Meet the Press   |  July 18, 2010

Cornyn: ‘Slanderous’ to accuse Tea party of racism

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. discuss the impact of the political movement with NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> i want to talk about the tea party as well. the impact whether it is sarah palin or some prominent tea party candidates we'll put a few running in senate races, ones to watch this year in terms of tea party impact, sharon angle and marco rubio running against charlie crist who is now an independent running for the senate and we're waiting to see how the democrat will, rand paul , a republican in kentucky. there are real debates about the role of the tea party and whether there are racist elements within the party itself. the naacp had its meeting this week and talked about -- called on the tea party to stand up to those forces. the headline naacp resolution addresses tea parties. the organization passed a resolution calling on tea party leaders to condemn racism within the at t the tea party movement. the tea party movement is not just about higher taxes and limited government . the resolution says but something that could evolve and become more dangerous for small percentage of people that think our country has been taken away from them. is this a problem?

>> well, i think it is slanderous to suggest the vast movement of citizens that showed up at town hall meeting a inings and tea party movements say there's no basis for it. i think what the tea party movement demonstrates and enthusiasm we see from independents and republicans is that if washington isn't going to change itself, then we're going to change washington . i think that's what we're seeing. if folks like nevada for example, 14% unemployment since harry reid is running for re-election, after 27 years in the united states congress , if you want to continue those policies and those sorts of results, go ahead and vote for harry reid . if you want change, if you want people who are willing to live within their means and to rein in this runaway spending --

>> you talk about nevada. senator reid is pulling ahead of sharon angle. he's up 44% to 37%. this comes after a time when sharron angle made extreme statements about the bp slush fund . she talked about second amendment remedies for her political opponents and the criticism is that tea party injects candidates who are too extreme to actually win re-election. is that a concern for you?

>> well, let's look at what harry reid said. he called the former chairman of the federal reserve a hack. he declared the iraq war lost and the surge a failure before it even started in 2007 . and he called the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff incompetent. harry reid is known for his gaffs. this isn't about personality. this is about policies.

>> you have rand paul who got into trouble with extreme comments. and you have a movement of tea partiers who are in effect arguing they should govern when they are opposed to government. how much of a problem is that?

>> i believe these are citizens who should not be demonized and marginalized. these are people who are concerned about the direction of the country. they have every right to participate in the political process and to make sthur their views are represented in washington because they see washington running away with not only their present prosperity but also the burden it's putting on our children and grandchildren.

>> you heard earlier this week if elected they should be co-oped by the republican party .

>> what's clear to me when i look at the tea party it's one-third democrat, one-third republican and one-third independent but 100% are sure the agenda taking place in washington , d.c. is about extremism. it's about bankrupting this country and every state within this country. and chris talked about how the federal government will see this $1.2 trillion surplus or at least diminishment of the debt but they're passing that to other people and diminishing employment at the same time. this agenda is outrageous and the american people are --

>> congressman van hollen, what is the impact of the tea party in the fall?

>> it's a mixed bag for the republicans. on one hand there's a lot of energy on the tea party side. on the other hand, it's driving a lot of their candidates farther and farther to the right. most of the districts that are in play are the swing districts. and what the tea party movement has done is take a lot of their nominees farther to the right. we saw in a special election last year in upstate new york a seat that had been held by the republicans since abraham lincoln was president that the tea party movement drove the more moderate republican candidate out of the race entirely and bill owens ran a good campaign and focused on jobs and the economy and won a seat held by republicans since the civil war . there's a real danger for them in moving farther to the right. that's the reality of what's happening.

>> did the naacp go too far?

>> they expressed their views based on signs and statements and other things. i'll let their judgment as the nation's conscious on race stand for their own proposition. i will say this about the tea party . look, it's not about marginalizing people. i'm glad to see people get involved in their government. but there's a reason that my colleague here wanted sue louden versus sharron angle . he understood that the people who won those races in the tea party movement are too extreme in their positions even for their state. when you want to put radioactive waste in yucca mountain and abolish the department of education , it won't fall. when rand paul say it's unamerican to pressure bp to do the right thing in the gulf, it's not going to sell. it's not because they're part of a movement but because their positions are too extreme for the general election environment.