Q&A with Tea Party leader Dick Armey

FreedomWorks co-chairman Dick Armey discussed President Obama's handling of the BP oil spill crisis at a June 16 Monitor lunch.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor/File
Tea Party leader Dick Armey said President Obama's actions in dealing with the massive oil spill crisis are unconstitutional at a June 16 Monitor lunch.

'Tea party' leader Dick Armey, Republican House majority leader from 1995 to 2003, now co-chairs FreedomWorks, a major force in the tea party movement. He was the speaker at the June 16 Monitor lunch in Washington, D.C.

On the tea party movement:

"This is now the biggest swing movement on the field of American politics. It is also the only movement that has any energy or sense of purpose. Liberals are confused … [and] conservative Republicans have gone through another identity crisis and they are trying to find themselves. These [tea party] folks have a cohesive understanding of who we are and what do we want for our country."

On tea party members' reaction to his long connection with Congress:

"The grass-roots activists ... are wary and suspicious of anybody who ... has standing within a political party or has held public office. They give their acceptance quite slowly.... I am one of the most highly regarded persons of national recognition in the country among the grass-roots activists."

On President Obama's handling of the BP oil spill crisis:

"The Constitution does not envision the president of the United States saying that 'I will decide what compensations, what redress will be elicited from a British-owned company.' There are courts for this purpose.... The Constitution is far ahead of the game compared to where this president is with his current fulminations about what he will decide about whose butt to kick."

On Sarah Palin's tea party role and her political endorsements:

"We love Sarah Palin because Sarah Palin is really her.... She is her own person on her own terms.... No, we don't always agree with her endorsements. She doesn't always agree with mine."

On the comments that Rand Paul, tea party favorite and GOP Senate candidate in Kentucky, made to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow about the Civil Rights Act:

"Rand Paul made an amateur mistake, a freshman mistake, a rookie mistake. He thought MSNBC was a legitimate news operation, bless his heart.... They're not newspeople. They're political hacks."

On former President George W. Bush:

"He gave us No Child Left Behind. He gave us Medicare Part D, a further extension of a liability that we couldn't currently meet. He gave us, for many people, a war that was unnecessary. So he was a disappointment. Everybody who achieves the office of the presidency becomes a bitter disappointment or a pleasant surprise in short order. Up until President Obama, George W. Bush had set the record: He was the quickest, biggest bitter disappointment we had had. Now we have got somebody to top him off."

On politicians:

"The biggest problem I have with politicians, who are not bright people and not deep thinkers, is they don't take the time to know their own constituency and the wishes and the preferences ... of the people whose votes they want to attract."

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.