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Rep. Bob Inglis Describes Being a Tea Party Casualty

August 3rd, 2010 at 3:07 pm | 17 Comments |

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In an extensive interview with Mother Jones, Rep. Bob Inglis describes what it is like to be a reasonable Republican who has become a victim of the Tea Party:

It was the middle of a tough primary contest, and Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) had convened a small meeting with donors who had contributed thousands of dollars to his previous campaigns. But this year, as Inglis faced a challenge from tea party-backed Republican candidates claiming Inglis wasn’t sufficiently conservative, these donors hadn’t ponied up. Inglis’ task: Get them back on the team. “They were upset with me,” Inglis recalls. “They are all Glenn Beck watchers.” About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, “They say, ‘Bob, what don’t you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.’” Inglis didn’t know how to respond.

As he tells this story, the veteran lawmaker is sitting in his congressional office, which he will have to vacate in a few months. On June 22, he was defeated in the primary runoff by Spartanburg County 7th Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy, who had assailed Inglis for supposedly straying from his conservative roots, pointing to his vote for the bank bailout and against George W. Bush’s surge in Iraq. Inglis, who served six years in Congress during the 1990s as a conservative firebrand before being reelected to the House in 2004, had also ticked off right-wingers in the state’s 4th Congressional District by urging tea-party activists to “turn Glenn Beck off” and by calling on Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) to apologize for shouting “You lie!” at Obama during the president’s State of the Union address. For this, Inglis, who boasts (literally) a 93 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, received the wrath of the tea party, losing to Gowdy 71 to 29 percent. In the weeks since, Inglis has criticized Republican House leaders for acquiescing to a poisonous, tea party-driven “demagoguery“ that he believes will undermine the GOP’s long-term credibility. And he’s freely recounting his frustrating interactions with tea party types, while noting that Republican leaders are pushing rhetoric tainted with racism, that conservative activists are dabbling in anti-Semitic conspiracy theory nonsense, and that Sarah Palin celebrates ignorance.

The week after that meeting with his past funders—whom he failed to bring back into the fold—Inglis asked House Republican leader John Boehner what he would have told this group of Obama-bashers. Inglis recalls what happened:

[Boehner] said, “I would have told them that it’s not quite that bad. We disagree with him on the issues.” I said, “Hold on Boehner, that doesn’t work. Let me tell you, I tried that and it did not work.” I said [to Boehner], “If you’re going to lead these people and the fearful stampede to the cliff that they’re heading to, you have to turn around and say over your shoulder, ‘Hey, you don’t know the half of it.’”

In other words, feed and fuel the anger and paranoia of the right.

During his primary campaign, Inglis repeatedly encountered enraged conservatives whom he couldn’t—or wouldn’t—satisfy. Shortly before the runoff primary election, Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here’s what took place:

I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, “What the heck are you talking about?” I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, “You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!” And I said, “Please forgive me. I’m just ignorant of these things.” And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

Later, Inglis mentioned this meeting to another House member: “He said, ‘You mean you sat there for more than 10 minutes?’ I said, ‘Well, I had to. We were between primary and runoff.’ I had a two-week runoff. Oh my goodness. How do you…” Inglis trails off, shaking his head.

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • LFC

    “They were upset with me,” Inglis recalls. “They are all Glenn Beck watchers.” About 90 minutes into the meeting, as he remembers it, “They say, ‘Bob, what don’t you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.’” Inglis didn’t know how to respond.

    Sounds like a few of the people who comment here. Mercifully, it’s only a few.

  • jjv

    Mother Jones is one of the most anti-Israeli places in the media. To have it parrot this anti-semitism accusations is ridiculous. Why doesn’t he name some one? Why is it always “these people” or this “one guy.” Inglis is an incumbent Republican. He should be fine. He is not because he failed to press the Obama administration and became captive to it. He lost a primary. So did Arlen Specter. So did Governor Crist. Are we seeing a theme?

    Everybody was reasonable and informed when they were voting for him but suddenly became paranoiac zombies who jump at the command of Glenn Beck? How did such a reasonable fellow win election with such a constituency all those years? It must have been awful!

