How politically credible are the leading figures in the Tea Party movement that is rallying this weekend at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville?
Don’t ask a scared Democratic strategist.
Don’t ask an embattled mainstream Republican.
Don’t ask "the liberal media."
Let them Tea Party proclaimers rant, er, speak, for themselves.
The "star" of the kick off of the Tea Party convention was former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Republican who made his name by calling for the abolition of the Congressional Black Caucus and said your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free: "They’re coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren."
As a congressman, Tancredo drew national attention when he appeared at a "League of the South" rally decked out with "a prominent picture of Robert E. Lee and was draped with Confederate battle flags. At the closing of the event, men dressed in Confederate military uniforms reportedly began to sing ‘Dixie.’"
Later, he condemned Pope Benedict XVI for recalling the Biblical urging to welcome the stranger in remarks regarding immigration. "I suspect the pope’s immigration comments may have less to do with spreading the gospel than they do about recruiting new members of the church," said Tancredo. "This isn’t preaching; it is faith-based marketing."
Tancredo was on message as he opened the Tea Party party session in Nashville — suggesting that immigrants elected a president named "Hussein": "People who could not spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House — name is Barack Hussein Obama."
But it’s not just Obama.
"The revolution has come," grumbled Tancredo, who will be followed on the podium this weekend by the equally remarkable Sarah Palin. "It was led by the cult of multiculturalism aided by leftist liberals all over who don’t have the same ideas about America as we do."
That might sound a little divisive.
It also, in fairness, is out of synch with the themes the Tea Party movement initially used to attract activists: anger about bank bailouts, about fiscal and political policies that seem always to favor Wall Street over Main Street and about a secretive Federal Reserve that practices what can only be called crony capitalism with the likes of Tim Geithner and the executives of AIG.
So how smart is it to make Tancredo the face of the movement?
How effective is he as a political player?
He did get elected to Congress a few times from an overwhelmingly Republican district in Colorado.
But when he took his message national in 2007, as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination — with the slogan: "Tancredo: Before It’s Too Late" — he campaigned for the better part of a year and earned front-and-center position in the many GOP debates.