Tea Party. Manatees. Need any more than that?

manatee_7.15.11Still think the Tea Party is relevant? More power to you, but they sure aren’t doing themselves any favors.

Everybody knows what the tea party members oppose. High taxes. Big government. Obama’s health care plan. High-speed rail.

Now, for at least some local tea party members, there’s one more to add: manatee protection.

A Citrus County tea party group has announced that it’s fighting new restrictions on boating and other human activities in Kings Bay that have been proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, Tea Party members in Citrus County have revived what is apparently a decades-old issue.

Kings Bay, famed as the one place in Florida where humans can swim with and even touch the manatees, is facing a renewed battle over how much protection for manatees is too much. That argument has been going on there since Jacques Cousteau featured Kings Bay’s manatees in his 1972 documentary Forgotten Mermaids.

Granted that manatees are merely a sticking point or a touchstone – or, if I dare, the sea-elephant in the room. But the Tea Party is not going to be helped by headlines – announcing a story that has attracted nationwide coverage for its comic appeal, and a furthered effort to make the Tea Party a punchline – like: “Tea party members tackle a new issue: manatees.”

Their argument on the issue doesn’t help in the take-us-seriously department, either:

“We cannot elevate nature above people,” explained Edna Mattos, 63, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots, in an interview. “That’s against the Bible and the Bill of Rights.”

Federal officials “want to restrict the entire bay,” she contended. “They don’t want people here.”

What travesty shall they protect us from next?

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