Mini-Michele Steps Onto the Stage

Editor’s note: I just realized I’ve been spelling “Michele” with two “l”s today; this is why we should have copy editors.  Sorry.

Jeez, she’s tiny.  Everything else aside, are we ready for the first five-foot President?

I’m on a streak when it comes to catching GOP candidates declaring their candidacies; last week I got treated to Jon Huntsman in New Jersey.  Now, I’m watching Michele Bachmann’s coming out party in Waterloo.

So far, I’m underwhelmed:

  • Bad stagecraft – the flags and signage are poorly positioned for the cameras
  • Bad speechwriting – as with Mr. Huntsman’s announcement, I’m left wondering if Ms. Bachmann read this speech aloud before today
  • Bad delivery – She’s getting better as she gets into it, but her delivery is rushed and a little flat.

Let’s give Ms. Bachmann and her handlers a little break; this is the biggest stage they’ve ever played and in days of yore a lot of this would have been worked out in less of a glare (the first press conference I ever staged I set the camera angles to give a great shot right up the candidate’s nose but fortunately it was only covered by two stations in Hannibal, MO).

Biggest applause lines so far:

  • “I’m a social conservative.”
  • “I’m a member of the Tea Party.”
  • “Barack Obama will be a one-term president.” This one has become such a signature line for Ms. Bachmann that the audience did a sing-along with her as she spoke it.

She’s reminding the audience of the sacrifice of the Sullivan brothers who grew up in Waterloo and who died in the sinking of the Juneau in World War II.  This set up her call to action close for sacrifice and common purpose.

And we’re done.  Ms. Bachmann is doing the waves and hugs at the lectern to the strains of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”  As an aside, I hope Mr. Petty gets residuals from all the politicians who have appropriated his music for political events.  Same for Mr. Springsteen.

We’ve now segued into Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine”. Followed by the classic “I Feel Good” by James Brown and the Stones’ “Start Me Up”  Ms. Bachmann said in her remarks that she wasn’t trying to turn back the clock, but from a musical perspective, it’s 1980 again.

Musical update.  We’ve gotten up to the 21st century – almost – with Jennifer Lopez’ “Lets Get Loud, U2’s “Beautiful Day” and Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”

This performance was quite restrained in contrast with other Bachmann outings I’ve seen – no “gangsters,” no “anti-Americanisms.”  In fact, much of the red meat one has come to expect from Ms. Bachmann was missing. All in all, however, a decent coming out, significantly better than Mr. Huntsman’s in terms of energy and excitement.  Jason Lewis, who did the introduction, will no doubt have an enjoyable second career for a while as crowd-whipper in chief.  Based on this event, the new Iowa poll and her widely praised performance in the New Hampshire debate, Ms. Bachmann has clearly been on a roll in the last couple of weeks.

Poor Tim Pawlenty.  Like the Highlander series, there can only be one Minnesotan in this race and the very early betting on who’s head will be taken is on Mr. Pawlenty.

- Austin

62 Responses

  1. Okay, she’s absurd, but what does it say about the mentality of those who endorse her? It’s like…surrealistic.

    • I hope she gets the nomination! (Never Never Land, here we come!)

      • Yes, exactly. Like a character out of Lewis G, Caroll, the creation of a drug-addled brain. Seriously, for this person to have achieved political prominence is frightening isn’t it? We’re supposed to be a highly educated country aren’t we? Personally, I have no idea anymore.

      • Why is it frightening? You think her level of education is lacking? Or her voters?

        What’s your level of education?

  2. “We can win in 2012 and we will. 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.”

    Apparently there are 4 legs on Michelle’s 3 legged stool.

  3. To EriK–I Understand Ms. Bachman has been educated and in her own way may be considered bright, but I’m too lazy to consult her bio. I should say that I personally find her politically and philosophically scary. Perhaps you, and I gather many others are in fact her advocates. Although, she’s such a stomach churner for me I’m certain to find that advocacy incomprehensible even you attempted to explain it. Thanks for asking. I had some fine years at Highland Elementary right here in the heart of St. Paul.

    • I can explain it very simply, so that might be worth doing as a matter of testing our various levels of comprehension. You know… just for the sake of irony.

      In any event, it’s not unreasonable that those who say Bachmann and her supporters are crazy, dumb, and frightening are asked to make a compelling case to demonstrate that.

      So that’s what I’m asking.

      • Thank you again Erik. I doubt if anyone said here–yet–that those who support Bachmann are “dumb” or “crazy” and I attempted to clarify that I “personally” find her philosophically and politically frightening. That I also find her support incomprehensible is, I admit, my problem. Clearly there are those who find Ms. Bachmann to be their answer to many questions and ills. Maybe you are one of them. You didn’t say–in so many words. Then again, it could be the condescending smirk immutably painted on her face that really disturbs me. But that view-point I know won’t hold up in my sixth-grade civics class.Mr. Gore would shot me down big-time. Heck, I’m just passing time now and adding nothing to the conversation. Your ball.

