Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who represented Fort Worth in Congress and now leads the right-wing Freedomworks, told some Texas-sized whoppers to the Tea Party crowd at the National Press Club this week. Among other things, he claimed that Tea Partiers and "small government conservatives" are devoted to "the principles of liberty as embodied in the Constitution, the understanding of which is fleshed out if you read things like the Federalist Papers," and that the problem with Democrats and other people "who do not cherish America the way we do" is "they did not read the Federalist Papers." Leaving aside the ridiculous assertion that no Dems have read the articles that were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to win the ratification of the Constitution, Armey's own comments sure make it sound like he hasn't read them himself.
An audience member, who apparently had read them, asked Armey how the Federalist Papers could be such be an inspiration for the Tea Party when their main author, Hamilton, "was widely regarded then and now as an advocate of a strong central government"? Armey then had the audacity to ask, in a true right-wing conspiracy-style, history-denying, fact-rewriting, spin-pivot-attack fashion: "'Widely regarded by whom?' he challenged, suspiciously. 'Today's modern, ill-informed political science professors? . . . I just doubt that was the case in fact about Hamilton.'"
It is no liberal college professor conspiracy; it is a fact. Hamilton strongly favored a strong federal government with almost king-like powers for the president -- that's why Hamilton has often been cited by Bush lawyer, John Yoo, as his inspiration for virtually unlimited powers for the national executive. Hamilton actually wrote most of the articles in the Federalist Papers, which were a dialogue about why the weak central government created by the Articles of Confederation, that had been the founding documents of the United States as a union of states, needed to be replaced by the strong national government of the Constitution. And Hamilton was deeply distrustful of direct democracy, and had even pushed for a monarchical presidency in which the president would serve for life in office and he argued for a strong centralized bank. To suggest that he was a small-government advocate who would have been hanging out with the Tea Party is to completely misread history, if Armey has read constitutional history or the Federal Papers in any depth.
Meanwhile, in other news, Armey is criticizing the Democrat's new bill, proposed by Senator Christopher Dodd, to add new oversight of Wall Street. His response was that “The market is so complex that I doubt very much that there’s anybody in office that’s smart enough to say, I know how to design the appropriate regulatory structure.” Given Armey's demonstrated ignorance, however, it would be unwise to put much stock in his assessment of who might be smart enough to address the financial crisis enabled by the very de-regulation policies that he advanced when he led Congress.
But why let the facts get in the way of Dick Armey now? They've never stopped him before, and look how far he's gone. Why, if he were on the Texas Board of Education he might want to make sure textbooks included his claim that Hamilton was a small-government advocate who would have loved Freedomworks and the Tea Party. He probably would want to include the "idea" that the financial crisis, which began before the presidential election, on President Bush's watch and as a result of massive deregulation urged by Armey and others, is all President Obama's fault.
That's the thing about a lie, if you repeat it often enough it becomes "the truth," and then it becomes "history."