CNN's Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer endorsed Matt Taibbi's bashing of conservatives on their Monday program. Spitzer marveled over the Rolling Stone editor's "brilliant" label of the Tea Party as "15 million pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid." This was the second straight evening that the network brought on an anti-conservative author to promote their latest work.
The two hosts devoted 12 straight and uninterrupted minutes during the first half of the 8 pm Eastern hour to their interview of Taibbi. Parker mentioned Taibbi's new book, "Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids and a Long Con that is Breaking America," in her introduction of the author and labeled it "a scathing and often hilarious account of the financial crisis...it's hard to make the financial crisis funny, but you did that successfully." She continue by quoting one of the writer's attacks on Sarah Palin: "I want to read you a description that you wrote of Sarah Palin. You called her a 'narcissistic money-grubbing hack.'"
After laughing at this label, the pseudo-conservative writer sought her guest's take on Palin: "She's got the Republican establishment scared to death, so there must be something more to Sarah than just that, huh?" Taibbi replied with some guarded praise of the former Alaska governor, along with the Tea Party movement:
TAIBBI: Well, absolutely- I think- you know, one of the things that happened in the wake of this financial crisis, there was this enormous amount of anger and frustration in the population, and people were looking for someone to offer them a simple solution- a simple answer for what happened, and I think Sarah Palin and the Tea Party- they've perfectly captured that anger. They found a way to crystallize all that frustration and aim it in a direction. You know, I would quarrel with the direction that they've aimed it in, but they've done a very good job at that.
Spitzer continued with the Tea Party subject, and glowingly read the Rolling Stone's own derogatory take on the nascent movement and how they were supposedly coopted by Wall Street interests. Unsurprisingly, his co-host expressed her agreement with this liberal take on the Tea Party as they continued their conversation on the topic:
SPITZER: I want to quote something you say in the book- a brilliant phrase- and you say, 'A lose definition of the Tea Party might be 15 million pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by a small handful of banks and investment banking companies,' then you continue on. This merger of the anger, being manipulated by the investment banks and Wall Street, and as you point out, Wall Street is getting exactly what it wants and the public is getting virtually nothing to help it. How did that happen?
TAIBBI: Well, I think what they've done is they've- there are- people in America have a lot of frustrations about government. They have a lot of frustrations about regulation. You talk to these people- I've talked to Tea Partiers who own hardware stores and restaurants, and they're upset about things like health inspectors and ADA inspectors and these little nuances that they see as being government intrusion. But they conflate that with regulation of these giant banks like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan/Chase, and they think it's the same thing, and what they've managed to do is convince all these Americans to campaign for deregulation of these massive companies under the banner of, 'let's get the government off our back.'
PARKER: But the Tea Party's actually doing the work, the legwork for the big banks-
PARKER: How did that happen? I mean, how did that- how did they not know that that's what they're doing?
TAIBBI: Well, I think it was an organic process. I mean, people who say that the Tea Party isn't a grassroots movement, I think, are incorrect. I think, in some respects, it is a grassroots movement. They were organized around a lot of local issues, but there were also powerful interests- the Koch brothers and other financiers- who, once they saw this movement happening, were more than willing to push it along, and give it the energy and the resources that they needed to spread around the country.
Later in the segment, the three again harped on how Tea Party activists are apparently doing the bidding of the banking and finance industries:
SPITZER: But to come back to the point that you so eloquently describe: the moment the banks got their money, they suddenly persuaded the Tea Party to start rallying for shutting down the government's ability to help anybody else- not a single mortgage person whose house was underwater had a bankruptcy judge sort of to undo the mortgage because the Senate forbade that and the banks lobbied against it. What was going on here?
TAIBBI: Well, again, I just think that there was this enormous- you know, sentiment against government intrusion, and after Obama got elected and they had the stimulus and the Homeowner Affordability Act, ordinary people had not seen the bank bailouts. They didn't actually see that happen. They didn't see the trillions of dollars that went to Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan/Chase, but they did see these programs that went to minority homeowners, poor minority homeowners, their next-door neighbors, and when they saw the government bailing out those people, that's when they got angry. And again, they confused the two issues.
