You have to hand it to Dick Armey. He gets a phenomenal amount of attention from the mainstream media considering that he died in 2002. Or so many of us thought. Nay, wished. But after several lucrative years of consummate Beltway insider status as the top dawg at lobbying titans DLA Piper, Armey has emerged as the unofficial spokesman of the anti-Washington Teabagging movement as the head of the so-totally-grassroots "FreedomWorks" group. That's right, eight term Congressman and multimillionaire lobbyist Dick Armey, leading a populist movement.
Frighteningly, it now appears that he is more convincing as a salt-of-the-earth populist than as a historian. Bear in mind that this guy used to be a professor of economics. He has a Ph.D. and taught at a not-bad university for several years. Keep that in mind. Remember that.
On Monday, Dr. Dick gave a speech at the National Press Club in DC, which is just the sort of thing a regular Joe does. The topic of his ramblings was, as best I can tell, a re-telling of 400 years of American history through the eyes of a Teabagger. As an aperitif he began in 1600 with Jamestown ("Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow.") Yes, it was the typical 16th Century socialism. If it didn't work then, why would it work now? Let us also remember the lesson of the earlier Roanoke Colony, which failed in 1587 because of the capital gains tax.
The eminent historian continued by reprimanding non-Teabaggers (i.e., not "real" Americans) for failing to understand our founding period. At this point you might want to make sure that you are sitting on something that resists stains, because this is about to get pants-shittingly awesome.
"The small-government conservative movement, which includes people who call themselves the tea party patriots and so forth, is about the principles of liberty as embodied in the Constitution, the understanding of which is fleshed out if you read things like the Federalist Papers." The problem with Democrats and other "people here who do not cherish America the way we do is they did not read the Federalist Papers. Who the heck do these people think they are to try to sit in this town with their audacity and second-guess the greatest genius, most creative genius, in the history of the world?"
The most creative genius in the history of the world? More creative than Beethoven, DaVinci, or Falco? Oh my. But here comes the best part. Apparently one of the Teabaggers submitted a question about how Alexander Hamilton – you know, author of the goddamn Federalist Papers and the Federalist – could be an inspiration for the movement given that he was "widely recognized then and now as an advocate of a strong central government." Good question, albeit a considerable understatement. The man devoted his entire life to a powerful, supreme Federal government.
"Widely regarded by whom? Today's modern ill-informed political science professors? . . . I just doubt that was the case in fact about Hamilton."
OK. Before I go on, I have to disclose my status as a modern, ill-informed political science professor.
Having read the Federalist Papers in their entirety at least a half-dozen times and a few specific papers many times more, it is painfully obvious that Dick Armey has never read the Federalist Papers. He may in fact have no idea who Alexander Hamilton is.
Another possibility is that he is stupid like a fox. Totally unprepared for a real question – how did this guy get past the screeners anyway? – he quickly read the situation and gave the best answer for the audience at hand. Dick Armey probably knows who Alexander Hamilton is and what the man stood for, but he also knows damn well that not a single person in that audience has read the Federalist Papers or knows anything about Hamilton. So he dismissively recasts Hamilton as a states' rights advocate whose record is distorted by liberal elites. Sounds pretty plausible to the average Teabagger, no?
It's that kind of rapid-fire reaction that makes Dick Armey, Ph.D., in such high demand among the K Street oligarchs who pay handsomely to have him lead their populist revolt. Who said there are no second acts in American life.