Wall Street protests present political dilemma

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said he was concerned about the "growing mobs" occupying Wall Street and U.S. cities but then changed course, saying the protesters were "justifiably frustrated." He urged elected officials to refrain from "the pitting of Americans against Americans."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney even used the protesters' language during a recent town hall meeting in New Hampshire, saying he doesn't "stay up nights worrying" about the top 1 percent. "I worry about the 99 percent in America," Romney said. "I want America, once again, to be the best place in the world to be middle-class."

During Tuesday's Republican presidential debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., drew a distinction between "left-wing agitators" and "sincere middle-class people who, frankly, are very close to the tea party people and actually care."

Liberal Democrats think the movement draws bright lines between Democrats and Republicans, arguing that the Republican presidential candidates have uniformly supported tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. The growth of the movement has prompted speculation about what role the protests could play in the fall debate in Congress on the economy and spending — and whether Obama should try to meet with the protesters as a way to show that he is listening to them.

"It would be a super bold move on his part. I can't imagine his political advisers ever telling him to do it," said Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org. "But there are voices down there with important perspectives that have mostly not been heard in American politics and the president, just going there, would open up some spaces for those (voices)."

Van Jones, a former Obama administration official who has helped organize an effort by liberal activists and unions to recapture the American Dream, said the movement "is about a wholesale political failure of the entire political class and the financial elite to respond to the American people. That creates opportunities and dangers for all politicians."

Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AP_Ken_Thomas

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