PARKER: But you do make a- you're very generous in acknowledging that there are legitimate grievances. People have legitimate grievances against local and state governments, but your point is that they shouldn't conflate that with things-
TAIBBI: It's a completely- two completely different worlds. The world of- you know, the small business owner who has to deal with small government intrusions- these small regulations- and this other world that exists in the stratosphere where Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan/Chase and other guys who are on the phone with these guys who used to work in their companies, and they're basically making the rules of the game as they go along. That is something entirely different than for what ordinary people go through-
Spitzer returned to the Tea Party subject one more time near the end of the interview, as he wondered if the left could persuade the movement's participants to turn against the banks. Parker herself also brought up Palin again:
SPITZER: Now, you spent a lot of time with the Tea Party folks, and you kind of are tough on them, but you understand- to quote our former president, you 'feel their pain.'
SPITZER: How do you get those pitchforks directed in the right direction again?
TAIBBI: Well, it's very difficult. I think- you know, you have to try to- what I'm finding, as I travel the country, is that more and more people actually do understand what happened, and the reason that they understand is because they're personally confronting some aspect of the financial services industry, whether it's because- you know, I met somebody in Kentucky a little while ago who lost 20 percent or 30 percent of his pension fund value, because the state had invested in mortgage-backed securities, or whether they'd been wiped out by credit card debt or they're being foreclosed upon- people are being forced to get an education in all these things and they're slowly coming around to what happened in the last 10 or 15 years, but it's a very, very gradual progress.
PARKER: Well, you said that when you were at the Republican convention, last time around, you were unaware that in two weeks, the whole economy was going to collapse and everybody else was unaware, because we just weren't paying attention-
PARKER: But you also talk about seeing Sarah Palin up there on the lectern and saying- you were sort of prepared to kind of be bored and walk out pretty quickly and try to find your car, right? But instead, something else happened: you saw this person who was saying amazing things. How do you see her role now in our culture and our political environment?
TAIBBI: I have the same reaction to Sarah Palin that I did when I saw Barack Obama speak for the first time in person-
TAIBBI: I said, this is a gifted politician. This is a person who has the ability to connect with people on an emotional level, beyond even what she was saying. The words of her speech- the effect went beyond that, and I think that that's continued to be true, despite a lot of the- you know, the missteps that she's made in public. She continues to connect with people on an emotional level. She brings out these crowds, and I think that she obviously has a big future in presidential politics. It just remains to be seen what she's going to end up standing for.
PARKER: But you talk about the class warfare that she's created-
PARKER: That's a big negative, don't you think, for our country?
TAIBBI: Well, I was very struck in her speech by how she talked about how she was from a small town and the small towns are where people do the most work, and there was this emphasis in her speech-
PARKER: We don't work in New York at all.
TAIBBI: Right, right- it was all about, there are people who do work, and then there's this other group of people who apparently don't do work, and these people are carrying the weight for these people, and that ended up being a prominent theme in the Tea Party mythology, that they're paying the taxes, they're carrying the water, and somebody else is drinking the water, and she was very, very skillful in presenting that message.
PARKER: And who are those somebody else's who are drinking the water, as you say it?
TAIBBI: Well, they never say it, but it's pretty clear that they're talking about low-income and usually minority people, and immigrants, who are taking up most of that burden.
PARKER: Are they vampire squids? (laughs)
TAIBBI: No, but that's what's so amazing about it, is that this mythology came at a time when we were giving what, $9 trillion, $10 trillion to the banking sector out of the public's pocket and that wasn't what they were complaining about.
SPITZER: And that is what mystifies me. Why has no politician, Barack Obama or even a Dennis Kucinich or a Senator Feingold or Barry Sanders- so many that are really smart- or Carl Levin- stood up and explain, wait a minute, the guys who are really sucking the blood out here are Wall Street, and so let us redirect that and then claim the allegiance of that universal people who compromise the Tea Party, and say, here is whom you should be angry at.
TAIBBI: Yeah- no, absolutely. You know, after the financial crisis in 2008, after Barack Obama got elected, I heard from a lot of people on Wall Street, who are sources of mine, who said, 'Where are the Democrats? Where's that politician?' This is a teaching moment. This is an opportunity for the politicians of our country to say, 'This is what's been happening in the last 10 or 15 years. You've been getting screwed over by these people.' And nobody stood up and did that. Instead, I think the Democrats kind of took the fork in the road and they tried to save Wall Street and communicate to their voters at the same time. It just didn't work.
SPITZER: They were co-opted and became the voice of the status quo.
One wonders where the three got their false impression that the Tea Party movement didn't object to the bailouts, for CNN.com's own reporting from some of the first Tea Party rallies in April 2009 mentioned how "tens of thousands of people spent national tax day...protesting what some view as excessive government spending and bailouts."