Watch your mouth, Mr. President! Writing in ABC's "Political Punch," Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper reports that despite his campaign promise of a post-partisan era, even Barack Obama isn't above occasional name-calling. Reading through Jonathan Alter's new book on President Obama's first year, "The Promise: President Obama, Year One," Tapper comes across a November 30, 2009 interview in which Obama declared that the unanimous vote of House Republicans against the stimulus bills "set the tenor for the whole year ... That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans." Obama's use of the term "tea-bagger," often deployed mockingly by news outlets, surprises Tapper. "Three days after he decried the lack of civility in American politics, President Obama is quoted in a new book about his presidency referring to the Tea Party movement using a derogatory term with sexual connotations," he reports.
Naturally, conservative pundits are irate. "Really. How many more selective civility police lectures can we take from this vulgarity-clogged White House?" writes Michelle Malkin. "Obama may be the most thin-skinned President we've ever had. It'll be funny to see him apologize for his crude, offensive, and juvenile language when this book officially comes out," declares Ian Lazaran at Conservatives 4 Palin.
But amidst the knee-jerk outrage from some on the right, a few journalists have turned a critical eye to Tapper's report. This is nothing new, notes Dave Weigel at the Washington Post, pointing to a sneak peak of Alter's book by Gabriel Sherman in March that highlighted one of Alter's "more freewheeling interviews" with Obama:
Sherman's excerpt didn't get a lot of attention ... But today Americans for Tax Reform pounced on the excerpt with a news release and a quote from its president Grover Norquist. Jake Tapper of ABC News -- armed with a news hook about the president calling for "civility" in politics -- pounced. And now the story lives on.
Slow the process down and you can see the tea party movement doing what Tom Cruise did in the recent "South Park" two-parter that has so worried Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). Namely, it's defining as a slur, or as hate speech, a term that snarky TV hosts turned into popular parlance -- it sounds less clumsy than "tea partyers." In responding, tea partyers strike a pose not altogether different from civil rights groups criticizing politicians or media figures for stumbling over racial slurs.
Taking that analogy a step further, though from a different perspective, Adam Serwer of the American Prospect asks: "How long before someone compares POTUS using 'teabagger' term to using n-word? Taking bets..."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.