Rick Barber, an Alabama tea partier running for Congress in the Second District Republican run-off, told me this morning that his controversial new television ad — which features images of pistols, calls for impeachment and a founding father calling on conservatives to “gather” their “armies” against the IRS — is being misunderstood by critics.
“They need to not look so deep into things,” Barber told me when I asked about his response to people who might say the ad might suggest he’s calling for an actual revolution rather than an electoral one. “It’s definitely not an inciteful call to arms.”
Barber said that using the phrase “gather your armies” and stroking revolutionary-era pistols could lead some to get the wrong impression of his message — but there’s nothing that can be done about that.
“You’ve always got some folks that could take it the wrong way,” he said.
Watch the ad (see below for the full script):
Barber stood by the ad’s message — namely that the men who took up arms against the British government in the 18th century would be stirred to do the same thing again by federal policies like the income tax (which Barber says means Americans are “forced to spy on ourselves” in the ad) and the new health care law.
“I think the founding fathers would be absolutely appalled,” Barber told me. “If not with the actual policy changes we have made, with the lack of engagement by the people.”
Barber said his ad is meant to re-energize that lackluster electorate. He hopes to ride a wave of conservative frustration past NRCC choice Martha Roby in the July 13 runoff to win the right to face Rep. Bobby Bright (D) in the fall. The district is one Republicans think they can flip in November, having gone 63-36 for John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.
I asked him Barber if, like some conservatives, he thinks that frustration with the government could spill over into actual violence like the kind his ad celebrates. He said that if it does, it probably wouldn’t come from the right.
“Most of the violence I’ve seen has not come from my side,” he said. As for his campaign, “I believe in upholding the rule of law, and we need to work inside the system to do that,” he said.
Viewers come into the ad partway through a conversation with Barber and the “founding fathers” about the state of the nation. “And I would impeach him,” Barber says before launching into his rant about the IRS. I asked Barber who “him” was exactly. He said he supports impeaching anyone who deserves it.
Most viewers will probably think he’s referring to President Obama. That’s OK with Barber. He said that the revelations that the White House tried to prevent Rep. Joe Sestak from running against Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary suggest the Obama has broken the law and should be removed from office.
“There absolutely are allegations,” he said. “If they’re true we should absolutely take action. I’m just taking metaphorically here.”
Barber’s ad is lighting up the Internet this morning, but it won’t make it to viewers homes in Alabama for at least a month. Barber said he plans to run the spot on air, but not until a week before the July primary date.
The script for Barber’s ad, which takes place in what appears to be a darkened bar or restaurant:
Barber: “…And I would impeach him, and if that’s not enough—some of you men owned taverns. Sam, you were a brewer, Mr. President a distiller. You know how tough it is to run a small business without a tyrannical government on your back.
“Today, we have an Internal Revenue Service that enforces what they call ‘a progressive income tax.’ You’ll love this: Every year, if not every quarter, we’re basically required to spy on ourselves — report what he earn, who we hire and fire with an all-powerful separate court system. Without representation, they can increase taxes, impose costly regulation or conduct malicious audits.
“Now this same IRS is going to force us to by health insurance. Cram it down our throats, or else. Now I took a took an oath to defend that with my life [points at copy of Constitution] and I can’t stand by while these evils are perpetrated.
“You gentlemen revolted over a tea tax. A tea tax. Now look at us! Are you with me?”
Founding Father: “Gather your armies.”