Peter Laird Transcript

Interview with Peter Laird — a leader on the steering committee of the Greater Boston Tea Party — conducted at the University Club in Boston, Massachusetts on June 14, 2010.

Interview Time: 66:35 A.J. Bauer: So Pete, first of all, your last name I Laird right? Peter Laird: Yes. AB: And do you live in Boston? PL: I’ve got a home in Dover and an apartment in Boston — so I split my time. AB: And, what year were you born? PL: 1944 AB: And, let’s see, have you been in Massachusetts your whole life? PL: I’ve been here since 1967 — I grew up in New Jersey. I came from Trenton, New Jersey, a manufacturing town then, now it’s more the state capital and state offices and whatnot — but it was a manufacturing town then. And I went to Brown University, met my wife there. She was from Boston — and we lived in New York a couple of years and then we found we were coming up here to visit her parents on the Cape and whatnot so I looked for a job and got one and have been here ever since. AB: Excellent. And so moving to Massachusetts was kind of a mixture of family and business? PL: Yeah, I got a job — two years out of school it was easy to get jobs then because you were starting on the low end of the totem pole and had a good education and had a background in — I was [inaudible] towards investments. Anyway, it was easy to get a job. AB: What line of work are you in? PL: I’m retired now, for four years, from Massachusetts Financial Services — the original mutual fund company, dating back to 1924. So I was originally a bond portfolio manager for them and then I gravitated to the sales and distribution side so I ran distribution and financial services for the last 10 years. AB: So you’re on the steering committee of the Greater Boston Chamber — mean Tea Party? PL: I am. AB: Are you a founding member or how did you get involved? PL: I got involved when I showed up in ‘09 there was a tax day rally in front of the statehouse, and that’s where I met Christen Varley and chatted with her a little bit. Then I showed up to another demonstration and met her and she said, “Let’s get together and talk.” So then I went to a meeting — wasn’t particularly interested in what the people were talking about as to how they were going to organize. I was very quiet and Christen asked me, you know, what was on my mind. And I said if this is the way you want to go, fine, but I’d rather do other things. And she said well let’s talk and one thing led to another and she said actually I feel the way you do so why don’t you come on the steering committee. AB: What was behind your initial hesitancy? PL: The initial meetings, because like you talked about it being kind of grassroots and disorganized or non-organized — people were trying to figure out how to be effective, and there were people from all different walks of life and with all sorts of different ideas. There were people that said they wanted to walk the malls and attract attention — I’m not that type of person, so I said if that’s what you’re going to do I’m not going to do it. Initially what I said was I wanted to try to do two things — one is to try to organize and participate in massive, as large a rally as we could in order to attract attention to the Tea Party, and then secondly use the numbers of people that we attracted and the interest that we attracted to back candidates that we could effectively have some impact, and also push existing candidates, hopefully, to the right. AB: I assume you were more interested in a 501c4 than a 501c3 when you were organizing? PL: I didn’t pay any attention to that — left all that to Christen. AB: So, kind of backtracking — in terms of your political generation, not in terms of age but, kind of explain to me, for example what was your first political memory? PL: Probably watching — well arguing with my parents, first, about Nixon, and then [laughter] and then my uncle was a local — they have townships in New Jersey, those are the units, the municipal units — and he was a township committeeman. So I remember his running for office, and having little cards that we’d passed out — but that was when I was a little kid. And then I would say, arguing with my high school teacher about the federal government getting involved in education after Sputnik — I was a big states’ rights person even when I was a kid. I studied U.S. history and everything, understood the Constitution, and I thought that the federal government had no role in education — it’s best left to the states and municipalities. And then probably when I was dating my wife Barry Goldwater actually came to town, spoke at Fenway Park — it’s hard to believe today, given how blue this state is, so we had a date there and then, because I was from New Jersey and she was visiting me, we went to the1964 Democratic National Convention which was in Atlantic City. And what I remember there was the what was then considered dirty politics — there was this big double billboard opposite the convention hall on the boardwalk, and the Republicans took out an ad saying his famous slogan: “In your heart, you know he’s right.” So those are my early political memories. AB: So you actually went on a date to a Goldwater rally? PL: Yeah. And then we also watched “The Speech” — what conservatives call “The Speech,” which was Reagan’s speech for Goldwater, which all conservatives call The Speech. And I remember turning to my wife and saying, “We nominated the