  • mpa87

    “They say, ‘Bob, what don’t you get? Barack Obama is a socialist, communist Marxist who wants to destroy the American economy so he can take over as dictator. Health care is part of that. And he wants to open up the Mexican border and turn [the US] into a Muslim nation.’”

    When dealing with people who think like this, how can you hope to have a rational discussion.

  • forkboy1965

    Quoting from the article: “Inglis says that it’s hard for Republicans in Congress to “summon the courage” to say no to Beck, Limbaugh, and the tea party wing. “When we start just delivering rhetoric and more misinformation…we’re failing the conservative movement,” he says. “We’re failing the country.”

    And this is precisely why the GOP and/or Tea Party do not deserve to govern this nation. Of course it’s a shame he only realizes the folly of his party too late and that other member of his party will just call his words ‘sour grapes’. But that is part of the folly, isn’t it?

  • forgetn

    My favorite bit of the story relates to the “number at the back of the Social Security card that shows who bought you”. To be fair this kind of crazy statement is everywhere in politics; no one talks about it (for good reasons — its part of the job to meet the crazies) . I’m sure that Obama gets a bunch of letters every week from God fearing Democrats stating that “UFOs are going to land on the South Lawn this week”.

    What is amusing is that Inglis uses these nut jobs are proof that the entire Tea party is populated by crazies. I suspect that there is no such thing as a Tea Party, there’s just a bunch of people pissed off at the same time, and using the name of Tea Party is a convenient umbrella.

    This is probably why the Tea Party is/are furious with Congresswomen Bachmann; since she’s trying to represent a specific outrage that doesn’t exist. Rather, there’s a number of outrages — for real or perceived shortcomings. This by the way is the real problem with the Tea Party, its not one thing but many things, and since not all wrongs can be fixed the “tea Party” will always be disappointed by their congressional or senatorial supporters — since they cannot possibly meet all the Tea Party’s expectations, there lies the risk for the Republican Party.

    As for Inglis, if he could not get his handlers to figure out who the crazies were (to weed them out) then maybe he was poor at selecting good staff. In many of my political campaigns one of my jobs was to get a sense of the discussion that would occur with the candidate, we had pre approved signals to make sure that the crazies had very short shifts with the candidate! This actually may be a sign of Inglis’ desperation that he was down the the crazies (many have lots of cash, they may be crazy but the’re not stupid).

    Sometimes reading between the lines gives a very different interpretation of the facts

  • anniemargret

    Mr. Inglis appears to be a fair, sane and balanced, unprejudiced person of some apparent intelligence.

    Which translates to mean he is essentially unelectable and unwelcome for the GOP in the 21st century.

  • Churl

    “Inglis, who served six years in Congress during the 1990s as a conservative firebrand before being reelected to the House in 2004….”

    Had he remained a conservative firebrand the tea partiers would have supported him and he could have enjoyed that Capitol Hill office for a few more years. But, as the New York Times is wont to say, “he grew while in office” which is mediaspeak for “he joined the big government DC establishment”. He forgot who elected him and why they voted for him and now he’s on his way out of office and whining about it in a far left wing magazine.

    Tough cheese.

  • Rabiner

    Churl:

    “Had he remained a conservative firebrand the tea partiers would have supported him and he could have enjoyed that Capitol Hill office for a few more years. But, as the New York Times is wont to say, “he grew while in office” which is mediaspeak for “he joined the big government DC establishment”. He forgot who elected him and why they voted for him and now he’s on his way out of office and whining about it in a far left wing magazine.”

    Because nothing says ‘lost his conservative way’ like a 93% conservative voting record. Seriously what happened was he realized that ideological attacks that have little basis in facts aren’t going to help people govern this country even if it makes his constituents content. If you read the article, he decided against calling President Obama a socialist because it wasn’t true and he’d rather not break the 9th Commandment. That is totally the ‘liberal’ position *sarcasm*.

