Former GOP Senator: Tea Party a ‘Reaffirmation’ of GOP Principles But Doesn’t Know How to Implement Them

By Matt Cover | October 18, 2011 | 9:44 PM EDT

Former Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) (AP Photo)

( – Former Republican Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah) said that the Tea Party is a “reaffirmation” of everything the Republican Party stands for, but added that the group’s flaw is that it does not know how to fulfill the goals of the GOP.

At a panel discussion about politics and the media at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Bennett was asked whether the Tea Party represented a departure from traditional Republican principles.

Bennett said, “At 30,000 feet no, it’s not a departure [from GOP principles] at all. It’s a reaffirmation of what the Republican Party has stood for.”

Bennett, who lost the GOP nomination for Senate to Tea Party-backed Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in 2010, explained that while the Tea Party was in line with mainstream conservative ideas, it lacked any realistic proposals or strategies for accomplishing Republican ideas.

“We [Republicans] want smaller government, we want cheaper government, and we want more effective government” Bennett said. “The problem is [that] when you get down from 30,000 feet onto to the tarmac, they don’t have any solutions for anything.”

Bennett said that Tea Party activists seemed unaware of how to accomplish the goals of smaller, cheaper, and more efficient government through the legislative process, often advocating opposition to any bill they deemed insufficient, regardless of whether those bills did things like cut spending or shrink government programs.

Bennett gave the example of an interaction with anti-spending Tea Party activists that wanted to cut spending but did not seem to understand the legislative process.

“They don’t have any proposals for anything that makes any sense except smaller government, cheaper government, cut spending,” Bennett said. “And when you try to explain to them ‘okay, I’m happy to cut spending, now here is the realities of the budget.’”

And they answer, he said, “Well, you’re just giving me Washington-speak, you won’t stand up and cut spending.”

Bennett said that just saying “no” to everything would not accomplish the Tea Party’s goals, saying it was “not a solution” for accomplishing the goal of shrinking government and cutting spending.

“How are we going to do this [cut spending]? Well, ‘just say no.’ That is not a solution, that is not a plan,” said Bennett.  “That’s the problem. Smaller government, I’m for it. Cheaper government, I’m for it. Now, let’s write the laws [but] they don’t have the slightest proposal that makes sense.”

Bennett lost his reelection bid in 2010 when he was defeated for the GOP nomination by Tea Party-backed Mike Lee at the Utah state convention. Tea Party activists and many Republicans opposed Bennett because he was one of the chief authors of the TARP bailout bill.