The president and a Tea Party activist clash over civility and political rhetoric.
President Obama, who is frequently the subject of Tea Party fury, got a taste of it firsthand Monday during a town hall meeting at the Decorah, Iowa, stop on his bus tour Monday evening. Toward the end of the event, an activist named Ryan Rhodes shouted a question asking how the president can talk about civility when “your vice president is calling people like me, a Tea Party member, a ‘terrorist.’”
“I know it’s not going to work, if you stand up, and I asked everybody to raise their hand,” responded Obama, USA Today reports. “I didn’t see you, I wasn’t avoiding you.”
After answering another town hall attendee’s question, the president turned his attention to Rhodes, telling him that everybody needs to tone down the political rhetoric.
“In fairness, since I have been called a socialist who wasn’t born in this country, who is destroying America and taking away its freedoms because I passed a health care bill, I am all for lowering the rhetoric.”
Rhodes was referring to media reports that Vice President Biden had called Tea Party members terrorists when he met with House Democrats in late July to hear their frustrations over the debt-ceiling debate and convince them to support the ultimate bill. Biden has denied making such a comparison and said that some of the members at the meeting had said they felt like they were being held hostage by terrorists.
Later, when Obama was greeting by supporters on the rope line, Rhodes continued to press him on the matter, arguing that Congress should have only passed a measure to balance the federal budget.
Obama, who tried to defend Biden, eventually gave up, telling Rhodes, “It doesn’t sound like you’re interested in listening.”
In an interview with Fox News, Rhodes was aghast over Obama’s insistence that Biden had not called Tea Party members terrorists.
“He just denied it. He said the vice president didn't make any of those assertions,” Rhodes said. “If he doesn’t want to even admit what was on TV nationally — all over the place — then how can you have a conversation?”
(Photo: Ryan Rhodes, right, and another member of the Iowa Tea Party Revolution, speak to President Barack Obama at a town hall meeting, Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, during his three-day economic bus tour. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster))