear weapons and wanted to rid the world of them. Would he be allowed to be a Republican in the new Young Guns world?

From the October 17 This Week with Christiane Amanpour:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I mean there's been a long and venerable tradition of conservatism in this country. You can go back at least to Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, all of that sort of intellectual conservatism that lasted about 30 years, and people are saying that right now, it's really gone to the extreme. People are looking at the Tea Party and saying this is not conservatism as we knew it but it's extreme.

GEORGE WILL: Which is exactly what they said about Bill Buckley and Bill Buckley's candidate, Barry Goldwater, who was supposedly representing the paranoid style in American politics.

AMANPOUR: Reagan had moderates on his, as Vice President and in his cabinet.

TERRY MORAN: Different Republican Party. Hard times make anxious people do extreme things sometimes. If you look at the Tea Party constitution, if there is such a thing, at Joe Miller in Alaska saying unemployment compensation is unconstitutional, at the emphasis on the tenth amendment which is a very vague amendment which they want return power, power returned to the states, this is going to be a real challenge for the Republican Party going forward and it's born of this anxiety.

....

CLIP OF VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: All these guys who are Republicans voted against disclosure. What's wrong with disclosure? Just tell us where the money’s coming from. What's the problem? What is the problem? Why can't the chamber say, these are where the contributions are coming from. Why can't Karl Rove tell us where the contributions are coming from? Just disclosure. Just tell us where. Show me. Show me.

MORAN: Well, “where is the outrage?” Bob Dole once said in a losing campaign about campaign finance in some ways, and by focusing on process as they are, by trying to make an issue, they think that they have struck a populist note that might tap into some of the anxiety that's out there. But it is off point in some ways.

MATTHEW DOWD: I think the problem that this reminds me of Captain Renault in Casablanca when he walked in and said, “I'm shocked, I'm shocked that gambling’s going on here.” These are the same folks that benefited from secret funds in 2008 and 2006 and 2004 and the average American out there thinks both parties do this, they both fund these things and why aren't you talking about how many jobs are going to get created, why aren’t you defending the health care bill that you passed, why aren’t you doing these things on policy instead of a process argument?

AMANPOUR: But also campaign finance reform was something that your own father [referring to Megan McCain] took up and, yes, both sides may have been doing it, but isn't transparency something that we all are demanding in every, in every way. I mean, where is campaign finance reform You think it’s dead?

WILL: Dead

AMANPOUR: Dead in the water.

WILL: Stake through it’s heart.

AMANPOUR: I know you don't like it at all.

WILL: An absolutely wonderful development this year is the rolling back-

AMANPOUR: How can that be wonderful for a democracy, I mean not to know where all of this money comes from and who is putting it in?

WILL: What you’re talking about with the amount of money is speech and the question is do you have to notify the government before you can speak on politics?

AMANPOUR: The former Justice Stevens told Nina Totenberg, that you know, money doesn't speak.

WILL: Well, almost all money in politics is spent on disseminating political advocacy. That’s just a fact. Now, Mr. Biden in the narrative from the Democrats has been, this is secret money that the Koch brothers are putting into it. Well, get your stories straight. Do we know who these guys are? I mean some of them are about as anonymous as George Soros.

MORAN: But a lot of them are anonymous and there is an irony here that the Chamber of Commerce and others ought to be held accountable for. At the Supreme Court, when that case came before the Supreme Court, business interests said, take these shackles off us because disclosure will essentially fix the problem. If the people know where the money is coming from, that will be fine, and right now there is a problem with transparency. Sunshine’s the best disinfectant.

— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center