Today is April 15, the filing deadline for income taxes. Conservatives are trying to organize protests against Obama’s fiscal policies all around the country, known as Tea Parties. Rick Perry will attend three of the rallies. Dick Armey, the former House Majority leader, has an op-ed piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today praising the tea party movement as the future of the conservative movement. Armey writes: Who is the leader of the conservative movement? Is it Michael Steele at the Republican National Committee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, or even Rush Limbaugh? While they all may be movement leaders, today grass-roots activists across the country will answer the question —- the taxpayer tea party is the movement’s leader. The tea parties are the shot across the bow as taxpayers defend themselves against out-of-control government spending. Small-government conservatives felt let down as they watched Congress go on a spending binge and President George W. Bush justify his Wall Street and auto bailouts by saying, “I chucked aside my free-market principles.” Then President Barack Obama called for his $1 trillion debt stimulus, followed by a $275 billion mortgage bailout. CNBC’s Rick Santelli had enough and called for a “Chicago Tea Party,” inspiring folks to do the same in their communities. Frustrated Americans began taking their grievances to the streets and the tea party movement was born. Just as the original Boston Tea Party was a grass-roots rebellion against overbearing government, tea party participants are reacting to government that has grown too large…. Rick Perry has gotten out in front of the Tea Party movement. He has a YouTube video that touts the protests. This is the text: “Howdy. This is Rick Perry. And I want to talk to you just a second about what the true importance of the 15th of April really is. Yeah, it’s the date that we all file our income taxes, but it’s another significant day. It’s a day to get together with fellow patriots, all across the State of Texas, to send a message to Washington, D.C. Let ’em know what you think about the bailouts, all this stimulus, all this runaway spending that is going on in Washington, D.C. If you go to Rick Perry dot org, there’s a good list of Tea Parties all across the State of Texas you can get matched up with. Go join your fellow patriots. Go join your fellow Texans. Send Washington, D.C. a real message about how you feel things are going up there. See you on the 15th of April.” Perry had a busy morning schedule that began with Fox and Friends at 7:40 a.m., followed by live radio interview in Austin (8:15) and Houston (8:30), followed by appearances on nationally syndicated talk show hosts Glenn Beck (8:45) and Laura Ingraham (9:30). At noon he will attend the Austin Tea Party and then will attend the similar rallies in Arlington and Fort Worth. Ever since Perry announced his intention to run for reelection in 2010, I have always considered the possibility that in a shrinking Republican party, Perry sees an opportunity to play on the national stage. He is as consistent a spokesman for the conservative message as there is, and he has a strong conservative record to go with it. He is consistently “misunderestimated” in Texas, and the idea of another Texas governor in the White House will not play well with the American people. That said, you have to be the Republican nominee before you can be president, and the members of Perry’s inner circle think that is within Perry’s reach. The camera has always loved him, and when you see him in videos and sound bites, he comes across as a pro. If indeed Perry has national ambitions–and why wouldn’t he?–he may see in the Tea Party movement an opportunity to get out in front of a vocal constituency. God forbid. The downside of the Tea Party movement is that it mixes the metaphor. Is the protest directed at spending or at taxes? Calling the protests for April 15 shift the focus from Obama to income taxes–and tax protesters tend to be the kooks of the far right. Resetting the sights from the presidency to the governor’s race, I wonder whether embracing the Tea Party folks is a good idea. I think it is not. How many times does Perry need to woo the same constituency? The soccer moms who are the core of Kay Bailey Hutchison’s support don’t care for the angry white guys who carrying placards. Perry is associating himself with the extremists now. I don’t think that will work for him in the end.
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