Drunk on Tea

by Peter GaluszkaI

n early October, Virginia’s tea party movement was on a roll. Hundreds of supporters crowded the Greater Richmond Convention Center for what was grandly called a “Patriots Convention.” Hallways and auditoriums were chockablock with budget hawks, Patrick Henry re-enactors, booksellers hawking Ayn Rand and middle-aged men packing .45-caliber Colt pistols in Velcro holsters with stickers that said “Guns Save Lives.”

Basking in the glow of the grass-roots protest movement against big government and taxes, Jamie Radtke, a 30-something former Republican political operative, was emerging as a bright new star. She’d pulled together about 300 volunteers and as many as 8,000 sympathizers for the movement. Their clout was felt the following month when Republicans took the House of Representatives in a stunning defeat for President Barack Obama and his Democrats, forcing such congressmen as liberal Tom Perriello out of office.

Fast forward to today. For weeks, the nation has been on a dangerous roller- coaster ride while the GOP-dominated House of Representatives has stubbornly refused to approve raising federal debt limits unless a budget with huge spending cuts goes with it. A breakthrough agreement on raising the federal debt limit appeared imminent Aug. 1 that would cut $2.4 trillion in spending with no tax increases. But the damage has been done in terms of diminishing America’s reputation abroad. China’s Xinhua news agency trashed the United States for “dangerously irresponsible conduct” that could tank not only its economy but also that of the rest of the world.

So how did we get to the precipice? The major reason is the tea party, which seems to have surfaced the day Obama was inaugurated. Eight years of George W. Bush’s blowout spending were forgotten. Jobs to help pull the country out of the worst recession were painted as evil. Government workers became lazy freeloaders. Washington was the focus of everything wrong. Freshmen Republican congressmen elected with tea party backing in 2010 did whatever they could to marginalize Obama and hold the nation’s finances hostage while they pursued their stubborn dogma.

Radtke, who’s running against former Gov. George Allen for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012, is partly responsible for the tragedy of the past few weeks although she’s not in office, at least not yet. Like the rest of her gang, she was most willing to trash any chance at compromise. In the words of Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, Tea party members like her stood ready to “frag” responsible leaders in her own party just to appear tough.

It’s not the only time Radtke has shown her political immaturity. She made noise over the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees Dulles and Reagan National airports, as well as the expansion of the Metro rail line to Dulles. The authority has come under fire from conservatives because former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine gave it power over the Dulles rail extension and the Dulles toll road that helps pay for it. Kaine also was blamed because the authority wants to allow labor rules to prevail for rail construction, as they do in most big U.S. cities.

Radtke’s solution was unworkable: to abolish the authority and turn jurisdiction for the Dulles rail line and the airports over to Virginia. Fat chance there. Some of her other positions are also questionable. She opposes Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s plans to spend $4 billion on the state’s well-worn roads and bridges and opposed having business pay insurance for families with autistic children.

Meanwhile, the no-spending mantra that she espouses presents dangers of a more immediate type. Thanks to House Republicans under the influence of the tea party, funding hasn’t been provided to the Federal Aviation Administration. Some 4,000 furloughs have resulted and plans to upgrade the nation’s overworked air-traffic-control system with badly needed upgrades have been suspended. If your jetliner collides, you may know who to blame. Closer to home, McDonnell was shocked to learn that Virginia could lose its AAA credit rating if there was no deal on the debt ceiling because the state has so many federal workers — a dependence that may be news to Radtke.

In fact, more average voters are catching on to the fatuousness of the tea party. A new Public Policy Poll reports that of 500 Virginians asked this month, 79 percent didn’t have an opinion on Radtke and 16 percent didn’t like her. Only 5 percent supported her. If the upcoming Senate race were between Kaine and Radtke, Kaine would easily win. It would still be pretty much a toss- up if Kaine’s opponent were Allen.  Congress is coming off far worse in polls with 77 percent of Americans polled saying they behaved like spoiled children in the run up to the debt deal.

The upshot seems to be that for all of Radtke’s promise at political organizing, Radtke just isn’t ready for prime time. Washington needs mature, thoughtful leaders — not kids on an ego trip. The global stakes are just too high for a bunch of people running around packing heat and playing Patrick Henry.

(first published in Style Weekly)

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8 responses to “Drunk on Tea”

  1. Groveton Avatar


    I reluctantly agree with you. Jaime Radke is not ready for prime time. She makes noise just for the sake of making noise. While she has some decent ideas, she is way to quick to shoot off her mouth to curry political favor. Maybe getting elected would mature her. Unfortunately, I can’t see taking the risk of putting her into a 6 year US Senate term and hoping she grows up.

    All of which leaves a terrible choice – Tim Kaine or George Allen. I can’t vote for Kaine, just can’t do it. He failed as governor, he failed as head of the DNC – he needs to go back to being a Richmond poverty pimp.

