The spirit of the 1773 Boston Tea Party returned this week as Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate race. Many liberals consider this surprising victory an upset, namely because their self-evident ambition – to gain a filibuster-proof supermajority and ram through that abomination known as ‘ObamaCare’ – is now entirely in ruins. On the flip side, Brown’s election is an obvious blessing for many, including the national Tea Party movement; leader Michael Johns acknowledges the historic triumph for his cause, but more importantly, he believes these collective developments are actually a triumph for all of America.
A health care executive and White House speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, Michael is in Manhattan this Friday for an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric. [UPDATE 1.26.10: In this week’s segment of @katiecouric, Michael appears along with New York City tea party leader Kellen Guida. Please be sure to view the clip!]
Well-known for his role as a conservative policy analyst and author, Johns has written for a number of media outlets, such as CBS HealthWatch, National Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as a senior aide to New Jersey Governor and 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean (R-NJ), as well as a senior aide to Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
With a voice that reaches around the globe, Johns is practical and rational. He is also antithetic to the disintegrating US status quo, serving as an experienced leader with the qualifications – and poise – to rally others against an out-of-control-and-increasingly-desperate federal government. Frankly, this author cannot identify any harm caused vis-à-vis such heroic efforts, while other pundits continue to mock Tea Partiers with palpable sour grapes.
Michael recently sat down with aerochug.com to address some hot-button issues that affect everyday Americans; his analysis begins with Senator-elect Scott Brown, whose historic achievement has excited millions in the US – and worldwide.
Scott Brown has accomplished what many said would be impossible: he defeated a Democrat in ‘liberal’ Massachusetts, becoming the first Republican Senator to be elected there in nearly 40 years. Obviously, there will be many implications for ‘ObamaCare’ and November elections as a result; focusing on the bigger picture, what stands out to you most about this development?
I realize now that most people may have seen it as impossible, and I would concede that, up to a few weeks ago, it certainly seemed at least improbable. But I spoke to the Boston Tea Party on Boston Common this past April 15, and you could tell something big was beginning to happen in Massachusetts. The best way to describe it was that there was a broad range of Massachusetts voters who felt viscerally that the country was headed down the wrong road and that Obama was making it worse. I would hope that the implication of the victory is that Obama and the Congressional leadership go back to square one on health care reform, which means addressing issues in isolation and doing it transparently and thoughtfully. These are vast and very complex issues, and the approach they have taken has been a political one, not a measured one, which is what these important policy issues require. As to the broader picture, one thing stands out very clearly to me, and that is that the Tea Party message of individual liberty, limited government and respect for our Constitution is a winning one–and it is a winning one anywhere in this nation. Massachusetts may be considered liberal, but the reality is that the state shares the same aspirations of most Americans–and I think we are translating those aspirations into viable political and policy options. Massachusetts was a victory for the Tea Party movement and, I believe, for the country.
As a health care executive, what are your thoughts on ‘ObamaCare’ and what do you believe – based on your professional experience – the outcome will be, both short-term and long-term?
I have been a vociferous opponent of Obamacare, and I believe it is harmful to the nation in numerous and significant ways. By cutting $500 billion out of Medicare, it is going to compromise the quality of care and the access to care for Medicare beneficiaries. Most of these beneficiaries have had a lifetime of mandatory FICA withholdings from their pay, and the government has an obligation to fulfill their commitment to these citizens. Already, with these looming cuts, combined with the difficulty to health care providers in obtaining timely Medicare reimbursement, some of our best health care facilities, such as the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, are announcing their intention to cease serving Medicare patients. I predicted this would happen, and it now is happening.
The legislation also violates Obama’s repeated campaign promise that he would not raise taxes on mid and low-income Americans. Absent that promise, I am not sure this man would have been elected. But his plan blatantly violates the promise, taxing those with higher end private insurance plans. As soon as that starts, it proves the equivalent of a pay cut to all Americans who fall in this category, and most of them are working men and women. It also demonstrates, as those of us in the Tea Party movement have been arguing, that this President is not a person of his word. He simply is not.
