Libertarians say Republicans have hijacked tea party movement
David Edwards and John Byrne
Published: Wednesday April 15, 2009

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As conservatives coalesce in nationwide protests against rising taxes, government spending and what they call the "bailout mentality" of President Barack Obama's Administration, the ship appears to have sprung a leak.

Speaking on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show Tuesday evening, Rep. Ron Paul's (R-TX) media coordinator Steve Gordon decried what he characterized as an attempt by mainstream conservative Republicans to hijack a long-cherished libertarian cause. Paul was a longshot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination last year.

Gordon brought Maddow a gift of Southern tea bags -- using them as a metaphor for what he said was a Southern version of conservatism, sweetened by taxes and deficit spending.

Gordon singled out former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia native, and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

"Newt Gingrich is a good example," Gordon said. "He could be one of these two tea bags because he likes his tea bags sweetened with TARP [Troubled Asset Relief Program] funding. This other one could be Mike Huckabee, 'Tax Hike Mike' because he likes his tea bag sweetened with tax increases. So you see we've got a bunch of republican, senior Republican officials in the deep south who can't tell if their tea bags are swinging from the left or the right."

Last year, supporters of Paul's presidential campaign tried to fly a blimp to Boston, where they planned to dump tea in the Boston harbor.

The media coordinator for the Texas Republican says that Republicans have "co-opted" their message.

"Newt Gingrich of all people should not be involved in any movement to decrease deficit spending," Gordon quipped.

Gordon spoke about a specific Alabama protest event where the conservative 501 (c)(3) Freedom Works tried to set up a rally in Birmingham where "nobody showed up," but said that his own rally was more successful.

"It's important the people at the grassroots level stick to our guns and say no when they try to co-opt our message," Gordon said.

Gordon told The Washington Independent Tuesday, "Bringing in someone like Gingrich takes away from the message. Newt Gingrich enabled George W. Bush, he enabled the big spending, he lobbied conservative Republicans to compromise their principles and support Medicare Part D."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Apr. 14, 2009.

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