wrong guy, we should have nominated Reagan.” AB: So, even in October of ’64 you knew Reagan was up and coming. PL: No, it was The Speech, so yeah. AB: I just wrote a paper on the rhetoric of the Goldwater campaign and Reagan and things like that — so I was just reading about that; that’s interesting. PL: And at Brown I started, with a friend of mine, he really did more of the work but I was a good writer so he enlisted me in a conservative journal, you know an undergraduate journal. It did publish irregularly — whenever we’d gather enough articles we’d go to print. AB: What was it called? PL: I don’t remember. Conservative Journal or something like that. AB: What years were you at Brown? PL: So, I started in fall of ‘61 and graduated four years later in the spring of ‘65. AB: So, clearly by ‘64 you were very interested in Goldwater and the Republicans. But had you always been a Republican, or identified as a Republican? In terms of your party affiliation, how has that changed over the years? PL: I used to be a registered Republican and then maybe 10 years ago I just left it. In Massachusetts you can — it used to be you could declare yourself, you can vote in either primary, so you can switch — if you thought the most interesting primary was the Democratic, you could switch over. So finally I just went unenrolled — they used to call it independent, now they call it unenrolled. So that’s where I am today. But I’ve almost always voted Republican — two exceptions would be two people who ran for governor here in Massachusetts. Otherwise I vote for the Republican candidate or the Libertarian candidate. If I think it’s a contest, where the Republican stands a chance — if I don’t think the Republican has a chance then I’ll vote Libertarian just to keep Libertarians on the ballot. My views, I view myself as a Libertarian. AB: So you said you switched your party affiliation from Republican to unenrolled about 10 years ago — what was the motivating factor? PL: Well, initially it was because each time I went into vote I found myself switching to the other party to vote in the primary, and so then I thought it’s just easier. But essentially I’ve become disenchanted with the Republican Party — I think they’ve become Democrat Light. So I used to contribute, not hugely, but I would contribute to the Republican National Committee. I’d contribute to candidates who I thought were conservative candidates, like Sam Brownback in Kansas, but then I — I felt something happened when they went to Washington that they weren’t true to their principles and they became Democratic Light. So I continue to vote, usually Republican just because if the Democrats get in there it’s going to be worse, but — like for instance I realized — I worked for Scott Brown. He wouldn’t know me from Adam, although I did introduce him at a couple of Tea Party things, and I’ve worked for him even though I realize he’s not a Southern Republican, I realize some people would say that he’s a RINO, which — but I figured it was better to get him in there, where he’d have a shot and work hard to get him in there as opposed to Martha Coakley because she would be consistently voting against what I feel are the interests of the voters and against my interests. So that’s how I come out — my big goal for the Tea Party is to get enough impact to shift the Republicans to the right and the Democrats to the right as well. AB: So you mentioned that Scott Brown is not a “Southern Republican.” What is a Southern Republican? What does that mean? PL: Consistently fiscally conservative and more limited government — more in line with what I think the Tea Party stands for: personal initiative, free markets, capitalism, individual responsibility. AB: So you said that you’re a Libertarian — how long have you affiliated with that label? PL: Probably going back 25 years maybe. AB: Do you remember the formative moment — the moment you decided that was you? PL: We hired a young man — I was working in the bond department and we hired a young man who was a hard core Libertarian and he started, he got a group of us to have a luncheon group — we’d meet once a month or every six months and there were anywhere from six to eight of us. And we started to share what we had read and that sort of thing. So I started to read more libertarian stuff as a result. So I would attribute it to him. AB: What kind of works or books or authors were you reading around that time? So this was about the mid 1980s? PL: Well, I’ve always read like all of Ayn Rand’s stuff — I’ve read everything she’s written including her philosophic, you know, works, as well as her fictional works. Hayek. The Cato Institute published — Bastiat’s The Law, that was one that I remember that this fellow recommended, Bastiat’s The Law, about the French revolution. That was really formative. AB: And so this was in the middle of the 1980s, so Reagan was president at this time? PL: Yeah, so I would say up until then I was pretty much a conservative and then I realized that I was more of a libertarian. AB: Was that a result of Reagan’s policies or anything or was that just your own personal development? PL: It was just my own growth I think — more serious reading. AB: I know I’m jumping between past and present a lot — but with the Tea Party movement the focus is more fiscal and more about free markets and things like that. What do you feel about the inclusion of social values? I know you don’t