The National Tea Party Convention scheduled to rev up next week at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville took another major hit yesterday, as two of the three big headline speakers, Reps. Michele Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn, canceled their appearances, citing possible House Ethics Committee problems with the financing of the event by the for-profit group Tea Party Nation. This development compounds the widespread criticism of the convention by many tea party activists, and the withdrawal of several major sponsors, with most critics condemning the high registration cost to participants and/or the uncertain disposition of convention proceeds.
At present, the Tea Party Convention’s grip on credibility is pretty much down to one finger-hold: keynote speaker Sarah Palin, who, as of yesterday, said she was still planning to join the hoedown in Nashville. Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent posted this excerpt from an interview Palin did with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren:
Oh, you betcha I’m going to be there. I’m going to speak there because there are people traveling from many miles away to hear what that tea party movement is all about and what that message is that should be received by our politicians in Washington. I’m honored to get to be there.
I won’t personally gain from being there. The speaker’s fee will go right back into the cause. I’ll be able to donate it to people and to events, those things that I believe in that will help perpetuate the message, the message being, Government, you have constitutional limits. You better start abiding by them.
Aside from Palin’s presence, the Tea Party Convention still enjoys sponsorship from some pretty heavy right-wing hitters, including Judicial Watch, the American Taxpayers Union, Eagle Forum and Vision America. One Christian Right warhorse, Judge Roy Moore, is still scheduled to speak, though it’s unclear whether another, Rick Scarborough, will show. It will be fascinating to see how conservative media, most notably Tea Party loudspeaker Fox News, covers the event.
The Greater Meaning of the convention’s gradual unraveling is as hard to deduce as its original significance. Some originally pointed to it as the beginning of a third party effort, while others charged it with representing the takeover of the Tea Party Movement by the GOP. Since it can’t be both, it’s obvious that experts differ on this score. It’s entirely possible that the event’s questionable financial structure and high registration fees really are the only beef. From my own past dealings with events involving Members of Congress, I’m sure that Bachmann’s and Blackburn’s Ethics Committee concerns are perfectly legitimate, whatever else may be going on.
The whole thing is becoming a source of embarrassment for both Tea Party activists and their Republican allies, at a time when they supposedly are marching arm in arm towards Washington to rout the godless Socialists and Terrorist Lovers who currently occupy the seats of power.