    And then there was George. Faux Virginian. Dime store cowboy. RINO = Redneck In Name Only. Jeez. well, I’ll just have to bite my lip and vote for Georgie Porgie in 2012. Unless, of course, somebody else looks at this field and decides that they might just have a chance.

    Here is a list of candidates who I would rather vote for than any of the three currently running:

    Terry McAuliffe
    Creigh Deeds
    Barnie Day
    Jim Bacon
    Peter Galuszka
    Boyd Tinsley
    Patsy Cline (yes, I know she is dead)
    Chief Jay Strongbow
    Homer J. Simpson
    My 5 year old son
    A cat
    A calculus problem

    Yeah, pretty much anyone or anything.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka


    You should be on this list! Who cares if Groveton is a nom-de guerre? I think it’s kind of funky and think what adding “G Groovey” to it would do for TV ads. It would be like watching George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic!


    Peter Galuszka

  3. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    I am not a Tea Party fan either. I have come to understand that I am honestly NOT represented by…anyone. I am without party, but I will remain hopeful. I have a particular distain for the local movement, mostly due to what I see as hypocrisy. You can’t say the concept of Urban Development Areas (UDA) is unconstitutional and still claim to favor individual property rights. If they are “pro” property rights, why do they care if someone with in a UDA is able to use additional density? Makes NO common sense whatsoever.
    Back to the topic at hand. I’m waiting to see how much impact Radke will have on Allen. How many votes will she take from him, and will it spell victory for Kaine? Looking at these three choices, I’m not sure it doesn’t boil down to the lesser of three evils.

  4. Groveton appears to be caught between voting his principles and voting pragmatically but I must say that voting for George Allen – with his history – who would he vote with?

    Voting for George Allen would be like voting George Bush a 3rd term.

    but then.. that’s the secret wish of so many these days… eh?

  5. Peter blames the Tea Party for Barack Obama’s and the Democrats’ unbelievable lack of leadership in the debt-ceiling debate. The Dem-controlled Senate has not passed a budget in two years. Obama did manage to put together a budget proposal earlier this year — he is, after all, the president — but he never countered the Republican proposals with anything concrete. Taking to the airwaves and whining about what’s wrong with what your foes are opposing is not governing — it’s demagoguing.

    As it turns out, the Tea Party influence wasn’t nearly strong enough. As Norm makes the case in a previous post, hardly anything is actually being cut. Most of the “cuts” are reductions in future spending increases. Peter thinks that foreigners are disgusted at America’s budgetary antics. I’ll tell you what they’re disgusted about — the inability of the political class to close the budget gap. So is the market. Instead of rebounding after the budget deal was announced, stocks continued falling.

    America had one chance to get its budget right before the 2012 election — we won’t get another bite at the apple until 2013 — and we blew it. The chances of averting a Boomergeddon-style meltdown — one which Congress will be powerless to reverse — have increased significantly. Obama, the Democrats and their apologists will go down in history as the ones who fought tooth and nail to defend the Business as Usual status quo. They will be remembered as the Herbert Hoovers of the 21st century.

    We don’t need “reasonable” people in Congress right now. “Reasonable” people compromise with the status quo. “Reasonable” people settle for do-nothing deals like the one the President just signed. Jamie Radtke is the only candidate running who understands what’s at stake.

  6. And another thing! When we’re dispensing blame for the debt-ceiling farce, let us not forget that President Obama totally ignored the findings of his own debt-reduction commission! He could have headed off the entire imbroglio by submitting his own debt-reduction plan. But, other than increasing taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” (who make only $250,000 a year), he doesn’t have a plan. The Tea Party filled the vacuum left by the utter failure of the political class to grapple with the debt issue.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Thank you for your amusing comments. I am afraid, however, that neither you nor Jamie Radtke get it. The single biggest problem right now is NOT cutting the budget. It is getting the economy moving and creating jobs. You can’t do that by focusing only on budget cuts. You spent most of your career at Media General. That’s what they did. They didn’t grow new products. No. They just cut, cut cut. No wonder their stock — once $65 is now under $3 — as they ride a failing business model into the ground.
    Obama is due criticism — for not doing a hell of a lot more with his stimulus. We could well face another recession and people like you and Radtke are putting us there. Is that going to help your tax revenues? Of course not! We’ll just say cut cut cut and hope for Boomergeddon just to prove you right. By the way, want a Patrick Henry costume? I know where you can get one — cheap.

    Peter Galuszka

  8. It’s dispiriting to think that in a government the size of ours, some still cannot admit that there is ample room to cut, cut, cut. And that includes Virginia’s favorite federal teat, defense spending (the extra F-35 engine comes immediately to mind).

    However, the one angle to the budget debate that has gone largely unremarked is that we’ve got the level of spending and taxes (and debt) we’ve asked for. Or at least those of us who vote have gotten what we’ve asked for.

    The problem begins and ends with us. We tell politicians, through the polling place, what we want. They, desiring to stay in office, deliver. Is it any wonder, then, that our wants — which are always paid by someone else — exceed both our needs and our ability to pay?

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