Blame the Organizer, Not Palin

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 31 2011 1:33 PM

Blame the Organizer, Not Palin

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

We're all having some lowest common denominator fun over the on-again-off-again-on-again (deep breath) off-again weekend Tea Party rally featuring Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell. And sure, if Sarah Palin took the boring fundamentals of political scheduling more seriously, this stuff wouldn't look so ridiculous. But what's more likely -- that's she's capriciously waffling about whether to go to Iowa, or that for the second time she's signed on to an event that's not ready for the spotlight?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

It's been only 18 months since Palin starred at the Tea Party National Convention in Nashville, a slapdash event put on by Judson Phillips's Tea Party Nation. The event was dogged by controversy, because Phillips had never done anything like it and made some rudimentary mistakes, like failing to realize members of Congress couldn't come by a for-profit conference. Is history repeating? Well, the organizer of this Iowa event is Ken Crow and the Tea Party of America, a group founded by Crow and less-than-established as a political force. Robert Stacy McCain digs in:

TPA gained instant credibility by recruiting longtime Des Moines Tea Party leader Charlie Gruschow, but Crow previously has had limited involvement in the movement. Once Palin was announced as the event headliner, many other people wanted to get involved, and basic problems common to volunteer organizations developed. Disputes arose over questions about what level of security was required for Governor Palin, and about who else would speak during the rally.

I met Crow in Iowa this month (I've been unsuccessful reaching him today) and he struck me as a classic Tea Party archetype -- an amateur with big Field of Dreams ambitions. He made me well aware of all the projects he was working on but seemed a little laconic for a guy putting on a mega-rally.

"It's gonna be televised on C-Span," he said, "and maybe Fox, too."

Reading up on Crow today, we find that he's a talky activist prone to showing how much he knows. For example, on Palin: "I know for a fact she ain't gonna run." That's the guy bringing Palin to Iowa for an event that reporters are attending because they wonder whether Palin will run!

McCain's speculation is that Team Palin is sending a message to organizers about tightening up the event. Now that Crow's bounced O'Donnell, whose status as a movement hero has been oversold since day one, it looks like the tightening is in effect. But the fact is that the easiest time Palin's had with speeches has been when Tea Party Express or Americans for Prosperity organized them; winging it has lent to some truly weird sideshows.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


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