You've got to love when the words of a mere comedian can become the conventional wisdom of the President of the United States. If you missed it today, President Obama gave a sympathetic comparison between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements in an interview with ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper. If the comparison didn't sound earth-shatteringly novel that's because it was a recycled idea that Daily Show host Jon Stewart took mainstream on October 5. Take a look at the two quotations:
President Obama, October 18: "I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests. In some ways, they're not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government."
Jon Stewart, October 5: "I don't get it. Here's a group of Americans disenchanted, railing against big government bailouts, angry because they played by the rules ... If this thing turns into throwing trash cans into Starbucks windows, nobody's going to be down with that. We all love Starbucks. But these protesters, how are they not like the Tea Party? ... Aren't these folks real citizens with real problems? Aren't they also speaking for America?"
Now it's difficult to attribute original ideas to others in the cacophonous echo-chamber of the 24/7 television/online punditocracy. We won't say that Stewart was the first to make the comparison, which by now has become something of a cliché. So, in fairness, Obama could've been absorbing the view from a lot of people. Even Chris Christie! Earlier on Tuesday, the New Jersey Governor said “I think if you look at the Occupy Wall Street folks and the Tea Party folks, that they come from the same perspective, they just have different solutions” at a town hall meeting in New Jersey. On October 7, even Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express acknowledged similarities between the two movements. Then of course there's the widely-cited Venn diagram of the two movements by blogger James Sinclair posted Oct. 10. And on October 16, Todd Essig at Forbes noted how bout group's shared a "psychology of exclusion." Regardless, we're clearly living in strange times when you can mistake White House talking points for Comedy Central segments.