The legislation will also have the effect of reducing the number of private insurance payers and driving more and more Americans into public care rolls–and, from there, I think you will see (as we are already seeing with Medicare and Medicaid) growing pressure for vast cuts in the cost of these plans, which will likely lead to rationing of care and shift care decisions away from physicians, where they belong, to government bureaucracies, which will have fiduciary, not clinical, goals. The legislation is so bad in so many ways that it is not too surprising that this administration and Congress have done everything possible to conceal its details and limit the amount of time to scrutinize and debate it. Why do we need this legislation passed yesterday? Only one reason: It is more about power than it is health care, and this administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress fear the Tea Party movement and their coming defeats in the 2010 election. They know it is now or never.
You are billed as a ‘National Tea Party Leader’ and serve as a prominent figure of this growing movement. Describe in your own words exactly what you are working towards.
I see the Tea Party movement as a refounding of America on the principles first spelled out by our founding fathers in the 1770s. We have broad support among the American people because we are reawakening the great American spirit of a strong America, individual rights, economic growth, limited government, and strict adherence to the letter of our Constitution. The American people want these things, and they know this nation will be destroyed if they are not restored. The objectives of this movement are simple but ambitious. We seek to reclaim our government at the federal, state and local level and to restore these founding principles. We are doing this by engaging millions of Americans in the political process and appealing to the hearts and minds of Americans that this government right now is moving quickly in a direction that is antithetical to our founding principles and, if it is not stopped, will ultimately erode the unique greatness of our country. We are going to win for one reason: The American people see that we offer a vastly preferable alternative for our nation than the one this government is pursuing.
Why has the Tea Party movement been categorically mocked by some – particularly on the left and far-left – and do you feel that your detractors are being unfair?
Our detractors have generally been unfair. They first tried to ignore this movement, even as tens of thousands were gathering in their respective cities and communities. When that didn’t work, they tried to label the movement in inaccurate and delegitimizing ways. It doesn’t look like that is going to work either, so now they are on to plan C, which is to suggest that we are a threat to the Republican Party and will create an internal political civil war in the party. But trust me, the entities most threatened by the Tea Party movement are this administration and Congress, and they know it. They are losing support by the day. To be sure, we differ here and there with the Republican Party, and we certainly are going to hold the party accountable, but I think the Tea Party movement now stands to lead a fundamental change in Congress this November by sending some great liberty-loving Americans to Congress. Our detractors see that as being essentially the end of this giant big government experiment of the past year.
Sarah Palin: her name alone is enough to polarize both supporters and adversaries. Regardless, she has undoubtedly inspired millions of Americans to enter into the political debate, and many believe she will make a run for the White House in 2012. Do you think Sarah will go for it?
I take her at her word that she has not yet made that decision, and it is a big decision for anyone to make. Certainly her decision to begin getting around the country, to begin formulating and articulating her opposition to this administration will make her a more viable candidate should she run. Like any prospective Presidential candidate, she has work to do. But if she does that, I think she is the sort of leader we need right now. I believe she has a great instinctual sense of what is wrong with our current direction, and I count myself a Sarah Palin fan. I am glad she is around, and I am glad she is with us. I hope I can work even closer with her.
Most people fail to recognize that Sarah Palin has been an amazing advocate for millions of disabled Americans; what do you believe motivates the brutally ignorant attacks on her son Trig? [Ed. note: the author’s deceased aunt was born with Down syndrome.]
She is a great advocate for people with disabilities, and so many Americans face this challenge, or know someone who does, that I think her efforts in that respect are deeply appreciated. At some point in my youth, I fractured my cervical vertebrae and later underwent two major reconstructive spine surgeries. I have vowed to never forget the fear that I felt back then, and, like Governor Palin, I think we need aggressive, creative initiatives to help people with disabilities. I continue to believe one of the best things we can do is to incentivize the American health industry to come up with solutions to the challenges of the disabled. We need more cures. We need even better surgical procedures and treatment. We need better, more innovative medical equipment. And we need to be helpful to families who are caring for a person with disabilities. With some innovative thinking, I believe there are many patients in long-term care facilities who could be cared for at home, and I have found that this is what most people want.