emphasize them, but from what I’ve seen going to meetings it does seem that several people have very strong social values as well — mean Christen is working for a social values organization as well. Was that a conscious decision that “we want to organize around this one focal point”? What’s the background behind the decision? PL: Right, because we felt if we went into social issues you would split the Tea Party, because people can have very strong views on that. And just within the steering committee you’ve got Christen, who works for the Catholic organization that she works for, and then you’ve got others that are hard-core libertarians and would be in favor of a lot of things that a lot of conservatives wouldn’t be in favor of. So they said look, we’re not going to get anywhere if we start in on the social issues. Let’s concentrate on getting fiscal conservatives in — we can all agree in capitalism, free markets, individual responsibility, limited taxation, etc. And that was a decision that I think was very clear at the early meetings, they said, you know, we have to have a philosophy that you can state or print on a card. AB: I’ve read conflicting reports about the formation of the Tea Party — people arguing it’s grassroots or Astroturf, and things like that. What role do national organizations — organizations like FreedomWorks play with you guys? Are you in contact with organizations like that or is it just these ... PL: Some people are on a mailing list and I think Christen in our group stays in touch with some of the people nationally — I know she went to a convention in Dallas a year ago, or less than a year ago, and heard some information, some training information that was worthwhile to bring up here. So that was brought up. But I would say — think it’s more trying to tap into what resources are out there and what people are willing to give you, and help you to get to where you want to go, as opposed to having people — nobody in Boston is taking direction from anybody anywhere else — that just doesn’t happen. And even when this April 14 rally with Sarah Palin came — if you were watching it from an organizational standpoint it was almost humorous the, let’s say it wasn’t finely coordinated. Christen was trying, but different people have different ways of doing things and it was clear that it wasn’t a finely tuned organization nationally. AB: So, obviously you guys are focusing on capitalism and free trade and fiscal conservatism — how was the decision made, or was a decision even made, in regards to aligning with the Tea Party mythos — the kind of, pointing it back to that specific rally in Boston in the 1700s, was that a decision, like we need to tie it to this event? PL: No. Back to the colonial days? No. AB: What role did the founding mythos play... PL: The name? I don’t know where the original name came from when they decided to do it — all I know is I decided to show up in April of 2009 and they were already calling themselves the Tea Party. AB: What role do you think it plays? PL: I think it’s clever; I think it’s clever because it gives you a tie back to the Founding Fathers — and one of the things that I was struck with the first meetings that I went to was how many people made reference to the Constitution and how they thought Washington was just running roughshod over the Constitution. And I don’t know if you’ve seen these little maroon covered Constitutions that Cato sends out — now there’s another organization that has one that’s a little bit bigger. But I was just amazed at how many people in all different age groups at these meetings would pull out these little Cato Institute things — I thought I was the only person in Boston who had one, it turned out that a lot of people had them. And that seemed to be — locally — that’s what seemed to be upsetting people the most, that government was over-reaching, violating the Constitution, running roughshod over it and spending like crazy. So I would say those were the two prime things, at least vocally at our meetings, that people responded to — of all ages. AB: That’s one thing I’ve noticed at rallies and things — people with Constitutions either in their pockets or reading them, or at the actual meet-ups there being stacks of them. On a personal level, what does the Constitution mean to you? PL: It’s the framework that was set up to protect individuals from an overbearing government and that’s what it means to me and that’s why I care so much about it. AB: Are there any flaws in the Constitution in your opinion? PL: Are there any parts of it that I object to? AB: Not even so much that, I mean I’m not looking for you to quote chapter and verse or whatever. But — I mean, so the document was created by man, by the Founding Fathers. And it seems often that when I’m hearing about it, people approach it with almost this divine quality. I’m trying to get at, is that something that you guys feel? That it’s some kind of inspired type work or? PL: Well, for myself, I would say — I wouldn’t say that it’s like inspired by God. We had some very bright people back then that put some real thought into it and I think that our — I’m just amazed when I go back and read about people in history, including the Founding Fathers, but people like Lewis and Clark, that led the expedition, is how much these people knew and how educated they were. And so I think that they were very thoughtful in what they hammered out there, just