  • ktward

    South Carolina is a neon Red state.
    And while many (most?) States don’t tolerate such blatantly offensive nonsense, SC has long been a campaign playground that, for various socio-political reasons, welcomes the most egregious of dirty tricks. (e.g. McCain’s ‘black love child’? Nikki Haley?)

    I don’t know much of Inglis’s Congressional history: the particular leanings of his district’s constituency, his policy positions, or his campaign practices. But he’s in GD South Carolina, for crissakes. Crazy ideo-talk isn’t all that unusual in those parts. Sad but true.

    That said, while Inglis’s SC experience & campaign loss doesn’t seem to me necessarily all that dissonant, his is unquestionably confirmation of organized GOP Hill complicity with fringe ideology.

    I suppose that’s just more not-news.

  • msmilack

    What a story! I have followed the Inglis case since he spoke out against the Tea Party. I have admired his intelligence and honesty. It’s very sad that the Tea Party has moved such a person into the margins. And truly frightening what they believe. That Boehner and the others in leadership do nothing to dissuade the lunatic views is most disturbing of all. They have truly created a monster by not stopping them from the get-go.

  • franco 2

    Clearly Ingliss is associating the entire tea party movement with its most fringe elements. That is not very smart. Having that kind of contempt for those who elect you is also not very smart. Good riddance!

    To give this interview to Mother Jones is particularly ironic since it is an openly communist magazine that hates the USA and everything it stands for. Mother Jones no doubt believes Obama is a rightwing puppet. Talk about FRINGE…

    Too funny.

    And Frum Forum cant seem to keep from aligning with its ideological enemies (at least on paper) in its desperate need to bash all things Tea Party.

    Frum Forum is ridiculous. I come by for laughs and to see the extent of hypocrisy that can exist in politics.

  • franco 2

    anniemargret // Aug 3, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Mr. Inglis appears to be a fair, sane and balanced, unprejudiced person of some apparent intelligence.

    Which translates to mean he is essentially unelectable and unwelcome for the GOP in the 21st century.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Ha! Annie doesn’t REALLY believe this at all. He is a Republican and as a Republican he cannot be sane, balanced or intelligent. It is only because Ingliss said ONE THING that Annie agrees with, she makes this comment. This is the nature of so many commenters here. They aren’t conservatives or Republicans, they are hyperpartisans who masquerade as reasonable people.

    Annie doesn’t agree ONE BIT with Ingliss on 95% of his stands and in ANY other context would claim he is unfair unbalanced and ignorant. Such is the level of typical FF commenters.

  • Stewardship

    In throwing Inglis under the bus (and his 93% lifetime conservative score), the tea party can claim a victory in SC in November. Doesn’t appear that is going to work for them in Florida (Rubio) and Nevada (Angle). Too bad….two Senate seats the GOP could easily have moved over this time.

  • franco 2

    Stewardship // Aug 4, 2010 at 8:50 am

    It works just fine. If the GOP insists on nominating wimpy statists, open border Democrat wannabees they will lose. Every election cycle in the FUTURE is important not just the next one.

    In FL either Crist or Rubio will win. Crist is supposedly a Republican. Note how easily this type of Republican turns on his own. It isnt worth nominating these opportunistic cretins just because they arent quite as bad as Democrats.

    Personally I LOVE IT!

    GOP will STILL take the house. Without tea party they would merely gain a few seats.

  • medinnus

    “In the weeks since, Inglis has criticized Republican House leaders for acquiescing to a poisonous, tea party-driven “demagoguery“ that he believes will undermine the GOP’s long-term credibility. ”

    Long-term? Try short-term; we’ll see exactly how well the Tea Party plays in November

  • Churl

    rabiner says “…he decided against calling President Obama a socialist because it wasn’t true….”. He also seemed to believe that the tea party folks are ignorant racist antisemites. This is not true, either, and it annoyed these activists enough to make them want to show him the proverbial gate. And they did.

  • forkboy1965

    @ Churl While I may not agree with that position, it is an interesting one to stake out. I may have to ponder that a bit…