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Democrats seek to pin downgrade on 'tea party'

August 08, 2011|By James Oliphant
(CBS News )

As stocks continued Monday to tumble in the wake of Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United States’ credit rating, Democrats are working to place the blame for the move squarely on the shoulders of the "tea party" movement.

David Axelrod, a top campaign advisor to President Obama, led the charge over the weekend, calling S&P’s action “essentially a tea party downgrade.”

“The tea party brought us to the brink of default,” Axelrod said. “It was the right thing to do to avoid that default. It was the wrong thing to do to push the country to that point." 

While Axelrod was talking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the former Democratic presidential candidate, was offering a similar characterization on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I believe this is without question the tea party downgrade,” Kerry said. “This is the tea party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal.”

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, also on CBS, took the anti-spending, small-government movement to task as well:

“I think this is [the] tea party’s problem,” Dean said. “I think they’re totally unreasonable and doctrinaire and not founded in reality. I think they’ve been smoking some of that tea, not just drinking it.”

Standard & Poor’s sought to avoid placing blame on either Democrats or Republicans while citing uncertainty over the nation’s spiraling debt and ceaseless government gridlock as the drivers of the downgrade.

For Democrats, it marked the latest attempt to sway public opinion in the wake of the last-minute debt-ceiling deal last week that was met with disapproval by a large swath of Americans and Wall Street money managers, while sending Congress’ popularity to new lows.

Blaming the tea party might have some political upside, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released last week that showed public attitudes against the movement are increasingly hardening.

Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group of tea party activists, responded by citing criticism of the downgrade by the Chinese government.

“When Washington, D.C., gets slammed from the right by Communists, you know we have a problem with our leadership,” said Mark Meckler, the group’s national coordinator.  “Their muddled thinking comes from a lack of leadership that has failed to face our debt problems or corral overspending.”

Not to be outdone, the Republican National Committee on Monday released a statement labeling S&P’s move to lower the nation’s rating from AAA to AA+ “the Obama downgrade,” saying it came as part of “his long record of failure to lead on spending issues.”

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