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Right Wingers Marching in DC Is Big News -- But the Same Old Faces Are Pulling the Strings

The men behind the religious right make a comeback with the Tea Party movement.

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Today, Viguerie has branched out, helping to build a broader coalition in the form of the Tea Party movement, which joins together the various interest groups of the right in the politics of resentment against the perceived loss of power by white men symbolized by the election of Barack Obama.

Much of the Tea Party movement's messaging comes from the virtual one-man clearing house that is Howard Phillips. Since his early days in the Nixon administration, Phillips has led a campaign to "defund the left" -- efforts to keep federal dollars following to organizations that are traditionally identified with liberalism.

The right's current campaign against Planned Parenthood is its best-known example. Although no federal dollars go to Planned Parenthood to pay for abortions, right-wing politicians and activist contend they do in the form of subsidies that pay for gynecological care and breast-health services for women who cannot afford to see private doctors.

The targeting of former White-House adviser Van Jones, hired to develop policy on green jobs, represents a new round in the right's new "defund the left" front. Phil Kerpen, policy director for the right-wing astroturf group, Americans for Prosperity, saw the campaign against Jones, by his own account, as one way to stop the flow of federal dollars for the creation of green jobs, which he contends will serve only liberal groups, ranging from labor unions to environmental justice organizations.

At last year's Constitution Day gathering of Phillips' Conservative Caucus organization, the themes that today define many of the themes flogged daily on FOX NewsChannel were on full display: the false charge that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and purported evidence of Obama's alleged socialist roots.

Countless signs on display at the 912 march on Washington made reference to Obama's alleged socialism, or even communism.

When I interviewed Phillips just days before the 2008 presidential election, he told me he had just gotten off the phone with Jerome Corsi, the primary advance man for the birther conspiracy. Corsi was in Hawaii, looking for fodder for his claims, and was checking in regularly with Phillips.

Phillips served as mentor to Randall Terry, who, though not technically part of the Tea Party movement, seeks to tap that same vein of rage in service of his cause, which is to end abortion by any means necessary. And it's no coincidence that Randall Terry's comeback coincides with the rise of a retooled right wing.

Terry's followers, demonstrating the disruption techniques later employed at town-hall meetings on health-care reform, interrupted the Senate nomination hearing for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Terry himself shouted down former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean at a Virginia town-hall meeting about health care. A recent e-mail blast from Terry promises organized disruptions of congressional hearings on health-care reform legislation, a technique famously used by the women of Code Pink.

Phillips, during our 2008 chat, called Terry "a dear friend." (In 1998, Terry ran for the a congressional seat on the ticket of a third party founded, and then led, by Phillips -- the U.S. Taxpayers Party, which has since evolved into the Constitution Party.)

For his part, Viguerie, on Friday, advised the Tea Partiers to launch their own candidates for Congress in the 2010 elections, and to use primary challenges to put incumbents of both parties on notice, pushing them further to the right.  Known as Reagan's "postmaster general" for his prodigious direct-mail fundraising activities on Reagan's behalf, Viguerie offered an energetic presentation on the nuts and bolts of both direct-mail and internet fundraising.