coming from their experience with the British and with our own Continental Congress and whatnot, and then deciding, okay how do we protect what we’ve got going here and how do we foster it. And so I think they did a very good job — I think some of the problems, well not problems but some of the issues you have today is, obviously, language changes over time and sometimes you wonder, you can argue about what was meant — that’s what goes on in the courts. To me it’s relatively clear, but then other people have a different view. AB: I guess that was kind of a strange way to back into the subject of religion, but what is your religious background? Do you consider yourself religious? If so, what denomination? PL: I was born and raised an Episcopalian, I raised my kids in the Episcopal church, and then within the Episcopal church I put up with their leftist politics for a long period of time and then one day just said that’s enough. It happened very specifically when our local minister engaged from the pulpit in something I felt was deliberately political and so I just said, you know, I’ve had enough. So now I’m a Christmas and Easter kind of guy — I wanted the kids to grow up with a sort of set of, a moral compass, which I thought the church would help deliver, which I think it has. But I wouldn’t consider myself an overly religious man at this point. My beliefs, I’d probably not like to elaborate — I’m a lapsed Episcopalian. AB: As a lapsed Catholic I can relate. [he laughs lightly] You mentioned your children, how many children do you have? PL: Three. Girl, boy, girl — they all live in Dover, Wellesley, those are two towns to the West of here. I’ve got eight grandchildren. AB: And is politics a family matter for you — is everyone basically involved? PL: My son, who is a broker for Merrill Lynch, pretty much shares my views and, in certain cases, perhaps a little more conservative on fiscal issues. He’s probably — I think I’m liberal on social issues, but I think he may be even more liberal. My two daughters are indifferent. I mean they’re just not interested in politics — they kind of humor me and my son. My wife, having been relatively apolitical her whole life, is just turned on like you wouldn’t believe at this point against Washington. AB: And was that during the last few years? PL: Yeah, it was during the Scott Brown campaign. She got really excited about that, started to attend things. AB: So you said you’ve been involved since Spring 2009, so you would have been around before the Scott Brown campaign, right? PL: Right, right. AB: What did that do for the Greater Boston Tea Party? PL: It gave people an opportunity to get involved, specifically in a way that they felt would matter because he said he was going to be the 41st vote and all that. So, I mean people were thirsting for something to do — because you can only go to so many meetings and bitch and moan before you say, “Well what are we going to do about it?” And this was something they could do about it. And to me it was incredible to see people who have never been involved before. We had a breakfast on January 2, and Scott Brown was there. And there was a blinding snowstorm out in Westborough and we didn’t think anybody was going to even show up. There were 200 people there. Scott Brown was there, went around, worked the crowd — he’s really a great politician. He went around and introduced himself to everyone in the room. And when he spoke he said, you know, one of my political operatives is here if you want to help with the campaign, we could really use your help. I was stunned at how many people went over to the table and signed up to make phone calls, which is not something I particularly relish, but people were willing to do that. AB: What do you value in a political leader? What are the most important values? PL: Somebody that’s true to — a conservative philosophy and someone who remains true to that philosophy. I think philosophy matters — I send out e-mails and at the bottom of my e-mails I put, “philosophy matters” because I think it does. AB: Now switching over to some more cultural type things. What kind of music do you like to listen to? PL: I’m generally a classical music — for three years we went to New York, went to the opera. We go to symphony. And as far as popular music — I don’t know anything about popular music today. My popular music ended with Little Richard and Elvis Presley. AB : That’s a good place to end actually. PL: Big Bopper, those people. Fats Domino — one of the best concerts I’ve every gone to was down in Hyannis we caught Fats Domino near the end of his career. AB: So early rock. PL: Yeah. AB: Like I said, you probably don’t need to know much past that [laughter]. So we’ve gotten into books a little bit, mostly philosophical books. But what kind of books do you typically read for pleasure? PL: I read a lot of biographies — right now I’m reading Carnegie about Andrew Carnegie. I’ve read on Rockefeller, a lot of the American industrialists. I’ve also read a lot of stuff on like Dorothy Parker and for some reason I’m drawn to the early 20th Century, because to me it’s a fascinating period — the ‘20s, the Jazz Age and all that kind of stuff. So I’ve read a lot on that. I read a lot of — a lot of biographies. Edna St. Vincent Millay, her poetry — they’ve got that book out now and I’m re-reading some of her stuff. So kind of eclectic, but mostly biography. I’m not a big history