October 07, 2011 11:45 am ET - by Alan Pyke
Toward the close of his speech this morning at the Values Voters Summit, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said he is "increasingly concerned" about the Occupy Wall Street protests, which he depicted as "growing mobs occupying Wall Street and other cities across the country." Cantor's comments suggested that the Occupy movement is the product of the Obama administration's "assault on many of our nation's bedrock principles."
CANTOR: So the question for all of us as we go forward is how are we going to reclaim America's greatness? This administration's failed policies have resulted in an assault on many of our nation's bedrock principles. If you read the newspapers today, I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country. And believe it or not, some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans. But you sent us here to fight for you and for all Americans. You sent us here to bring about real change in Washington, real change to your federal government. We are committed to doing that. We are committed to returning the federal government to one that works for you, and not the other way around. [...] Returning America to that shining city on a hill means winning the battle of freedom over tyranny.
Cantor's dauntless commitment to partisan interests often produces embarrassing contrasts with past statements, but this is special even for him. Less than two years ago, he was defending even the most horrific and offensive Tea Party signage as the mere product of the American people's "frustration":
CANTOR: Andrea, what I have seen and I think America has seen over the last 10 months is they don't like the extreme policies being proposed by the White House and the majority here in Congress. [...] These protests here in Washington, the gathering of people from all across the country, is just more evidence to the fact that there is frustration over the direction that Washington is taking.
As Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel notes, it was on the same Values Voters stage in 2009 that Cantor praised the Tea Party for "fighting on the fighting lines of what we know is a battle for our democracy," adding that "People are beginning to wake up and see a country they don't really recognize." It's awfully convenient for Cantor to suggest that the people holding "tax the rich" signs at this year's awakening are part of an attack on American values, while those who protested health care reform with posters of Dachau were fighting to defend them.
Yet in a sense, today's protesters are motivated by an assault on the bedrock of the American social contract. Cantor's just misidentifying the assaulters. As Vice President Biden suggested yesterday, the Occupy movement seems to come primarily in response to the sense that the basic "bargain has been breached with the American people" in the wake of the financial crisis. In case Cantor's curious, it was primarily Republican executives and regulators who oversaw the "financialization" of the American economy, and the concurrent transition on Wall Street from the tight regulations that followed the Savings & Loan debacle to the casino culture that crashed our economy in 2007.
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