'Tea party' organizers wade into the healthcare debate

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Which came first: Fox News or the spirit of the 'tea parties'?

Americans will have another chance to debate that conundrum on Saturday morning, when the "Recess Rally" kicks off in dozens of cities across the country. Like the original "tea parties," which were organized to protest "irresponsible fiscal policies and intrusive government," the "Recess Rally" is a right-leaning affair. According to a description posted on recessrally.com, the rallies are a "collaborative effort to make it known that we will not stand for socialized, government controlled healthcare."

Protests are planned for all 435 congressional districts -- a wide-angle approach intended to garner the attention of the folks on Capitol Hill. (President Barack Obama, as we mentioned earlier today, will be on vacation starting this weekend, so he may miss the fireworks.)

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"There isn't this great conspiracy to say there shouldn't be healthcare reform," said Paul Miller, a spokesman for The Sam Adams Alliance, one of the groups behind the rallies. "People just want to make their own decisions and keep their insurance if they like. When governments get involved, they never do anything right," he said.

In mid-April, hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the street to protest the threat of raised taxes and increased government spending. As Monitor staff writer Patrik Jonsson wrote, the "tea parties" were seen by experts as an impressive demonstration of grassroots organizing. At the same time, Jonsson added, "critics doubt[ed] the higher estimates of the turnout, and [said] the numbers represent[ed] the extreme right rather than a burgeoning political counterpoint to President Obama and current Washington policies."

Predictably, opinions on the "tea parties" were split neatly on partisan lines. The protests were cheered by conservative outlets such as the Weekly Standard and Fox News, which spent many hours covering the events. Meanwhile, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart questioned whether Fox News was simultaneously reporting on and helping to organize the rallies. (The Los Angeles Times, in a welcome display of equanimity, told both MSNBC and Fox News to quiet down.)

We'll have to wait until Sunday morning to gauge the strength of this next round of "Recess Rallies." In the meantime, Fox News has the full story.

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