April 19th, 2009
11:18 AM ET
8 years ago

Axelrod suggests 'Tea Party' movement is 'unhealthy'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senior White House adviser David Axelrod on Sunday suggested the "Tea Party" movement is an "unhealthy" reaction to the tough economic climate facing the country.

Axelrod was asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about the "spreading and very public disaffection" with the president's fiscal policies seen at the "Tea Party" rallies around the country last week.

"I think any time you have severe economic conditions there is always an element of disaffection that can mutate into something that's unhealthy," Axelrod said.

Axelrod appeared to backtrack when pressed on whether the movement is unhealthy.

"Well, this is a country where we value our liberties and our ability to express ourselves, and so far these are expressions," he said.

"The thing that bewilders me is that this president just cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people," Axelrod argued. "I think the tea bags should be directed elsewhere because he certainly understands the burden that people face."

Democratic strategist James Carville disagreed with Axelrod on CNN's "State of the Union" when John King asked him if it's unhealthy for "an American to go out and hold a sign and say 'I think my taxes are too high.'"

Carville said, "No." He called the Tea Party movement "harmless and damaging to Republicans."

On CBS, Axelrod also responded to Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent insinuation that his state could secede from the union in response to government overreach under President Obama.

"I don't think that really warrants a serious response," Axelrod said. "I don't think most Texans were all that enthused by the governor's suggestion."

Filed under: David Axelrod • State of the Union
soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. Jeff W.

    Where were all these so-called "tea parties" when bush was ruining the country? Talk about displaced outrage.

    April 19, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Franky

    You know, we followed those movements and we had updates around the country. Unless you prove to me and give me FACTS that this "movement" was a manifestation, then otherwise, we don't wanna hear a bunch of white people complaining, are you sure you wanna go there with us??? Ohh don't get me wrong, we've seen a couple mix, just a bit BUT like I say, I'll show you video, we will go that far...

    April 19, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  3. MKNJ

    So I guess the illegal people in CA walking off their jobs and causing anarchy is OK with Axelrod? Can't have it both ways. But then again all of the tea party people paying for the illegals can't have their say without being discredited by MSNBC and CNN or the White House.

    April 19, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. Enlightened Voter

    The tea party sheep had their taxes lowered under president Obama. Let's call their tea party what it really was – to bash President Obama. They can't stand the fact that a Black man is in office and that's the truth. Oh and govenor perry should be tried for treason! If he had made the comment back with bushie was president he would have under the patriot act.

    April 19, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  5. chuck

    Can you say with me that the so called"tea-party" brings out the best of racists groups in the GOP.

    April 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  6. fred

    Ask what GOP and fox news can do for you...

    Even Fox News, which served as both quarterback and head cheerleader for the protests, had trouble explaining what the attendees were upset about, and what they wanted. They were angry, Fox told us - but angry at what? Some were angry about taxes, or (typically unspecified) spending, or Washington, or (purely imaginary) attempts to repeal the Second Amendment. Others just seemed angry at the wind. In Texas, some members of the "Party of Lincoln" even began talking about seceding from the United States.

    April 19, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  7. JC

    Its about the taxes to come Mr. Axelrod. We cannot spend away our future for the pure political benefit of today. That is what we are protesting.

    It will not be long before we tax alcohol at the rate we are taxing tobacoo to pay for the flawed financing of SCHIP. Next it will be gas to make up for the conservation Americans have been doing.

    It is a never ending cycle when we grow the gov't. We can fix social security by eliminating the pensions of the elected officials. That would light a fire under them and realize that we cannot expect gov't to support us for our own failings.

    April 19, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. MIchael

    Yep. Typical liberal elitism. If you don't agree with them and their social engineering, you are unhealthy. What is, in fact, unhealthy is a country where about 40% of single filers pay no federal income tax. Where is the equality in that?

    April 19, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  9. Susan

    Mr. Axelrod, President Obama and Congress have become unhealthy for Americans with their out of control spending, passing bills without reading them and their unwillingness to listen to the American people. And the ugly display by Susan Roegsen from CNN at the Chicago Tea Party is another example of how the mainstream media is also out of touch with us.