You served as a senior aide to 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean; as you know, there is a longstanding global controversy surrounding the group’s ‘official’ findings. The Internet is swamped with a host of sites dedicated to this topic, and accordingly, many taxpaying Americans are demanding that we re-probe the events of that day. What are your thoughts on this?
We had a major attack against our country by a coordinated group of terrorists, and this has had differing affects on the American people. I lived in New York on September 11, 2001; it created a world of anxiety for many. I do not believe the 9/11 Report left any substantial question unanswered. But I do believe the American people are due a full account of what happened, who did it, and how it was allowed to happen. If there is a consensus that there remain reasonable questions, it is in the best interest of the nation to have them investigated and answered. But I am also a foreign policy analyst, and I can tell you this with 100 percent certainty: This was a terrorist attack launched by foreigners affiliated with al-Qaeda, and al-Qaeda continues to work to launch additional attacks against us. If we fail to realize that we are in a war with al-Qaeda, we are going to have an even more difficult time protecting our nation. The best solution is for us to go forward smartly but aggressively in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere and win this war. It is not a war against Islam. It is a war against a small number of extremists who have distorted the religion to justify their political ends, and it is a war we can and must win.
Just days ago, The Raw Story reported that President Obama’s appointee Cass Sunstein, who heads the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, advocates ‘cognitive infiltration’ of groups that use free speech to debate ‘conspiracy theories’ ala 9/11; he actually believes the government should covertly infiltrate groups that question historical events on ‘chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine’ them. Is that not an extremely dangerous and entirely un-American precedent to be setting?
I do not see how that effort would serve any American interest. The obligation of this government is simply to investigate the truth, communicate that truth to the American people, and then take the necessary steps–including winning the war on al-Qaeda–to ensure it never happens again. But I do share the concern that so many Americans continue to question the 9/11 Commission’s findings. My inclination is to say that if there are legitimate, unanswered questions, let these people present their testimony and evidence. I suppose there will always be some percentage of the American people who refuse to acknowledge the truth, but it is the obligation of our government to investigate and explain it.
As Wall Street firms continue to struggle with non-performing loans on their books, you’d never know it; they are on track to once again dish out bountiful bonuses, and people are furious. Goldman Sachs bankers have even arrogantly flaunted that they plan to arm themselves with guns to quell public backlash. What are Americans to do? This is our nation, and we must defend it from vultures; how can we productively do so?
The American people are right to have concerns. It is not the obligation, or even the right, of our government to interfere in compensation contracts and compensation negotiation. But once any company takes public money, as Wall Street banks did with TARP, those rules change, which is why I think bailouts seldom make sense for companies or for our nation. Free market capitalism is based on allowing corporations and people to succeed–and also sometimes in allowing them, within reason, to fail.
Many people believe we are experiencing an unprecedented era in American history; to wit, I personally believe the 2nd American Revolution is now underway, only this time, as Gerald Celente says, if we use intelligence in lieu of violence, we can build a better future together. Do you agree? Why or why not?
I have agreed with that thesis for a year now. And I am reinforced in my belief as I speak with other Tea Party leaders and activists. I do not think this movement is going away. I believe the emergence of the Tea Party movement will prove a historical moment in American politics. The people of this nation do not support the direction of this government. And when government loses the confidence of its people, or loses its accountability to the people, that level of opposition only grows. I believe that is the course we are on, and I think this Tea Party movement is going to fundamentally alter the direction of our nation. In fact, it already has. I feel a personal sense of obligation to ensure we succeed. That means articulating the problems with our current direction and ensuring our own movement is offering a solid, constructive alternative, which I believe we are.
For up-to-the-minute updates from Michael, follow him on Twitter @michaeljohns.