Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, much adored by Tea Party true-believers, again finds herself defending a statement that could be considered by many to be baffling, unconscionable and downright stupifying. This is not her first time to be hoist on her own petard.
In a recent appearance at a Heritage Foundation luncheon, Bachmann defended BP and referred to attempts to set up a $20 billion escrow fund to pay for claims and clean-up “extortion” (in case you’ve been in a coma for the last six months, British Petroleum’s massive oil spill is responsible for the worst environmental disaster in US history).
She asserted: “…If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there: ‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and made chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest…”
Bachmann, one of Sarah Palin’s annointed “Mama Grizzlies,” first came to national prominence after Palin was nominated for vice president and introduced a heady new recipe for ultra-conservative-speak: Mix together willful ignorance, issue avoidance, pseudo-populism, fear-mongering and ideological single-mindedness. Set temperature to incendiary, throw in a pinch of sassiness (and some stuff from Neiman Marcus) and work it!
And work it Bachmann did: appearing on national televison in 2008 to accuse her fellow Congresspersons (which members she declined to name) of being un-American and called for a McCarthy-like political pogrom:
“What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.”
Since then, in terms of colorful, ignorant, inexplicable and mind-numbing assertions, Bachmann has not disappointed. Among them (this is a mere sampling):
“Young people will be put into mandatory service… There are provisions for re-education camps for young people where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward.”
“Death panels are the bureaucracies that President Obama is establishing where bureaucrats will make the decision on who gets access to health care and how much.”
“Back in the 1970s swine flu broke out then under Democrat President Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”
One can shudder, shake one’s head and snicker (or weep). But, unfortunately, the statements are real and so is Michele Bachmann.
Bachmann, Palin and their fellow Mama-Gs have taken the concept of the soundbyte and made it flesh. Attractively coiffed and dressed, with their aging beauty queen faces and snappy patter, they can come across as just the gals to whip that PTO into shape without chipping a well-manicured nail. But the stakes in this case couldn’t be higher.
Playing to the lowest denominator — preying on the defensiveness and insecurities of the truly vulnerable — can be a cunning if (please God) shortsighted strategy. We progressives too often become ensnared in our own dither: we fret about the nuances and can seem indecisive. We don’t play the game as well as those for whom the rules are made to be flaunted. Maybe we need to take a page from their rulebook and learn to work it a little.
There is the promise of light at the end of this depressing tunnel. Bachmann is in a tough race for reelection, challenged by a strong opponent, Tarryl Clark. According to the Clark campaign, recent polls show that Bachmann’s numbers have fallen below 50% and that Clark is keeping up with fundraising, despite Bachmann’s access to SarahPAC and other conservative coffers. To unseat Bachmann in her very conservative district, Clark faces a daunting challenge but there seems to be a developing momentum in her favor, aided, no doubt, by Bachmann’s own foibles.
Not one, apparently, to let sleeping dogs lie, Bachmann has once again gone rogue by forming an official Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. The Tea Partyers are both a blessing and a curse for the GOP: they bring enthusiasm and a touching readiness to ignore issues for slogans, but they also tend to drift far outside the mainstream in their radical agendas. The GOP leadership was content to benefit from the movement’s energy while sitting comfortably (and safely) on the sidelines: now, for many, that is no longer possible, thanks to Ms Bachmann’s fecklessness. Freshly baked hubris, anyone?
photo credit: politicsinminnesota.com
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