In 2009, President Barack Obama reportedly called members of the Tea Party “teabaggers.” It turns out that our fourth greatest president, first in so many things, may have been the first “teabagger” himself, as seen in the 1997 photograph above. Yes, that really is Barack Obama wearing a regimental coat and carrying a tricorn hat in his hand. And that flag behind him really is a Gadsden flag, with its serpent and its “Don’t Tread On Me” slogan. You may want to let all of this sink in a bit, especially if you’re a Tea Party-bashing progressive.
Neither Democrats nor the media have been particularly kind to the Tea Party. There is hardly space to go through all the times the Tea Party has been compared to terrorists (including by the Vice President) or fascists, or the many times it has been accused of racism by progressives in supposedly mainstream news outlets. That’s a book-length story of its own.
But given the photo above, it is certainly a good time to think back upon some of the ridicule Tea Party members were forced to endure for evoking the Revolutionary War era by their dress and choice of symbols.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was one of many who saw mockery of the “teabaggers” as the first recourse. (The word was used so often by liberals in 2009 that Oxford made it a Word of the Year finalist.) Liberal sites like Talking Points Memo presented attendees who dressed up the way Obama did above as weirdos. The ever-predictable Bill Maher got hoots from his audience when he donned his own tricorn hat (complete with dangling tea bags) to bash the Tea Party on TV.
President Obama blamed the “teabaggers” for his failures, according to Jonathan Alter’s book The Promise: President Obama, Year One, complaining that his own 2009 stimulus “helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.” (Vice President Joe Biden is blaming them still.)
Yet in the dramatic battles over trumped up charges of Tea Party racism and extremism, Obama never mentioned his own “Tea Party” episode–and neither has anyone in the media, even as Obama’s allies and friends on the left ridiculed the Tea Party for seeking to make the same symbolic connections to the country’s founding.