American Sauce: Senators scratch heads over Occupy Wall Street
October 14th, 2011
01:26 PM ET
11 years ago

American Sauce: Senators scratch heads over Occupy Wall Street

Capitol Hill (CNN) – The Occupy Wall Street protest may be holding ground in New York and at sites around the country, but protesters apparently have yet to make a deep mark inside the U.S. Capitol.

(Click here for this week's American Sauce podcast on how protests are changing in America, including how the Occupy movement and the tea party may be more similar than they'd like to admit.)

CNN's American Sauce asked a number of senators what they think the movement is about, and the initial responses were consistent.

"What do I think of the what?" asked Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia. "The which one?" responded Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey. Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, also checked the question, asking, "The what?" After we repeated the movement's name and explained it was the month-old protest centered in New York, senators showed more recognition and a strikingly similar view.

"It's about frustration," declared Lautenberg, "it's about an inability for people to get attention to their problems. That's what it's about."

"I think I have a sense of frustration that people feel," responded Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania. Casey stated he didn't feel prepared to analyze the movement and that the question of purpose is one for the protesters. When he did offer specifics on the issues involved, however, the Democratic senator seemed to point more to general grievances in American society, instead of the stand-out calls from Occupy participants.

"People are frustrated by two things," Casey said, "Number one, that we're not creating jobs at a fast enough pace and number two, that they don't feel we're working together to try and improve that situation."

In contrast, McCain seemed closer to understand a key theme of Occupy Wall Street.

"I think it's about the frustration and anger about the inequities of the economy," he said. "In some ways I am in agreement with them that we bailed out the major financial institutions… and it's disgraceful that we took care of the financial institution and did nothing about the housing market."

The former presidential candidate paused and then added, "I may be the only Republican you hear that from."

The hazy and inconsistent recognition by lawmakers of the Occupy Wall Street movement shows what may be a steep climb for the one-month-old movement to get not just attention, but understanding from officials in Washington.

One problem is logistical: Congress is mired in muddy, detailed debates over jobs, the economy and the deficit. The other is theoretical: politicians are unaccustomed to movements with no clear leader and no specific demands.

Corroborating McCain's prediction, his fellow Republican Chambliss seemed underline the disconnect with the Occupy movement, telling American Sauce, "To be honest I haven't paid much attention to it."

Listen to this week's podcast here for more on how protests are changing in America, including a look at what's happened with the once omnipresent Code Pink.

You can also listen to American Sauce on iTunes, Stitcher or subscribe to the podcast via RSS.

– CNN's Dan Szematowicz, Jonathan Binder and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.

Filed under: American Sauce • Occupy Wall Street • Senate
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Lisa

    Rep. Chambliss is a perfect example of what OWS represents - the lack of recognition/representation of the 99% by our so-called elected representatives. You can bet if the 1% was protesting Main Street, every Congressman would know exactly what it's about.

    I guess McCain should be recognized for the fact that he realizes that Wall Street was bailed out and nothing done for Main Street. Problem is, he's still not doing anything for Main Street.

    Perhaps our elected officials need a little old adage reminder - actions speak louder than words. Time to shut up and start acting.

    October 14, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. thomas

    The Youth will inherit the Earth !

    The Senators are old and out of touch !

    IPhons or Had Guns ?

    October 14, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. John K.

    In 2008, the "Occupy Wall Street" people were called "Obama supporters".

    October 14, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    I don't understand why the media keeps repeating that their message is unclear.

    Banks destroyed the economy. Millions of people lost their investments, their jobs, and eventually their homes. Banks got bailed out. The only guy, Madoff, who was prosecuted stole from the !%, while those who stole from the 99% still have jobs. Still pay themselves appalling salaries, which keep rising by 20-30% per year. Still invent new fees to charge customers with so that they can keep thier appalling salaries.

    They cannot name names, nor cite specific criminal actions, anymore than the media can. Because there has never been a satisfactory and complete invetigation into what lead up to and caused the global financial crisis.

    October 14, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. mk1

    In the 1950's and 60's the "The Tea Party" were known as the "KKK".

    October 14, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  6. Phil in KC

    The problem that the 'movement' has is that their grievances are rather general, there are no specific demands and they don't seem to have any clear-cut leadership to speak for them. While I agree that things are out of whack (e.g., the difference in annual pay between the CEO and his/her average worker has not been greater since before the Great Depression), I'm not sure what Congress can do about it unless they can be clearer about their expectations.

    October 14, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  7. vic , nashville ,tn

    Support for occupy Wall Street are growing better republicans do the math right
    Tomorrow some republicans are participating occupy Nashville.

    October 14, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    You mean that the politicians who gave out tax payer dollars to fund bonuses to the people who crashed the economy, don't understand why people without jobs and reduced 401ks are still upset? Hard to imagine (for DC), isn't it?

    October 14, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  9. Aaron

    Until the movement gets bought out by billionaires like happened with the Tea Party, it should give politicians some pause since they have no idea how to propagandize and hijack the movement at the moment.