reader, although I did read the book on Lewis and Clark. AB: And, what about biography fascinates you? PL: I guess it’s just — these are people that have had a huge impact on America in one way or another. Oh, another area is I love movies, so I’ve read biographies about people who were movie producers. And it’s fascinating for me to see Goldwyn came from Haverhill and ended up in New York and out in Hollywood and you’ve got people with literally no education, amazing how many Jewish immigrants who came here and had the drive or whatever to become successful. I come from an old industrial town, so manufacturing always fascinated me; there’s a town in upstate New York — Gloversville, and they had maybe a couple hundred factories making gloves, they manufactured in this one town 90 percent of all the gloves. They made both work gloves and dress gloves and back at the turn of the century — the early 1900s — women wore gloves when they came downtown, and here you had one town that was producing 90 percent of it and it was all Jewish immigrants who had moved from Europe to New York and then up to Gloversville. So that kind of fascinates me, how people become successful. AB: Your taste in literature fits very well with your philosophy. PL: Right! I hadn’t thought of that, but I guess yeah it does. AB: That’s interesting. So you mentioned you’re a movies guy — what kind of movies do you like? PL: Well we’ve been watching a lot of Robert Mitchum. We get stuff from Netflix, we’ve been lately watching stuff from Robert Mitchum and Howard Hughes’ movies from the ‘50s and late ‘40s. We went back and watched a bunch of silent movies — we went through those for a period. But then we also the other night we watched Black Hawk Down about Somalia. But generally speaking we like the smaller European — French, Irish movies. We watched a lot of English movies. And then we love Netflix because if we see a movie you like, or you see an actor or actress you like, you can just click on them and see what else they’ve done. But, so we go all over the lot. But right now we’re in a period where we’re watching a lot from the late ‘40s. And, I’m a big architectural buff, and in a lot of the silent movies and movies of the late ‘20s and ‘30s have a lot of interior art deco kind of settings and whatnot, and the gowns. People used to go to the movies — they’d have a different movie out each week and people would go out and see it and then like Goldwyn’s a big believer that people came to see a little bit of fantasy, so he wanted, whenever an actress appeared in a new scene, she had to have on a new gown and she wasn’t frumpy, she was wearing a designer gown. So that to me is fascinating because I love women’s fashion, I love architecture. My wife game me for Christmas the Alfred Hitchcock collection, so we’ve been going through the Hitchcock movies. AB: That’s great. So I’m going to get a little more esoteric now. What does being an American to you? PL: What does being an American mean to me. To me it means participating in — I do buy into this American exceptionalism thing. I mean I realize people are human no matter where they are, but I think we have a unique experiment here that’s done extremely well. And I see that slipping away right now. So — and we’re a country of immigrants. It was my grandfather that came over from Scotland — on my mother’s side they’ve been here much longer than that, but my wife is an immigrant — herself and her parents after World War II. And I think it’s just participating in an experiment where people have tremendous opportunities. And I also like the aspect that generally speaking, in my lifetime, for the most part people were able to do whatever they wanted as long as it didn’t impact other people. And I think that’s a wonderful thing. And I love the social mobility — I came from, I mean we were comfortable, but there wasn’t a lot of money in the house. My father worked in a factory and my mother went back to teach school just so we’d have enough money to get us educated. So there wasn’t a lot of money and then I did reasonably well in life, as did my brother and sister who are schoolteachers, but that’s kind of what we have — the land of opportunity and just participating in that. AB: And where is your wife an immigrant from? PL: Latvia. The mother fled when the Russians came in. The father was captured. The mother fled to Germany, and then they lived in a displaced persons camp and then eventually the father found his way to that camp and they lived there for four years and got over here. AB: That’s an incredible story. PL: No, it’s a great story. I’ve heard it so many times [loud laughter]. AB: I can imagine. I imagine that’s a recurring one — that’s beautiful though. So kind of the foil of that question — what does it mean to be un-American, what is something un-American? PL: I would say un-American is when you do something that either disgraces the country or works actively against what the country is about. AB: So when you say “works actively against what they country is about” you’re referring to what you said America is about? PL: Yeah, what I think it’s about. I think it’s un-American to, let’s say what would be — I think burning the flag is un-American. You know there are some crazy things, little examples. I heard one on the radio today that if it’s true, if it’s true it’s certainly stupid if it isn’t un-American where somebody raised the Mexican flag at