Media Making Same Mistake with Bachmann They Made With PalinPosted: June 27, 2011
Michele Bachmann officially announced her candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination today in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa. In her speech, she talked about growing up in Waterloo and how as a young girl she didn’t want to move away to Minnesota.
I often say that everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa. It was at Hawthorne and Valley Park Elementary Schools and my home, both a short distance from here, where those Iowan roots were firmly planted. It’s those roots and my faith in God that guide me today. I’m a descendent of generations Iowans. I know what it means to be from Iowa—what we value and what’s important. Those are the values that helped make Iowa the breadbasket of the world and those are the values, the best of all of us that we must recapture to secure the promise of the future.
I’m also here because Waterloo laid the foundation for my own roots in politics. I never thought that I would end up in public life. I grew up here in Iowa. My grandparents are buried here. I remember how sad I was leaving Iowa to go to Minnesota in the sixth grade, because this part of Iowa was all I knew—I remember telling my parents that we couldn’t move to Minnesota because I hadn’t even been to Des Moines to see the state capitol.
I’m guessing Bachmann’s recollections of Iowa probably made a good impression on her audience, but multiple media outlets are focusing on a gaffe Bachmann made in talking to a reporter. She claimed that John Wayne was from Waterloo, but the only John Wayne born there was serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
Sure, that’s funny–and it’s one of many embarrassing gaffes made by Bachmann during her brief political career. But what is the point of ridiculing her about it while ignoring the scary policies she proposed in her speech? George W. Bush made lots of silly gaffes too, remember? But he was [I won't say elected] President for two terms.
Furthermore, at conservative blog Hot Air, I learned the following.
It turns out there is a Waterloo connection for John Wayne:
Bachmann’s campaign pointed out to ABC News today that actor John Wayne’s parents did live in Waterloo, although the actor himself did not.
And a little internet research proves that point correct.
According to the book “Duke: We’re Glad We Knew You” by Herb Fagen, Clyde and Molly Morrison – actor John Wayne’s parents – lived in Waterloo early in their marriage – but they moved to Winterset before the birth of son Marion Mitchell Morrison (he changed his name to John Wayne professionally).
Says Dave Weigel, “I’m not from a small town, but I’m from a pretty anonymous place (Wilmington, Delaware), and I know that when you’ve got a tenuous local connection to a celebrity, you flaunt it.” Someone probably once told her that John Wayne’s parents met in Waterloo and either she wrongly assumed he’d been born there or else she’s fumbling a talking point about John Wayne’s family being from Waterloo. But this is simply too stupid a story to devote any further thought to, so let’s move on.
I agree with Weigel. I’d rather focus on making sure Bachmann doesn’t manage to soften her extremist image enough to get the nomination and have a shot at beating Obama.
The most important part of the speech, according to Jonathan Chait is this:
“We can win in 2012 and we will,” said Bachmann in launching her campaign. “Our voice has been growing louder and stronger. And it is made up of Americans from all walks of life like a three-legged stool. It’s the peace through strength Republicans, and I’m one of them, it’s fiscal conservatives, and I’m one of them, and it’s social conservatives, and I’m one of them. It’s the Tea Party movement and I’m one of them.”
Here’s Chait’s argument:
Bachmann is trying to break out of the box of the social conservative movement candidate and define herself as a mainstream Republican. First, she declares she can win. Then she pledges her fealty to all three issue families of conservatism, leaving social conservatism for last.
One reason commentators have so grossly underestimated her chances is that they have an antiquated model of the Republican Party in their minds. In that model, religious conservatives are a faction set off from the rest of the party. Pat Robertson could finish a strong second in the 1988 Iowa Caucus, but his appeal was completely limited to right-wing Christians brought into politics by social issues. But the religious right has changed — its power to bend the party to its will has decreased, and its focus has largely merged with that of the GOP as a whole, so that the religious right is almost as concerned with economics and foreign policy as with social issues.
Bachmann represents that transformation. She came into politics through Christianity, but has broadened that style of apocalyptic thinking to economics and foreign policy. There is hardly any difference in the way Bachmann warns that Obama’s policies will destroy the traditional family and the way she warns his economic policies will destroy the economy, or that his foreign policy will lead to the triumph of our enemies. And there’s hardly any difference in the way she discusses these issues and the way most other Republicans do. They are all speaking the same apocalyptic language now.
Unfortunately, Chait is right. The Republican party has moved so far to the right that the nutty fringe is now becoming mainstream. If Bachmann runs for President the whole public conversation is going to move even further right. Just look where Obama is now. He’s more conservative than Nixon–hell he’s more conservative economically than Reagan! Reagan worried about unemployment and social security. Obama couldn’t care less if we have 10% unemployment and old people dying in the streets.
But what’s the “progressive” response to all this? Juli Weiner ridicules Bachman’s “favorite metaphor,” the three-legged stool.
Not to be obtuse, but we counted four (4) legs on the metaphoric stool: “peace-through-strength Republicans,” “fiscal conservatives,” “social conservatives,” and “the Tea Party movement.” Is the Tea Party movement the stool itself, and not one of its legs? We’re English majors with no background in carpentry, but we feel confident in our interpretation.
Who knows? Who cares? Not the Republicans in Iowa, and apparently not in Florida either. Do progressives really think Mitt Romney will win primaries in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania over Michele Bachmann? I don’t. Can Romney beat Bachmann in the south? Give me a break! We need to see the serious threat her candidacy poses.
Is the ridicule just because she’s a woman? Because it sure looks like Bachmann is going to get the same treatment that Palin got in 2008. That is a big mistake, in my opinion. And how is the Obama administration responding to Bachmann’s speech? I found this statement from spokesman Ben LaBolt at MSNBC.
Congresswoman Bachmann talks about reclaiming the American Dream but her policies would erode the path to prosperity for middle class families. She voted for a budget plan that would extend tax cuts for the richest Americans on the backs of seniors and the middle class while ending Medicare as we know it. Congresswoman Bachmann introduced legislation to repeal Wall Street oversight – risking a repeat of the financial crisis — and while she voted to preserve subsidies for oil and gas companies she opposes making the investments necessary to enhance America’s competitiveness and create the jobs of the future.
What is Obama doing about those issues? A great big nothing, as far as I can tell. I’m expecting him to give away the store to the Republicans during his “negotiations” on raising the debt limit. If Obama doesn’t offer something besides “I’m less horrible,” we could very well end up with our first woman President–and not the woman we all wanted back in 2008.
Bachmann should not be underestimated.