I don't know if you happened to catch Letterman night before last, but if you didn't you missed an extremely interesting segment in which he interviewed Pam Stout, the 66 year old Idaho woman who was featured in the recent NY Timespiece on the Tea Party. She was pretty amazing.
Letterman invited her on to ask about the movement and whether it aimed to become a “third party.” She said, “I don’t think it will become a third party,” but that its voice “can be pretty decisive” in some elections, and that locally, she wanted the Tea Party to “take over the Republican Party… [and] go back to the old ideas.”
Those “old ideas” included “letting [some] businesses fail.” Letterman asked, “You mean like car companies and banks?” Stout agreed: “Then other businesses will step up… there’ll always be a demand.” Stout also said she disliked the way “we demonize business” and condemned “one of the highest tax structures” in the world.
Actually, “condemn” may give the wrong impression. Stout was the mildest of souls, calm and remarkably composed for someone probably not used to the glare of network TV cameras. And Letterman loves this sort of person — a Midwestern citizen, a non-celeb; while raising serious points, he made a point of keeping things light .
When he asked her what a Tea Party presidential ticket might look like, Stout said, “Oh, that’s an interesting question.”
“That’s why I’m here, honey!” Dave said, grinning. He also asked whether at Tea Party gatherings, “tea is actually served?” Stout said no, but seemed open to the idea.
After a while, some of Stout’s positions became more clear. She expressed great admiration, twice, for South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, one of the most conservative members of government. (DeMint is the author of a 2009 book called Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America’s Slide into Socialism.)
Letterman also gave Stout plenty of room to distance herself from what he called “a bonehead like Glenn Beck” and the birther movement. But Stout said Beck had “made me think and re-think” her positions on various issues. Ever the sensible fellow, Letterman said, “Well, anyone who makes you think is good.” But more troublingly, her response to Dave’s observation that “some people in the Tea Party think the President wasn’t born in this country” was, “He spent a lot to cover up his documentation.”
Watch the videos here if you have the time. She was the best tea party representative I've ever seen --- a perfect face for the angry Bircher club to which she also belongs, the Friends of Liberty:
I was blown away by this interview and frankly, a little bit chilled. She's mild-mannered, reasonable, utterly sincere, decent and true. Yet, she watches Beck because he "makes her think" and she reveres Jim DeMint, the most radical of all the rightwing Senators. This lovely woman believes in the raw, violent politics of the Hobbesian jungle in which it's every man for himself. I'm sure she doesn't see it that way. Her politics aren't grounded in real life but in abstract concepts. She certainly doesn't seem defensive or even aware that her political heroes are considered radical extremists. But then if you only watch Fox news, listen to talk radio and live in the town known for its proximity to Ruby Ridge and the Aryan Nations compound you probably don't realize that your views are not held by the majority of Americans.
Stout is finding great meaning in her life with her politics and that's great. But I think she is a perfect example of the danger of the right wing noise machine and its amazing ability to speak to that need. She belongs to something. She's connecting with people. It's giving her life purpose. And because she's living in that media/movement cocoon she truly believes that almost agrees with her. It's very powerful stuff. And considering what it is that's giving her so much meaning, it's pretty frightening as well.,