a high school in Texas and some other kids took it down and put up the American flag, and the ones who got expelled were the ones who put up the American flag. Now, I mean that’s stupid — I don’t know if that’s un-American or not, but if that happened, that’s stupid. And the administrator was stupid. I think Jane Fonda was un-American when she was Hanoi Jane, to work against the American military forces. People probably died as a result of her working for the enemy and that was treacherous. AB: I forgot to ask, do you have a military background? PL: I did six months and six years. I was in the Army Reserves. AB: Were you stationed mostly in the states? PL: In the states, Ft. Dix training, Ft. Knox and then mostly Ft. Knox and Ft. Drum, and then I was based out of the army base in South Boston. AB: And that was? PL: That was during the Vietnam War. AB: One thing you said while talking about the flag incident in Texas that you said you heard about on the radio ... What kind of radio do you listen to? PL: I listen to conservative talk radio. I listen to Laura Ingraham. I listen to Jeff Katz, who’s local to Boston. I do listen to Rush — it took me a while to get comfortable with Rush, I thought he was a blowhard for the longest period of time, and I still think he is, but he’s influential. But I’ve got my buttons set up so that I can skip from one to the other during commercials. Every once in a while, because I’ve also got NPR programmed on there, but I tend not to listen to that — but sometimes I do just to get what the opposition’s thinking. AB: How long have you been listening to conservative talk radio? PL: Actively since I’ve retired from work. Because when I worked I didn’t listen to the radio. And I used to walk to work so I didn’t have an occasion to. But my friends would tell me, my wife would tell me — oh Howie Carr is one of my favorites, Howie Carr is a local guy, he’s totally irreverent, he’s conservative, but he’s also just a funny, funny guy. AB: You mentioned, “if it’s true” that’s what you said about the flag thing. What gives you that skepticism with those radio programs? PL: Well, sometimes — they’re on there for ratings and sometimes they’re looking for incidents to talk about. So I don’t want to be saying someone’s stupid or a jerk if I haven’t checked it out to make sure it’s true. And they slant things. AB: So, in terms of where you get your news from — you mentioned talk radio, you said you tune into NPR sometimes to “get the other side.” Do you get most of your news from radio or from some other source? PL: Radio is the principle source but I also read — the Herald is my number one newspaper and I don’t buy but I read, when I’m here [at the University Club] the Globe and the Times and skim the Wall Street Journal. I used to read back when I was working, up until four years ago, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the Investors Business Daily. AB: And did you read widely within those papers or just the business section back then? PL: Oh no, I read everything. The New York Times is great, or it used to be, it’s getting a little skinnier now, for the Arts and Theatre and that kind of stuff. AB: Do you use the Internet for news? PL: Yeah, but there — well, I do. The Globe is my homepage and then I’ll go to the Herald if I know if I’m not going to get the Herald that day, or won’t get a chance to read it. But what happens is, I’ve got a network of conservative friends that are just forever sending me stuff, and that’s — so I click on some of that stuff. But I don’t have any regular sites I go to, like I know some people do, and I don’t use Meet-Up and Facebook or whatever. I started to sign up for Facebook for political purposes but then they asked me something that I didn’t think they should ask for so I just shut it off, but I should go back and get hooked up on that. AB: What did they ask for? PL: They were asking for something having to do with my password on my computer, at least that’s what I thought, which when that popped up I thought this isn’t right, I’m not understanding something, so I just shut down. Then when I went back a few days later there was a little bar that said do you want to do this or not and I didn’t follow through. Because I realize with all the political stuff, this is the way it’s going, right now Christen is very good to me because she shoots me e-mails so I don’t need to join up with Meet-Up or Facebook. AB: So before talk radio you mostly used newspapers. PL: Yeah, definitely. AB: And you prefer reading? PL: I prefer reading as opposed to watching. Whereas my wife is visual and aural, so she’s always got the TV news on and she’ll tell me come in and watch this. AB: So do you watch any television? PL: What do we watch? There’s Emily Rooney that’s got a local political show. And then Antiques Roadshow is my favorite show. I don’t watch any serial, weekly shows. My wife is big into the crime shows, so she watches those. So I’d have to say no — generally it’s the DVDs, I don’t really watch TV. AB: What are your opinions of the news media? PL: I think the mainstream media have become opinion journals — like the Globe is clearly an opinion journal as opposed to a newspaper. When I was a kid, in my mind, there was a clear differentiation between the news pages and the editorial pages. I think that’s been significantly blurred. I think the networks are very very liberal. I think in the Obama campaign they just