It’s becoming a signature line for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)’s (R-MS).
“Was it Will Rogers who said all he knows is what he reads in the paper?” Cochran told Washington Post reporter Robert Costa. “Well, all I hear about the tea party is what I’ve read in the paper.”
This is now the third time this year Cochran has said he doesn’t know much about the Tea Party, a five-year-old political movement that swept Republicans into control of the House in 2010 and has dramatically altered the character of the GOP.
When asked about the Tea Party in February, Cochran told local television station WAPT “That is something I don’t know a lot about.”
When asked about it again in March, Cochran reiterated the sentiment to local television station WXXV–and added the “Will Rogers” line he used with Costa. “I said I didn’t know much about the Tea Party, and I didn’t,” Cochran said in March. “I heard…I read newspaper articles about them, and that’s about all I knew. It’s kind of like Will Rogers, you know. He said he knew what was in the papers.”
Will Rogers–the icon Cochran cited–was one of the world’s most famous movie stars in the 1920s and 1930s. At the beginning of his career in the 1910s, he was a vaudeville stage comedian. “Well, what shall I talk about? I ain’t got anything funny to say. All I know is what I read in the papers,” Rogers would say when he took the stage, before making jokes about the news of the day roughly 100 years ago. Rogers died in 1935, two years before Cochran was born in 1937.
Costa’s piece overall is a surprisingly harsh assessment of McDaniel, who he describes as embodying everything the Washington GOP establishment fears about the Tea Party movement. “He is aggressive, unpredictable and, at times, insensitive — if not offensive — on matters of gender and race,” Costa wrote.
The piece also includes the first public articulation from the National Republican Senatorial Committee of an argument that top Republican aides had been telling reporters privately about McDaniel: that he’s so toxic, his winning the primary could imperil GOP candidates across the election cycle.
“One of the lessons of the Todd Akin disaster is that Democrats will not hesitate to tie the statements, behavior and controversies of one Republican candidate to all Republican candidates,” NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring told Costa. “This is the kind of stuff that the producers and hosts of MSNBC daytime programming salivate over.”
Costa also writes that McDaniel acted aloof at a fair in Coldwater, Mississippi.
“McDaniel, a lawyer who looks a bit like he’s in a fraternity — untucked button-down shirt, colorful silicone gel bracelets and a choker necklace — did not seem to relish the glad-handing,” Costa writes.
“He wandered on his own several times to send texts or make phone calls, and when he did talk to people he mostly recited a series of conservative platitudes. At one point, he spotted three rabbits sitting atop a wire cage and, without saying a word to the seller, started to pet one. He remained there for a minute, his head dipped and his hand slowly grazing the animal’s ears, until a man smoking a cigarette and wearing a hunting cap hoisted his son next to the rabbits. McDaniel, slightly startled, looked over and walked off,” Costa writes.