    Start reporting the real news CNN and how our taxes are going to really rise next year with our Presidents 4 trillion dollar budget.

    April 19, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  10. Bethie in TX

    Let the tea baggers, though misguided, express their anger. I don't know where they were when Bush was doubling the deficit, but I guess they finally woke up when they lost the election. Pace the rage, folks!

    Perry's comments are pure politics. They will cost him the next election in Texas for sure. I'd rather have a moderate like Kay B. Hutchinson over Perry any day.

    April 19, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  11. Trevor Przyuski

    I'm just wondering what attitude toward those world leaders with anti-American feelings the Republican Senator would prefer. Perhaps we should scowl at them. Maybe we should ignore them. That might make them feel better about us. By the way, Chavez wasn't the only leader in the world who compare Prez Bush to the devil. If we avoided everyone in the world who felt that way, there might not be many leaders left to talk to.

    April 19, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. neil

    Free speech is still allowed by Obama isn't it?

    April 19, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. Get a Clue Axlerod

    Just one more liberal who hasn't got a clue (or at least pretends not to) what the Tea Parties were all about. Once again, he wants to create a straw man argument that they were only about taxes.

    Taxes were only one reason for the parties. One of the more overarching issues was uncontrolled, expansive and ever more intrusive government. You couple this with unresponsive government that passes bailouts and TARP despite overwhelming opposition to such. Add skyrocketing deficits....and you think the people should just kowtow to the Obama regime with a smile?

    Honestly! CNN? Axlerod? Do you honestly not understand what the tea parties were about or are you being disingenuous with comments about "I don't understand. Most people got a tax break....blah blah blah"

    I think the latter is true and if Congress and the White House don't wake up to this reality they will have some big surprises in the next election. The people are fed up.

    April 19, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. jp

    axelrod should be concerned with obama cabinet picks adhere to the laws of the coutry–not with the lawful right of the people to assemble,voice their opinion ,petition their government-and even vote them out of office-the real question now to be asked–will obama peacefully give up power when his term is up–he will only be a one term president-and the dems will certainly loose their majority come the midterm elections

    April 19, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. Minesh

    Axelrod considers Tea Party unhealthy because it undermines his socialist agenda. Also Texans overwhelmingly support the Republican Party Governor and independence.

    April 19, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Had It

    The far-right-wng-nutcases will do anything to divide this country. They can't help it. They're set in their ways of power and corruption, and they want to keep it in their court.

    We voted NO to them last year, and we'll vote NO to them next year.


    April 19, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. Brian

    What a dirt bag, when is protesting your government "unhealthy'?? Why when you criticize a democrat of course. Did anyone speak up about the protests of Cindy Shehan or Code Pink being "unhealthy". David, get a grip, not everyone loves what you and your boss are doing, and I resent being called names by you and that Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky who called me "shameful and despicable" for exercising my constitutional rights of free assembly and to petition the government. I see the brown shirts about ready to come out of the closet! Here's hoping you are soon looking for another job!

    April 19, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. GuyInVA

    Freedom of speech. Freedom to peacefully assemble. Freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances (okay, a stretch, I know). All unhealthy, because they seem to be at odds with Mr. Axelrod's belief system. Why in the world is CNN covering any mention of the Tea Parties anyway? They mad every effort to have them go by unnoticed. I seem to remember the liberal left saying dissent itself is patriotic (stupid and wrong unless you believe the senators that filibustered the Civil Rights Act were patriots).

    I agree with Mr. Axelrod's take on Texas' secession. Be serious.

    April 19, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  19. Willy Brown

    Sure he'd say that. Democrats love taxing us all.

    April 19, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  20. Patrick

    One thing was clear: They were angry. Fox News' Neil Cavuto made that clear during an exchange with Bill O'Reilly: "They're annoyed at everybody. ... There is a palpable rage here. ... These people are ticked. ... These were a lot of average folks who said they were sick of it. ... They're just very angry. This is a populist rage. ... They don't like being laughed at. They don't like being joked about. They're average folks who want to just be treated like average Americans who are angry." (Presumably, the people who don't like being laughed at were not the people who walked around with bags of tea dangling from the frames of their glasses.)

