A rootin’, tootin’ ‘tea party’

In Bev­erly Hills, Pat Boone throws a red, white and blue bash

Los Angeles Times - - News - STEVE LOPEZ steve.lopez@latimes.com

“I am an Amer­i­can,” Pat Boone belted out the other day to an ador­ing crowd. “Born to be a rootin’, tootin’, flag­wav­ing cit­i­zen.”

Boone looked young and fit at 76, with his per­pet­ual tan and stay-press hairdo. As I ap­proached the stage, he was sing­ing the song he’d writ­ten for the oc­ca­sion — the first-ever “Bev­erly Hills Tea Party” rally.

“I love the Pledge of Al­le­giance, one nation un­der God,” Boone sang. “If you can’t say it with me, you’re free to leave, by God. Cuz I am an Amer­i­can. My blood’s red, white and blue.”

And he was just one of the roughly 200 pa­tri­ots on hand, in­clud­ing a Rev­o­lu­tion­ary-themed drum and bu­gle corps, and two guys whowaved a “No More So­cial­ism” ban­ner.

Most of the peo­ple in the crowd were mid­dle-aged or older, white and very an­gry in a Lib­er­tar­ian way about taxes and govern­ment spend­ing.

Sev­eral speak­ers and at­ten­dees said the move­ment isn’t a Repub­li­can or Demo­cratic thing; it’s about the fact that po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are out of touch elit­ists, and the po­lit­i­cal process is bro­ken and bank­rupt.

That last part is hard to dis­agree with. But I wasn’t quite ready to sign up.

Iwas there out of cu­rios­ity, given the role the move­ment has had in na­tional pol­i­tics and the fits it’s giv­ing Repub­li­cans, who don’t know whether to climb aboard or run for the hills.

Be­sides, you have to ad­mit there’s some­thing de­li­cious about the sound of the words “Bev­erly Hills Tea Party.”

Some­one handed me a flier for Che­lene Nightin­gale, a can­di­date for gover­nor of Cal­i­for­nia. Ever hear of her?

I hadn’t, but she’s an im­mi­gra­tion hard-liner, ac­cord­ing to the lit­er­a­ture, and lest you doubt it, there’s a photo of her with a big smile and an even big­ger gun.

Near the stage, I asked a man what drew him to the event. “I think there should be less govern­ment and more power to the peo­ple,” said Robert Sant­ner, who spoke for many.

Joe Clark com­plained about how the over­tax­ing, over­reach­ing govern­ment is de­ter­mined to de­cide what car we drive, what doc­tor we see and what foods we eat.

Clark doesn’t trust ei­ther party, he told me. But his sign left no doubts about his pref­er­ence.

“Teach A Man to Fish, The Democrats Lose a Vote.”

The level of dis­course, in other words, was not al­ways clever or schol­arly.

UCLA’s Bruin Repub­li­cans had a re­fresh­ment stand with a life-size cutout of Ron­ald Rea­gan, a cu­ri­ous choice at a small-govern­ment shindig, given that spend­ing grew as­tro­nom­i­cally un­der Rea­gan, and the deficit ex­ploded.

Rea­gan was a tax cut­ter as pres­i­dent, but pri­mar­ily for the wealthy at the ex­pense of the mid­dle and lower classes that are now so an­gry.

So why hold an anti-tax rally in one of the wealth­i­est neigh­bor­hoods in the world?

I sup­pose it was more about stak­ing a con­ser­va­tive claim in lib­eral Tin­sel Town, but I had trou­ble con­firm­ing that with a woman I tried to in­ter­view.

“I can­celed the Los An­ge­les Times!” she said, snarling. Why? “Be­cause it’s a piece of....”

And she looked like such a nice church lady.

I asked, per­haps il­lad­vis­edly, what drew her to the rally.

“I’m an Amer­i­can,” she said, foam­ing. “I’m a pa­triot. I’m a con­sti­tu­tion­al­ist. I be­lieve in the Found­ing Fa­thers.”

OK, I think I’ve got it. And dare I ask what went wrong in the coun­try?

“The pro­gres­sives,” she said, claim­ing the coun­try had been given over to so­cial­ists, com­mu­nists and fas­cists.

Not since the Cold War have I heard such a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with com­mu­nism.

Also in the sights of the tea party rev­el­ers was the main­stream me­dia, which I found con­fus­ing. Are Fox News, the Wall Street Jour­nal, AM talk ra­dio and many of the news­pa­pers of the heart­land not part of the main­stream me­dia, and are they not solidly con­ser­va­tive?

An­other thing I don’t un­der­stand is how, if our in­di­vid­ual lib­er­ties have been stolen, it’s pos­si­ble to stand in a pub­lic park and in the name of God call the black pres­i­dent of the United States a liar, a racist and a com­mu­nist.

“I’m a be­gin­ner po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist,” said for­mer “Satur­day Night Live” star Vic­to­ria Jack­son, who took to the stage with a ukulele and sang “There’s a Com­mu­nist Liv­ing in the White House.”

I thought ei­ther Jack­son was sat­i­riz­ing the move­ment or that she was do­ing aPorky Pig im­pres­sion. But I later saw video of her in­sist­ing on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions that Pres­i­dent Obama is in­deed a com­mu­nist.

She was topped on Sun­day, though, by Boone’s pal, African Amer­i­can reverend and ra­dio show host Jesse Lee Peter­son, who said white Amer­i­cans need to get over the fear of be­ing called racists.

“As a re­sult of your fear, we now have the worst pres­i­dent this coun­try has ever ex­pe­ri­enced. Barack Obama is a liar; he is a racist,” Peter­son said to cheers. He also said white peo­ple shouldn’t have any qualms about us­ing the N-word.

“Let me just say, to free you up, that word don’t mean any­thing to black peo­ple be­cause if it did, they would stop say­ing it and the word would fade away. It’s just an­other way of con­trol­ling white Amer­i­cans, but get over your fear,” Peter­son said.

OK, you rootin’, tootin’ Amer­i­cans, all to­gether now: “I love the Pledge of Al­le­giance, one nation un­der God....”

Anne Cu­sack

OUT­SPO­KEN: There was no short­age of opin­ions at singer Pat Boone’s “Bev­erly Hills Tea Party,” which was at­tended by about 200. Par­tic­i­pants were an­gry, in a Lib­er­tar­ian way, about taxes and govern­ment spend­ing.

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