HAVING A LITTLE FUN WITH THE TEA BAGGERS…. President Obama hosted a town-hall event in Arnold, Missouri, this afternoon, and challenged some of the principal criticisms directed at him from conservatives. Most notably, the president took on the charge that “Obama is just spending crazy.”

“Number one, we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit … that wasn’t me,” Obama said. “Number two, there is almost uniform consensus among economists that in the middle of the biggest crisis — financial crisis since the Great Depression, we had to take extraordinary steps. So you’ve got a lot of Republican economists who agree that we had to do a stimulus package and we had to do something about the banks.”

And then the president had a little fun with some of his most animated detractors. “So, you know, when you see, you know, those of you who are watching certain news channels, on which I’m not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we’re going to stabilize Social Security…. [L]et’s not play games and pretend that the reason is because of the Recovery Act because that’s just a fraction of the overall problem that we’ve got.”

He added, in reference to conservatives’ cries, “We tried that formula for eight years. It did not work, and I don’t intend to go back to it.”

As for who the president was “targeting” with these remarks, I think David Weigel raises a good point: “This struck me not as an attack on protesters (which would be a strange thing for a community organizer to do) but an attack on Fox News, its pundits, and its Republican guests. When I think of ‘folks waving tea bags’ I think of Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) literally waving tea bags and saying ‘I’ve got my tea bags here! Pick your brand!’”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.