Wednesday afternoon, all the Republican presidential candidates except Mitt Romney spoke at a town-hall meeting in Greenville, South Carolina, organized by Personhood USA, the hardline anti-abortion group. It should have been Santorum’s sweet spot—after all, no other candidate has made social issues so central to his campaign. The forum seemed designed to amplify his attacks on Romney. Each candidate was questioned for 20 minutes by a panel of three anti-abortion activists, who made frequent reference to Romney’s pro-choice past and his refusal to attend the event. In the end, though, the night might have hurt Santorum most of all.
For one thing, the audience was dominated, unexpectedly, by vocal Ron Paul supporters, with only a small number of visible Santorum fans. That’s a bad sign for the ex-senator, since if he can’t dominate at an anti-abortion gathering, he can’t dominate anywhere. Worse, while hundreds of attendees were inside the Greenville Hilton ballroom, someone was slipping flyers on their windshields warning that when it comes to abortion, Santorum is really a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who doesn’t mean what he says.
The flyers referred to Karen Santorum’s long-term relationship with Tom Allen, an abortion provider in Pittsburgh. The relationship ended after Karen met her future husband Rick. In addition the flyers charged that Santorum had voted to fund Planned Parenthood, without explaining that the funding had been included in an omnibus budget bill. Read the complete text of the flyer here.
Goldberg suggests that Paul supporters are taking a leaf from Karl Rove’s playbook, specifically his well-known strategy of attacking opposition candidates’ greatest strengths.
The letter ended by describing Santorum in terms more often used for Romney. “I’m worried the facts about Rick Santorum won’t get out in time for this South Carolina Primary, and pro-lifers will be fooled into voting someone [sic] like Rick Santorum who DOES NOT share our values,” it says. “He just wants to be President so badly, he’ll say anything to be elected.”
Indeed, if you hadn’t been following the primary, you’d have left the Hilton on Wednesday thinking that Paul, the OB/GYN, was the best-known abortion opponent in the race….Paul doesn’t dwell on this stuff when he’s speaking to libertarian crowds, which may be why some Paul supporters are under the misapprehension that he just wants to return the issue of abortion to the states. In fact, speaking at the Personhood forum, he made it clear that he only wants to do that while working toward an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. He even boasted of his ability to win libertarians to the anti-abortion cause.
Ron Paul was not even at the meeting, but addressed the crowd by video feed. Nevertheless, his supporters dominated the event.
A couple of days ago, I read a fascinating piece about Michele Bachmann by The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. It’s a real eye-opener, and the information in it spurred me on a voyage of discovery across the internet as I tried to understand what happened to this woman to cause her to embrace her bizarre religious beliefs and her extreme right-wing political ideology. For the purposes of this post, I want to focus primarily on Bachmann’s homophobia.
Goldberg begins her article with a particularly vivid episode from Bachmann’s tenure in the Minnesota state senate:
In April 2005, Pamela Arnold wanted to talk to her state senator, Michele Bachmann, who was then running for Congress. A 46-year-old who worked at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Arnold lived with her partner, the famed Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft, on a farm in Scandia, Minnesota. Bachmann was then leading the fight against gay marriage in the state. She’d recently been in the news for hiding in the bushes to observe a gay rights rally at the Capitol. So when members of the Scandia gay community decided to attend one of Bachmann’s constituent forums, Arnold, wanting to make herself visible to her representative, joined them.
A few dozen people showed up at the town hall for the April 9 event, and Bachmann greeted them warmly. But when, during the question and answer session, the topic turned to gay marriage, Bachmann ended the meeting 20 minutes early and rushed to the bathroom. Hoping to speak to her, Arnold and another middle-aged woman, a former nun, followed her. As Bachmann washed her hands and Arnold looked on, the ex-nun tried to talk to her about theology. Suddenly, after less than a minute, Bachmann let out a shriek. “Help!” she screamed. “Help! I’m being held against my will!”
Arnold, who is just over 5 feet tall, was stunned, and hurried to open the door. Bachmann bolted out and fled, crying, to an SUV outside. Then she called the police, saying, according to the police report, that she was “absolutely terrified and has never been that terrorized before as she had no idea what those two women were going to do to her.” The Washington County attorney, however, declined to press charges, writing in a memo, “It seems clear from the statements given by both women that they simply wanted to discuss certain issues further with Ms. Bachmann.”
Bachmann’s anxiety at being confronted by three lesbians was so extreme that instead of either responding to their questions or politely excusing herself and calmly walking away, she screamed, cried, and called the police!
Now let’s look at the previous episode when Bachmann was photographed hiding behind bushes to covertly watch a gay rights rally. The context was that Bachmann had just left the State Senate after proposing a bill to ban gay marriage in Minnesota.
“The state Senate on Thursday rejected an effort to force a floor vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage as thousands of ban opponents rallied outside the Capitol. Sen. Michele Bachmann, the Stillwater Republican who’s led the push for the ban, said Senate Democrats have denied her repeated efforts to get the bill heard. Senate leaders countered that Bachmann, a candidate for the U.S. House, is flouting Senate rules to advance her own political career. At the same time, about 2,500 gays, lesbians and their supporters attended a rally on the Capitol grounds just a few hundred yards away, organized by OutFront Minnesota.” [Star Tribune]
After the move didn’t pan out, Michele took to hiding in the bushes to watch the queers rally
Another story reports that during the hearing 100 of the rally participants
…filed inside the Capitol building and took their place in the Senate gallery overlooking the proceedings. With a crowd on hand, Bachmann issued a motion to bypass the committee and have the floor vote on the bill right then and there–a highly unusual move in state Senate proceedings. Even more bizarre: While making her case, she addressed not the Senate floor as per protocol, but the gallery above.
In my opinion, these out-of-proportion reactions suggest that Bachmann’s extreme homophobia is a cover for deep fears that she has about herself or people close to her. I believe she is unconsciously engaging in the defense mechanism of reaction formation to deal with this anxiety.
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