Q&A with 'Tea Party' leaders Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe

At a September 13 Monitor breakfast, FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey and president Matt Kibbe discussed the potential Republican House majority and addressed recent criticism of the tea party's diversity.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
At a Sept. 13 Monitor breakfast, FreedomWorks leaders Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe spoke about the tea party's take on conservatism.

Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe are chairman and president, respectively, of FreedomWorks, a major player in the "tea party" movement that has shaken up Republican primary races this year. Mr. Armey (r.) and Mr. Kibbe (l.) were guest speakers at the Sept. 13 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C. The likely 2010 election outcome:

Armey: "Without much doubt the Republicans will control the House. The big question that remains with our folks is will it be a conservative majority or a Republican majority. And there can be a big difference.... The most interesting turning of events is the movement from 'possible' to 'probable' that the Republicans might control the Senate."

How a conservative majority in the House would change things:

Armey: "They will be more responsive to the ... will of the American people than either of the two parties have been for quite some time. So, controlling spending, reducing it if you can, certainly some way to rationalize health-care legislation by way of [getting] some of the good things like tort reform and interstate purchases in there so that you can effect some real cost savings."

How tea party legislators would affect business interests:

Kibbe: "They [big companies] do have something to be worried about if their primary business model is using the federal government either to punish their competitors or fatten their bottom lines....Tea partyers don't like that kind of thing."

Reaction to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels's suggestion that Republicans have a truce on social issues going into the presidential campaign:

Armey: "A truce? No. These are issues of the heart. People are not going to turn their hearts and minds away from things [that are] so heartfelt.... Since President Obama has been elected, there have been extraordinarily high levels of funding for international abortions.... That fight hasn't been had for a few years. Now that fight will be had with this [Republican] majority."

Diversity within tea party ranks:

Armey: "Intellectually, there is greater diversity than you will find in either of the two political parties.... It is extremely difficult for black Americans to stand up and say, 'I am a conservative,' because they get beset in the most vicious ways."

Whether the media are "evil," as conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart said at a Sept. 12 FreedomWorks rally in Washington:

Kibbe: "No, we don't think the press is evil, otherwise we would not be here today. The more interesting point is the decentralization of information that all of us are seeing right now ... is one of the life forces of the tea party movement. We no longer need three networks or two political parties to tell us what to think or to get our information from.... Folks are getting information for themselves."

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