    Absent any clear indication of what, exactly, the protests were meant to protest, or what the protesters think should be done, Fox News was reduced to explaining by implication. Throughout the day, Fox News reporters periodically reminded viewers why they were billing the events as "tea parties" despite what appeared to be a complete lack of beverages of any kind. That reminder usually went something like one, from Bret Baier: "In December of 1773, new world colonists protested British taxation policies by dumping tea into Boston harbor."

    Notice anything missing from that little history lesson? Right: Baier forgot to mention the part about "taxation without representation." Fox News kept leaving that part out. Maybe because Fox News wants you to think the American Revolution was the result of colonists unhappy that the wealthiest among them would see the top marginal tax rate increase from 36 percent to 39 percent, or maybe because the tea parties in Texas and California and 48 other states were attended by people who do have representation.

    April 19, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  21. Deb

    If Axelrod thinks that a measly $400 tax "pay-off" to us this year and next is going to quiet all 95% of Americans, he is wrong. We are not all stupid and easily manipulated, sir, and we can count. There are less than 100 million of us paying taxes now in this country, and what exactly is the full debt burden now ?? U.S. debt is on course to TRIPLE within 10 years, and future taxes will be extraordinarily burdensome, on us and our children, to sustain the current spending proposals being made by this administration, in order to "change" America towards government-centric solutions, and away from individual responsibility for our families. America is built on opportunity and personal initiative–THAT is why immigrants flock here. Just look at European taxes and national growth in the past decades; only now, as they elect conservatives, are they beginning to try to tackle their problems. Let's start evaluating whether the Dept. of Education and Energy is doing anything of value for us. Stop GROWING government!!
    It is utter foolishness to try to take on Obama's 3-prong "education/energy/health care" tax initiatives right now, when this country needs fiscal restraint to lead the way out of the global economic collapse. (Too bad we rejected the proven business leadership of Romney; he knows well how to smartly turn around failure into profitable gains.) Pelosi, Reid, and Obama must be stopped, and the tea party movement aims to do that; if they won't listen now, then perhaps by the 2010 elections....

    April 19, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. Matt


    Got that America?

    Protesting wasteful spending of the goons in Washington is 'Unhealthy'.

    Bush spent money on protecting this country after attacks on American soil, helping our elderly get affordable prescription drugs and one of the biggest natural disasters to hit the country.

    Obama has allocated more spending for future generations in his first 90 days than Bush did in 8 years.

    If you aren't angry, you aren't paying attention.

    April 19, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  23. Mike in NYC

    What Axelrod and Co. don't like is the overwhelmingly white composition of the crowds at these events. Truth be said, they only like Whites who nod their heads and meekly accept the transition to the "New America." They're even happier if said Whites heartily applaud it.

    The White working and middle classes pay the lion's share of the taxes in this country, and so are shouldering the bulk of the burden for everything from entitlements to the bailout. That's why there were almost no non-Whites at these events - THEY know who's really paying, and who's really taking. Why spoil a good thing?

    April 19, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. Vic

    Republicans will do anything to gain attention right now, even brew endless amounts of weakened tea that they, themselves, don't find that palatable. So what was the point in these so-called parties? Same question for that Texas governor. If he's gotten one favorable reaction to his dumb secesh remarks, it would be interesting to know when and where.

    April 19, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. paksa

    This is a very condescending response to the voice of American people. Another article on this same site brags that the president listens to all people (Venezuela included) and that is supposed to be good diplomacy! Yet, when thousands of Americans want to be heard they are discounted, considered unhealthy in their response (or just an element of dissatisfaction that is about to mutate) or even considered stupid enough to believe that 95% of Americans have just gotten a tax cut! How elitist and shallow to say that these people just respond by 'holding a sign and saying cut my taxes'! The continued spending and indebtedness is outrageous – even other major countries have said this – and the people have been trying to say enough is enough. The spending is not primarily stimulus but a way to promote social agendas and this needs to be owned and addressed.

    April 19, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
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