Tea Party Fireworks: Speaker Rips McCain, Obama, 'Cult of Multiculturalism'

Ex-Rep. Tancredo suggests "civics, literacy test'" would have foiled Obama.

ByABC News
February 3, 2010, 6:54 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Feb. 4, 2010— -- The opening-night speaker at first ever National Tea Party Convention ripped into President Obama, Sen. John McCain and "the cult of multiculturalism," asserting that Obama was elected because "we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country."

The speaker, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., told about 600 delegates in a Nashville, Tenn., ballroom that in the 2008 election, America "put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House ... Barack Hussein Obama."

Tancredo did not stop at the Democratic president -- ripping McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, for shaping up to be a repeat of "Bush 1 and Bush 2."

"Thank God John McCain lost the election," he said, voicing his belief that McCain would have presided over big budgets and lacked a tough stand against immigration.

Tancredo served 10 years in the House of Representatives and made a name for himself with his ardent opposition to immigration. He believes the 2008 election served to galvanize the right.

"This is our country," he told the crowd. "Let's take it back."

Tancredo's speech received enthusiastic applause at times, but the crowd did not fill the large ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center.

As opponents of big government converged on what has been billed as the first national tea party convention, organizers hoped the event would further "galvanize" the populist movement and help it gather momentum after a string of recent conservative electoral victories.

But some wondered what gave organizers the right to hold the event in the first place, never mind to charge hundreds of dollars for admission.

"Nobody really is entitled to stand up and say, 'This is the National Tea Party anything,'" conservative blogger Dan Riehl said of the three-day convention being put on by a Nashville-based defense attorney, Judson Phillips, and his wife.

Phillips told ABC News that he put the convention together to try to harness the political power of the tea party movement, which helped fuel rallies and marches last summer, and helped mobilize support for Scott Brown last month in Massachusetts.

Organizers said some 600 attendees have paid $549 for access to two full days of events that culminate Saturday evening in a keynote speech by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at a banquet that reportedly will feature a lobster-and-steak dinner.

While the convention itself is sold out, tickets to the banquet only were still on sale late Wednesday for $349. So far, organizers said, more than 500 banquet-only tickets have been sold.

The high price of entry to an event that celebrates grass roots, open-air activism has offended many in the Tea Party tent.

In fact, some tea party factions are furious.

"When somebody steps up and says their purpose in putting on a convention like this is to make a profit, that's really the antithesis of a grass roots movement," said Mark Meckler, of the Tea Party Patriots faction.

In a mid-January post on his blog, "Riehl World View," Riehl questioned whether Phillips "wants to be a tea party millionaire."

"[Tea party activists] generally are not the type of people who would gravitate to some very expensive hotel to dine on lobster and steak and listen to someone speak," Riehl said in an interview Wednesday.

Convention spokesman Mark Skoda acknowledged Wednesday that Phillips and his wife, Sherry Phillips, founders of the for-profit Tea Party Nation Inc., will "make a few bucks" on the event. But Skoda questioned why that should be anyone's concern.

"Have we gone so far in the Obama-socialist view of the nation that 'profit' is a bad word -- in particular, if we're using it to advance the conservative cause?" Skoda asked.

The convention plans to feature a lecture called, "Correlations Between the Current Administration and Marxist dictators in Latin America."