gave him a free ride. So that’s basically it. AB: When you say mainstream media, what do you mean? PL: ABC, the major networks, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe, and MSNBC and people like that. AB: And what would you consider non-mainstream media? PL: I would consider conservative talk radio as non-mainstream. I think Fox has become mainstream but on the conservative side. I don’t think it was mainstream when it got started, but I think they inherited a lot because of the way the networks have handled themselves. AB: At what point do you think Fox flipped and turned mainstream? PL: Well, mainstream just because they’ve got such a large following. So I don’t put them in the same category as the Times and ABC and NBC. I think they do a better job. And I do think, Americans are much to the right of the mainstream media and that’s why they gravitate to Fox. Fox isn’t pure — I mean Juan Williams is a whacko. From my perspective at least, I don’t know about yours. AB: I’m not a fan of Juan Williams either. So I hear the term ‘mainstream media’ quite a bit and I guess I’m trying to sort out when people are using it and what they’re referring to. Is it, to me it sounds like mainstream means media that is liberal or non-conservative or media that doesn’t agree with the perspective... PL: That’s the way people on the right use it. But it’s also what has been traditionally as the major powerhouses of media, which would be the three networks, the Times and the Washington Post. AB: And, why do you think the networks and the Times and the Post: Why do you think they have a liberal bent? Not why do you think that they’re liberal, why do you think they act liberal. PL: If you look at — I think it was Dartmouth College used to do polls on who reporters and editors voted for. And the — it was overwhelmingly, like in the high 80s or low 90s voted Democratic. So that’s, that’s where they’re coming from. They support the Democratic Party and the Democratic programs, and etc. So I think by definition — well I mean you’ve got all these people who are talking amongst themselves that are reinforcing each other, and they’re very liberal. I think what I would view as the decline in America is a result of our educational system, at the college level, that resulted from the Vietnam War and the people who were protesters against the Vietnam War — a lot of those people gravitated towards the universities. And I think as a result you have a very left wing point of view at most of your major universities — particularly on the East Coast, but also the West Coast and Michigan and places like that — your big state universities and whatnot. Particularly in the liberal arts area — maybe not the science area so much. And I think that has reinforced the swing of the media to the left, because these people are coming out of college and gravitating towards, those people that went into the media were schooled by these leftists. AB: So you think the turnaround in academia, as far as it shifting more to the left, was a result of the Vietnam War? PL: That’s what I think. AB: A similar question — and maybe you already got at it — but what are your opinions of journalists? PL: I think an awful lot of them bring their own personal view to the table and slant the news based on their own personal views. I actually — I don’t remember the woman’s name, but I actually have a quote in my files from a Globe reporter maybe 15 years ago, that she viewed her job not to just report the news but to report it in a fashion that supporter her political point of view. And when I mentioned that to a sports editor of the Globe who’s a brother of a friend of mine, he said “nobody on the Globe ever said that” and I went back to my files and got it and sent it to him. But, that being said, I think that there are some fair and balanced people. I was surprised when I read the Globe this morning, there was an article in there on the guy — on Barney Frank, but I thought it was very favorable. I think the name was Stephanie Ebbert, and I thought she was very fair and balanced, which I found to be surprising. Brian McGrory is a friend of mine. Stephanie Ebbert, I thought she was very fair on the fellow who was running against Barney Frank. Brian McGrory is a very bright guy, happens to be liberal, but he’s also — he was one of the first people who wrote a negative article about Martha Coakley — “Where’s Martha?” So, it’s not all black and white, but as a group — I mean somebody like Chris Mathews is a whack job — that is black. AB: So, we touched on this a little bit, when you were first getting into the Tea Party movement, this was back in April of 2009, what brought you out? Was there one factor that peaked your interest? PL: It was the crazy spending, the stimulus, TARP and then, I’m not sure of the timing on this, but some of the things I found egregious were the take-over of General Motors, the shaming of the bond holders of Chrysler and threatening that if they didn’t go along with the reorganization they would get screwed. I found that to be egregious. So it was, and it’s the crazy spending and the takeover of General Motors. AB: What about the Tea Party do you feel the media consistently gets wrong or misses? PL: Well I thought initially what they miss is that it’s for real, and that it’s not going away, and that we’re not whack jobs, we’re real people of all different walks of life and we’re very serious. I