Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the chairman of the conservative FreedomWorks organization, is warning that an "emboldened" President Obama, fresh off a big healthcare victory, will redouble his efforts to transform America by escalating the size and reach of government.
In an exclusive interview conducted Tuesday with Newsmax.TV, Armey says Obama won liberal Democrats' votes by pledging to promote their top issues. Now, he says, those liberals will be looking for him to deliver.
Editor's Note: See the exclusive interview with former House Majority Leader Dick Armey below.
"When he went to get his last few votes," Armey tells Newsmax, "he went to the liberals who said they won't vote for it because it's not enough. He said 'Give us your votes; we'll get our foot in the door, we'll make that first step, and we'll give you single payer [healthcare system] down the road.'
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"So he's not done with this; don't kid yourself," Armey says. "But now he's emboldened."
Obama's apparent triumph in altering the one-sixth of the U.S. economy represented by healthcare, Armey says, increases "immeasurably the likelihood of him saying, 'All right, now it's time to go for climate change.'"
Those committed to fighting further federal expansion must prepare for the next battle, Armey tells Newsmax.
"We're going to have to go after that front now, and fight this fight for liberty on the front of the politics of greed wrapped in the language of love for the environment," he says.
According to Armey, the common theme of Democrats' initiatives, from near-universal healthcare to environmental legislation to card check rules limiting a worker's right to a private ballot on unionization, is the establishment of new categories of government-dependent citizens who are more likely to cast ballots for Democrats.
"I've been stunned with their arrogance," Armey says of Democratic leaders. "They have boldly said to America, We want to complete this job because we believe five years from now when we have more Americans dependent on the government for their healthcare, that it will mean the Democrats will retain their majority for a longer period of time.
"We have mandatory unionization in the South, and we believe that in the end that will improve our electoral chances for the future. It's always all about them; it's always about income redistribution. It's always, Sacrifice your liberty, Mr. and Mrs. America, for our job security. So yes, they're very bold right now."
Derailing Obama's legislative freight train, Armey says, depends on grass-roots' activism and getting small-government conservatives elected in November. One key to doing so, he says, is ensuring the media can't portray fringe elements as representing the entire grass-roots movement.
Armey used sharp language to distance himself, tea-party patriots, and FreedomWorks from any such "alleged" behavior. There were several reports Sunday, during the boisterous rallies held leading up to the momentous House vote, of slurs being hurled based on ethnicity and sexual orientation.
"You have to be very careful about that," Armey says. "We had talked to our activists in FreedomWorks, and we've had the opportunity to talk with tea party activists as the movement has grown. And our counsel is always: 'Be assertive. Be clear what you require. And mind your manners.'
"It is counterproductive [and] plays into the hands of the bad guys," he says. "Right now, all of Washington is sitting around all feeling sorry for these legislators, who perpetrated this affront against good common sense and public policy, because it is alleged they were called bad words. Don't give them that opportunity. Don't let them off that hook."
"So what we need to do is," says Armey, "we need to look among ourselves and say, An assertive presentation of an insistent point of view, and an unwillingness to accept bad policy, within the context of a good public appearance and public posture, and well-mannered . . . this is a winning combination."
Armey indicated that the movement will be quick to disavow any instigators who ignore the boundaries of civil conduct.
"In our case, FreedomWorks, if we control the stage and you try to climb on with rudeness and that sort of thing, we're going to remove you," he says. "If in fact we're not in a venue where we can control whether or not you're in attendance, we're certainly going to disavow you.
"So that means people like the Lyndon LaRouches, who can get as whacky as can be, just don't come to our arena. Stay away. Don't embarrass us with your presence. If you want to act that way, go create your own venue for acting goofy. But don't impose your absurdity on us, and give the bad guys to allege that it is ours."
Indeed, Armey staunchly defended the character and patriotism of the grass-roots-conservative movement: "We've got good decent people. These people are grandmas and grandpas, and oftentimes there with the grandchildren and moms and dads. They're regular folks who are coaching a little league on Tuesday, and attending a rally on Wednesday. And they should not be made to look bad by people who just basically want to go act up."
Other highlights of Armey's exclusive interview with Newsmax:
- He says an amazing number of Democrats have approached him recently to say they won't vote for Obama anymore because they're scared of the direction the nation is taking.
- Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the key vote on healthcare reform, had wearied of taking a beating from liberals. According to Armey: "Obama said, 'Let me help you get off the hook with the liberals. I'll give you this phony-baloney executive order, and you can grab onto that and you can forsake the thing that you've stood for all of your life, and get off the hook with all the liberals who are abusing you.' My line is you can't stand on principle with feet of clay. I believe think clearly the right-to-life folks in Michigan are going to go after him . . .Yes, he will probably find that there will be a lot of grass-roots activists who will be interested in seeing him change jobs at election time."
- He's bemused by the fact that the media is now hailing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as a political genius. "This is somewhat incongruous to me," he deadpans. "Because she had a 40-vote majority in her body, and she had to go from stage A to stage B to stage C, and then fight through all sorts of gimmicks and parliamentary maneuvers to get 216 votes. I don't put her down as a genius, but they're pretty much full of themselves right now."
- The Supreme Court can't be counted on to reverse Obamacare, he says. "Right now I'm not prepared to trust even the Supreme Court. I think America has to take this in our hands," says Armey. "And I think we have to take a long run — don't look for somebody to ride to our rescue, like the Supreme Court. We just set ourselves up for heartbreak." He cites political activism as an effective way to change the nation's direction.
- If the private sector economy turns around, Armey says it will be in spite of the administration's fiscal policies.
- Obama will never recapture the glowing image he enjoyed early in his presidency. "The president of the United States, in my estimation, has so thoroughly shown himself to be a self-serving, short-sighted person in office, that he can never rehabilitate his name," Armey says. "You'll never get America to believe that President Obama understands the great heritage of liberty of this country, and respects it, and wants to preserve it in the way we see it. He can never get to that ground."
- Small-government conservatives should persevere and not be discouraged. "First of all, don't feel defeated," he counseled. "This thing isn't over until it's over. I think Yogi Berra would be [saying] 'We're just ready to get started today.' There's so much work to be done and so much opportunity to correct this."
- He favors reforming the bad legislation passed by Democrats, replacing it with good healthcare reform legislation.
- The GOP has made great strides in reasserting its credibility as a defender of conservative principles, he says. "The GOP in office has come a long way. A few years ago they broke all of our hearts . . . the Republicans seem to be getting it now."
- The battle between those who advocate a rapid expansion of government and those who emphasize individual liberty has historic dimensions. "We're basically in a long-term struggle for the very heritage of this great country," Armey says.
- Without the grass-roots movement, healthcare reform would have been even worse, he says — and the GOP would have been much less effective in countering it. "The Republicans have grown in courage and effectiveness in their resistance to it," Armey says, "so I believe the Republican party has really grown up to the point where it's a party that once again we can dare to rely on in office. I'm very pleased with how they've risen to the occasion that demands the liberty, called for their best, and they've given their best right now and I'm quite pleased with it."
- Democrats, he charges, "have forgotten that it's not about them, it's about the country. Instead of working on behalf of the crying needs of this country for jobs, employment, and restoration of this economy, better performance, productivity, and opportunity, they have stayed focused on 'what I want.' And they've been bold and arrogant. I mean I have heard Democratic members of Congress say in the most literal terms, 'I don't care whether they want it or not, they're going to get it."
- The tea party does not need to be a third party to be effective. He adds: "And I haven't seen a viable third party. You know, we had Ross Perot a few years ago, and all that got us was Jesse Ventura in Minnesota. Third parties don't get a lot of people elected."
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