There were thousands of signs at Saturday's massive demonstrations around the Capitol, either supporting or criticizing Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to weaken Wisconsin's public employee unions. But my favorite sign contained a rare nonpartisan message:
"Let's Be Reasonable. Hyperbole Hurts Everyone's Cause."
Hyperbole flowed from both camps, but the noon Tea Party rally featuring Andrew Breitbart and Joe the Plumber had some particularly choice examples. While the anti-Walker demonstrators were mostly guilty of overstating the governor's fiendishness (no, he's probably not as bad as Hitler), the Tea Party folks often distorted the issues.
Many of the speakers and placards insisted that public employees care only about protecting their paychecks, with no interest in making sacrifices for the good of Wisconsin. But that's a hard point to argue after union officials stated this week that they are willing to accept the governor's proposal for increases in their pension and health insurance payments. Clearly, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets because of the governor's plan to undercut labor's collective bargaining rights; not because they're "spoiled," as one Tea Party marcher shouted at a union supporter.
Here's a sampling of hyperbole from the Tea Party rally.
"There are 10,000 of us here!"
--Several speakers, addressing a crowd of less than half that size
"At the end of the day, [the union bosses] are not fighting for your pension or health care plan or even for the sustainability of Wisconsin's education budget. They're fighting to protect their own powerful privileges and their own political clout."
--Statement from Sarah Palin, read at the rally
"Teachers will only work if they have free health care and free pensions!"
--Laina Willoughby, speaker
"Teachers have discussed their political views and their paychecks with our children. They've been used as pawns and indoctrinated!"
--Kim Simac, head of the Northwoods Patriots
"The teachers and other public employees don't want to pay their fair share to save Wisconsin."
--Meg Ellefson, leader of Wausau Tea Party
"Wisconsin is broke."
--conservative activist Herman Cain
"We all have to sacrifice. You are spoiled."
"Time to pay your fair share."