think, I don’t think so much anymore — because of the results of the elections I think they’re beginning to take us more seriously, but I think they wanted to portray us as whack jobs and they kept wanting to have some instance happen — whether it be racial or whatever. In fact, where you had scuffles and everything it was usually directed against the Tea Party by SEIU people. But I actually think they’re beginning to give us better, accurate coverage. I mean after last Tuesday’s elections both the Globe and the New York Times lead articles put in there that it was a good day for the Tea Party — I forget the headline, but the Tea Party was in the headline. They’re giving Christen Varley a tremendous opportunity to comment and they’re printing what she says — they’re not just looking for the mis-speak or something outrageous that she said. They’re treating her fairly. So I think the press is doing a better job, but that’s all been in the last three of four months. AB: And you think the success is the cause behind that? PL: Yeah, I think it’s because they realize that the Tea Party and Tea Party candidates, or Tea Party-backed candidates, are having great success. So they have to figure out what’s going on. AB: And you brought up the racial issue, or accusations of racism. What do you think about that? What was your opinion when you first started hearing those allegations? PL: I just thought it was totally outrageous, because I’ve never heard anybody talk about race. And then for people to make the jump because the Tea Party was so set against what the Obama administration is doing — to make that into a racial situation I just thought was outrageous, because it’s based on fundamental economic and philosophical differences. AB: I was at the rally in Waltham yesterday — Howie Carr spoke at it actually. PL: Oh did he!? AB: Somebody, one of the speakers brought up in passing, I think it was Feinberg, Todd Feinberg, talking about — he used the word ‘post-racial.’ He said we’re living in a post-racial society now so why are they talking about race. What do you understand ‘post-racial’ to mean and do you think that we’re there? PL: I would think that post-racial would mean that we’ve gotten to the point where there’s equal opportunity for people of color, and that we should be moving forward and not thinking of people as being from various ethnic groups, at least as far as legislation and that kind of stuff. I mean there’s always going to be ethnic influences, and that’s part of the richness of America and the richness of people’s lives. AB: In terms of that — equal opportunity for people of color — do you think we’ve reached that? PL: I definitely think we’ve reached it. I mean I saw it where I worked — minorities had a distinct advantage and were always given a leg up wherever possible. AB: We’ve gone through a good chunk of my [questions] list. I guess, is there anything else that you would want to add or anything else that I should have asked? PL: [pause, drumming on table] We’ve covered a lot here. I can’t think of anything. [another pause] You know, usually people ask what is the make up of the Tea Party or the people that attend, but I think you’ve seen. It is skewed towards Republicans — there’s no doubt about it. And even the independents — I mean I would fall in the independent part, but really we’re always voting Republican. But it is broader than just the Republican Party and it’s a very diverse group — I mean there are a lot of elderly people and there are people that are, it’s not just disaffected people. It’s not disaffected people, most of the people have jobs or are working or whatever. So it’s not — so anyway they’re what I would consider mainstream, hard-working people having various degrees of economic success or not. So it’s broad-based, is I guess what I’m saying. And it’s both philosophical and fiscally oriented and, as I’ve said before, it is for real. So, I don’t know. I think we’ve covered everything, I don’t know if I have anything else to say. I personally think it’s a very positive movement or otherwise I wouldn’t be involved in it. And I think it’s a reaction to decades of more and more decision-making being moved to Washington. I mean if you look at where the lowest unemployment rates are and the highest income rates, it’s all around Washington. I mean it’s all government employees and people who are feeding off the government — lobbyists and that kind of stuff. And it’s not, to me that’s not America — America is out where everybody else lives. ... AB: Do you think the Tea Party is going to eventually kind of merge and get more organized or do you think it’s going to stay like this? PL: I would hope it stays this way and that we just have influence on candidates and on the two parties and just shift everything to the right. But, if that doesn’t happen then I think — I wouldn’t be surprised, let’s put it that way, to see a third party develop. That’s not the way you initially want to go because then you’re kind of, in my view, ceding everything to the Democrats for a long period of time. AB: So it goes back to what you were saying earlier — if it’s a close race you’ll go for the Republican but if it’s going to be a wipeout you’ll vote for a Libertarian to keep their percentages up. PL: Right, right. — Interview conducted by A.J. Bauer — Return to previous page Return to A.J. Bauer main page

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