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CNBC's Santelli sparks GOP outrage over Obama mortgage plan

By Jimmy Orr / February 22, 2009

CNBC reporter Rick Santelli's meltdown on Thursday has led GOP activists to hold Boston Tea Party-like revolts next week across the nation. Santelli said Obama's mortgage bailout plan is "not American." The video clip has broken all records on CNBC's website.

Jake Turcotte

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It may seem like grandstanding but a reporter's explosion (or implosion) has galvanized conservative troops to rally against President Obama's mortgage bailout plan.

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Despite getting clobbered in the 2008 e-campaign world, Republicans are trying to compete in Internet-land, organizing protests later this week against the bailout.

All the Republican rancor is over the question: Why should the 92 percent of Americans who are paying their mortgages on time subsidize those who can't?

Or more precisely, why is government - specifically President Obama - pushing for this?

Rant

That's the point of a viral video going around the Internet. CNBC's Rick Santelli is the star of the clip and he's the one doing the questioning.

"How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage because they can't pay their bills?" he yelled on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade last Thursday.

Greeted with a chorus of boos, an exasperated Santelli -- arms waving like an over-caffeinated octopus -- said, "President Obama, are you listening?"

We're listening

Maybe the president wasn't, but White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was. He called out Santelli by name on Friday and accused the reporter of not reading the plan.

"It's tremendously important … for people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they're talking about," Gibbs said. "I feel assured that Mr. Santelli doesn't know what he's talking about."

A copy of the president's plan in hand on Friday, Santelli told CNBC host Larry Kudlow that he had read it and, "Guess what? I still don't like it," he said ripping the paper in half.

"Do we want to teach our children that you can get out of a mistake and that there are do-overs?" he asked. "I just don't think that's American."

Most viewed

"Rick's Rant," now the name of the video clip, ratcheted up record numbers for a CNBC video, displacing a Jim Cramer clip from 2007.

CNBC isn't saying how many times the video has been watched on the site but one copy of the video on YouTube has generated nearly 600,000 views since being uploaded Thursday night.

Touched a nerve

Why the fascination?

CNBC's Becky Quick appeared on Meet the Press this morning and explained that it is a fairness issue. Many Americans don't feel the mortgage bailout is fair.

"They feel like the ants who are now being asked to take care of the grasshoppers," Quick said.

As for Gibbs's reaction to Santelli, it's an indicator of "just how sensitive they are to the fact that they have got to make a major sales job," said NPR's Michelle Norris.

Deja vu

So what's next? Santelli is calling for a Boston Tea Party-like revolt.

Republican activists have picked up that ball and are planning an event on Feb. 27. The movement is primarily Internet-based and is gaining traction on Michelle Malkin's website, Top Conservatives on Twitter, The Conservative Revolution and a Facebook page.

Fred VS. George

Can Republicans actually pull off an effective Internet campaign? The perception is that the GOP is Fred Flintstone in the land of George Jetson. And the only way that perception can change is by proving otherwise.

This week might be the first big test.

By the way, no word if the GOP plans similar revolts against Harris Interactive polling.  They released a poll showing Americans rank President Obama as their top hero beating out Jesus (who came in 2nd) and Ronald Reagan (4th).  You can read more about that here.

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