Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bachmann's "macaca" moment

Usually when politicians talk, all that can hope to be discerned is doublespeak and talking points. They are so scripted and mechanical, news anchors have to try extremely hard to pry anything real from their lips. This was not the case when Michele Bachmann decided to make her first appearance on “Hardball” a memorable one. She was very, very excited to talk about terrorists, leftists, liberals, and anti-Americans, combining them all into some strange soup, and stirring it by dropping Barack Obama’s name into the middle, and adding a layer of white foam from her frothy mouth. All host Chris Matthews had to do was ask the obvious follow-up questions, and by the end of the interview Bachmann’s re-election chances had veered into the darkness.

The show opened with Matthews playing a clip from a McCain “robo call” linking Obama and liberals to terrorists like Weather Underground co-founder Bill Ayers. Bachmann was asked to comment on this. She too attempted to connect Obama with Ayers and even complained that the (liberal) news media had not done enough to expose this relationship.

When Matthews asked why this was any concern, given the other important problems this country is facing, Bachmann again said that Obama’s associations with Reverend Wright, and Ayers call into question his character. But then she made a subtle transition by also mentioning his liberal associations—Joe Biden, Harry Reed, Nancy Pelosi, essentially lumping liberals, terrorists, and anti-Americans all into one happy family.

Matthews then asked, “If you have liberal views, does that mean you have anti-American views? What’s the connection? I don’t get the connection? What’s the connection between liberal and leftist and anti-American? If you’re a liberal are you anti-American?”

Bachmann claimed that people like Ayers, Rev. Wright, and even Michele Obama were “over the top anti-American.”

Matthews asked “So you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-American views?” Bachmann was so excited to answer this question that she cut Matthews off at the end with an enthusiastic, “Absolutely! I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.”

Matthews then attempted to help Bachmann clarify what she meant. Are all liberals anti-American? Bachmann continued to hammer away at Obama’s associations, including Tony Rezko.

“I thought he was a business guy, I didn’t know he was a leftest,” Matthews said.

“Yeah, that’s troubling too,” Bachmann said.

When asked how many others in Congress Bachmann suspects could be anti-American, she called for a news media investigation to run a “penetrating exposé” and find out who in Congress has pro-American or anti-American views.

Bachmann’s statements don’t require much commentary, but Colin Powell found them interesting and derided them as “nonsense” on October 19. “This business of…a congressman from Minnesota who’s going around saying, ‘Let’s examine all congressmen to see who’s pro-America and who’s not pro-America. We have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and our diversity.” He also stated that his decision to endorse Obama was driven, in part, by comments like those made by Representative Michele Bachmann.

Powell's thoughts aside, Bachmann he has always been known as a hard-line conservative. She is demonstratively pro-Bush, embarrassing herself by swooning over him after his 2007 State of the Union speech. Honestly, I don’t find her “liberals are dangerous anti-Americans” line all that surprising. Conservatives have been employing this tone for decades. But what's odd is that she'd try it in 2008, a year when Republicans everywhere are ducking for cover. And what’s laughable is her call for the media to investigate Congress. The media, an institution Bachmann surely considers liberal and elite (and anti-American), so much so she believes they are uninterested in investigating Obama's own "terrorist" ties.

But it’s OK to talk about associations and draw inferences from them. Obama was eight years old when Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground. Twenty years later Obama sat on an education board with him. Obama seemed so unconcerned about this “association” that he freely took a few minutes to talk about it during the last debate, nationally televised. Compare this with McCain's association with the Keating Five scandal, which has a direct tie to banking deregulation. Or Sarah Palin’s husband Todd, who was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party from 1995-2006, a group whose founder was so definitively "anti-American" that he refused to be buried under the American Flag (he was buried in Canada). Which of these three matter most?

The 2008 answer is actually none of them. People really don’t care about what clubs others were a part of, considering the fantastic array of problems this country is facing today. If you looked at any person’s life you’d find associations that seem questionable. People are willing to let Todd and Sarah Palin slide for sending Christmas cards to a succession group. In the same way they’re willing to look the other way that Obama has no meaningful link to Bill Ayers. What they want now, above all is, competence, and that is trumping race or religion or associations. And that is what makes Bachmann and her comments look so incredibly tired and outdated.

Why Bachmann, who was all but penciled in for re-election in November, ever went on Hardball is anyone’s guess. She claimed she was not familiar with the format of the show. This seems incredulous, but if taken as true, makes her seem extra foolish for going on with so much to loose. Matthews needed someone to defend McCain and Palin and he got Bachmann? My only guess, bolstered by her enthusiastic tone, was that she was thrilled to shed light on just how anti-American Barack Obama and all the other liberals in Congress really are. The rest is television history.

Bachmann’s appearance was so strident, so over-the-top, and so inflammatory, it reminds me of George Allan calling a Democratic supporter “macaca.” After that slur hit the airwaves, the arrogant Allen's campaign was derailed. He lost a few weeks later to Democrat Jim Web. Rule number one: you never open your mouth unless you know what the shot is. Since Bachmann’s appearance on Hardball, the race for her seat has grown increasingly close with challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg (hampered by a terrible name). That the district's polling has gone to toss-up status shows people care less about inane attempts to connect well-known political figures to revolutionaries, then they do about the tired absurdities tumbling out of a politician's empty head.


According to the AP:

National Republicans have yanked TV advertising for Bachmann's re-election bid after she suggested Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may have "anti-American" views and urged an investigation of unpatriotic lawmakers.

Bachmann is one of four at-risk Republican incumbents left to fend for themselves by a cash-strapped House campaign arm in the crucial final days of the campaign amid a tough political environment for the GOP . The National Republican Campaign Committee has also canceled planned TV ads to help GOP Reps. Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado, Tom Feeney in Florida and Joe Knollenberg in Michigan, spokeswoman Karen Hanretty confirmed.

Looks like her career may be coming to an end. It's time to vote her out. She never should have been there in the first place.

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