    October 14, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  10. fred ca

    American Sauce? More like lackey cnn censors lefty cream sauce. You people are pathetic.

    October 14, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. Reggie from LA

    Why bother with Washington? Many of the stiff necks and hard heads there have been looking at themselves in the mirror for years. Many already know they are lap monkeys who can't react to the truth. Some are ashamed of it, but well paid for their shame. Some are proud of being stuck in their bought and paid for convictions with no regard for what needs to be done for our citizenry. Except from behind a microphone and in front of a camera. It doesn't matter WHERE OWS is, they are still speaking to a nation that needs to continue to hear what they are saying. Go OWS!!!!

    October 14, 2011 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. Author Charlieg

    Please help me figure this out. Do these protests look more like the protests of 1911 with the political disconnect with the leadership, republicans then, or the Arab Spring and the political disconnect with the conservative, wealthy leadership in the Arab World? I think we already know the answer to the question, "Did the conservatives learn anything over the past 60 years, 600 years, 6,000 years?" The answer is "No!" and "!@#$ No!"

    October 14, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. A. Wolf

    Is that supposed to be Earn-ie? 😀

    October 14, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. james Miller

    If the H of R would show some REAL effort in moving toward creating JOBS; not just tax breaks, deregulation, etc, but real programs ( gov`t if necessary) to tie welfare payments to work programs as during the 30`s, it would be a start. We have severe infrastructure problems in all states that could be addressed.----- JOBS. Don`t kid me, they understand what needs to be done. They`re afraid their re-election $$$$ will be cut off by their big money backers.-- I blame the Republicans for not careing enough for the middle class.

    October 14, 2011 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Southern boy

    I believe the old John Birchers, KKK, some white supremists militia groups have morphed into the Tea Party movement.

    October 14, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  16. Southern boy

    And they say, " Occupy Wall St.?-- What are you talking about ? "

    October 14, 2011 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  17. PA_outof work

    Obama and the Democrats in the House and Senate are not scratching their heads; the Occupy Wall Street protesters are the remains of Democratic Party. If this Democratic Party continues to support Obama and not run another candidate; you will see the Democrats get massacred in the 2012 election. There won’t be enough Democrats left to call it a party.

    October 14, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. ex-sarge

    From what I can see, the Senators who are scratching their heads and not "getting" what is going on are the ones that need to be replaced first, regardless of party affliation (affliction?). If they had been listening to the people and hearing what they have to say, none of this would come as a suprise (unless you're surprised that it took so long to happen). For those out there not familiar with Thom Hartmann, I suggest you find him (he's on radio, and online). you may not agree with everything he says, but he is fair, for real. Give him a try, it will be worth it.

    October 14, 2011 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  19. John K.

    In the 1950's and 60's the "The Tea Party" were known as the "KKK"

    This may come as a big shock to you but many people in the Tea Party are supporting a BLACK man. They are supporting Herman Cain for what he stands for and not because of the color of his skin.
    So who is the racist now?

    October 14, 2011 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  20. SL 65 AMG

    hey mk1, Yeah and in 2011 the ows crowd are known as jobless bums.

    October 14, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. Dixie Independent voter

    What McCain should have said is - I'm sorry we bailed out Wall St. Period. We should have helped in Main St affairs.

    October 14, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Corroborating McCain's prediction, his fellow Republican Chambliss seemed underline the disconnect with the Occupy movement, telling American Sauce, "To be honest I haven't paid much attention to it."

    It'd be my guess is that McCain and his fellow Republicans haven't been paying much attention to anything concerning "we the little people" for the past decade now ... nor will they. They each know that the power given to them by their lobbyist supporters will remain intact, regardless of what is happening to the working poor in America. Unless, of course, they are actually voted out of office and away from lobbyist control.

    October 14, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  23. Billy

    The "evil banks" are only partially responsible. The average American helped a lot too. It was the average American who took out mortgages they couldn't afford. Anyone who can do math should have realized that was a bad idea. It's the average American who runs up their credits cards without any plan to pay it off. It's the average American who wants the latest iPad, the biggest TV, and the newest car. It's the average american who subscribes to a cable provider, an IISP, a cell phone service, a land line service, Hulu, Netflix, satellite radio, premium cable channels and wonders why they just don't have enough money each month.

    The average "evil banker" worth more that the average American. At least they know how to manage money.

    October 14, 2011 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. John

    This country has been turning into a GOP paradise for the past 30 years, yet where are the benefits that the Right says will come from all of this? We have lower taxes, less regulation, fewer people in unions, more "right to work states", more "free trade", yet the country sinks. Why is this?

    Unless we start protesting the way elections are funded, the only thing we will insure is that we'll have more things to protest.

    October 14, 2011 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  25. Lynn

    Poll after poll shows the public's anger and dissatisfaction with Congress, and yet we're surprised because the Senators interviewed don't get the messages that many at the OWS are putting forth. Congress......Representatives and Senators live in an insulated choice.

    October 14, 2011 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
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