February 8 2010, 11:36 AM
Tom Tancredo, the always-controversial former Colorado congressman who retired in 2008 and then ran for president on an anti-illegal immigration platform, is being pelted for his statements during the first-ever Tea Party convention, which took place over the weekend in Tennessee. Tancredo slammed President Barack Obama, as well as fellow Republican John McCain, stating that the former was elected because "we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country," a reference to a Jim Crow policy that once prevented blacks from being able to vote. Tancredo seemed less interested, however, in turning the clock back to the days before the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and more interested in taking another shot at immigrants, hinting at one point that Obama's supporters probably can't even speak English (via Time). Clarence Page at the Chicago Tribune dubs Tancredo the "Tea Party Crack Pot," and even some conservatives, like former GOP House majority leader Dick Armey, who now runs Freedom Works, a group aligned with the Tea Party movement, see such rhetoric as counterproductive: "It feeds into the hands of the left and allows [the Tea Party] to be portrayed as people who are angry and accusatory, inflammatory." When told by The Denver Post that his call for a civics test has spawned an uproar, particularly on liberal blogs, Tancredo bemoaned what he calls "the left's obsession with race." State House Speaker Terrance Carroll, the first black speaker in Colorado history, shoots back that there's a reason Tancredo's remarks are being viewed racially: "He's saying them in relationship to Barack Obama. What does he expect people to think?" The Nation's John Nichols is stunned by Tancredo's call to abolish the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as a statement that immigrants are "coming here to kill you, and you, and me, and my grandchildren." Last year, Tancredo was seriously entertaining a run for Colorado governor, but he eventually dropped out to unite under the candidacy of Scott McInnis and a state Republican "Platform for Prosperity." In December, Fox News' Neil Cavuto referred to McInnis as the country's "biggest Tea Party candidate," but as the Colorado Springs Independent points out in an article that looks at McInnis' current relationship with the movement, "While courting Tea Partiers is tricky, claiming their support can be even trickier."