  4. What’s frightening about her having been elected?

    Say I’m pro-life, pro-gun, pro- laissez fair free market, anti-tax (these are mainstream political positions by the way), but woulda nonetheless been swayed by an argument re her fitness for office here in the 6th district. Maybe I’m just not as strident as Bachmann in other ways. What in Bachmann’s history would’ve made me vote for Wetterling, Tink, or Clark?

    What am I supposed to have been frightened of?

  5. Erik, whether the issue is quality of the education, critical analysis ability, willingness to do homework, honesty, common sense, wisdom, self-restraint, or something else, statements like the following (and many others) do give me pause:

    “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”

    “There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.”

    “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”

    “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?”

    “The President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day.”

    “Does that mean that someone’s 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus? That night, mom and dad are never the wiser.”

    “And what a bizarre time we’re in, when a judge will say to little children taht you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.”

    • Joe, you may not have been exposed to this…and we can go on to have a conversation about epistemic closure…. but on the right there is a bit of a cottage industry devoted to chronicling Obama’s gaffes. ’57 states’ is one. That’s kind of benign. Doctors lopping off tonsils to pad their incomes, unnecessary surgeries – that’s another, Obamacare related. Most recently it was ATM’s causing unemployment.

      Now, I know you can usurp my observation here by using the post modern, no moral equivalence argument. IE, Bachmann is a conservative, and therefore not a good person, so her actions / speech are more malevolent… but the fact of the matter is they all engage in hyperbole, and they all slip up.

      • Reasonable people can debate whether doctors with a financial incentive to do tonselectomies are doing too many. From January 2011 USA Today:

        No surgery for moderate tonsillitis, new guidelines say
        By Ellin Holohan HealthDay

        Doctors should use antibiotics and a wait-and-see approach when treating repeated throat infections in children and resort to a tonsillectomy only in the most severe cases, new medical guidelines suggest.

        A panel of experts formed to address the costs and risks of unnecessary tonsillectomies — surgical removal of the tonsils — found that most children with frequent sore throats get better without surgery.

        But for patients with moderate cases of throat infection, tonsillectomy may be unnecessary and even dangerous, the panel finds. Risks include the possibility of hemorrhage, anesthesia complications, trauma to the jaw, infection, airway damage and, in rare cases, death.

        Instead of rushing into surgery, the Academy of Otolaryngology guidelines recommends a cautious approach for children who have had fewer than seven infections during the past year, fewer than five a year over the past two years, and fewer than three annually over the past three years. (Parents should keep at-home records of children’s health history, the panel says).”

        In contrast, there isn’t a serious debate to be had about whether too much CO2 is harmful, judges are mandating pediatric homosexual experimentation or Democratic Presidents are causing Swine Flu. That’s pure silliness.

      • Don’t forget ATMs. Whats the explanation for that

      • In a discussion about structural unemployment, here is what Obama said:

        ANN CURRY (host, NBC’s Today): You’re here encouraging private sector hiring. This just after The New York Times just past — this past Friday reported that since the recovery began, businesses have spent just 2 percent more on hiring people, while at the same time spending 26 percent more on equipment. So why, at a time when corporate America is enjoying record profits have you been unable to convince businesses to hire more people, Mr. President?

        OBAMA: Well, I don’t think it’s a matter of me being unable to convince them to hire more people. They’re making decisions based on what they think will be good for their companies. A couple of things have happened. Look, we went through the worst crisis since the Great Depression. We are now in a process where the economy is growing again, and we’ve created 2 million jobs over the last 15 months. But it’s not as fast as it needs to be to make up for all the jobs that were lost.

        The other thing that happened, though, and this goes to the point you were just making, is there are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM; you don’t go to a bank teller. Or you go to the airport, and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate. So all these things have created changes in the economy, and what we have to do now — and that’s what this job council is all about — is identifying where the jobs for the future are going to be; how do we make sure that there’s a match between what people are getting trained for and the jobs that exist; how do we make sure that capital is flowing into those places with the greatest opportunity. We are on the right track. The key is figuring out how do we accelerate it..”

        It sounds like Obama is using ATM’s as one example of the types of technology-driven efficiencies that impact employment patterns, and that seems like a fair point. If he is out there saying “ATMs are the major cause of unemployment,” I would classify that as silliness too, but I haven’t seen reports of him saying that.

      • I think he’s saying that too, but it’s an extremely poor way to make an observation about structural unemployment. It reveals someone who’s not really that conversant about economics. I mean, I know he’s the smartest man ever born but…

      • Don’t we want a president who can see the difference between unemployment caused by temporary economic dislocation and that which is caused by structural changes in the economy like the massive increase in productivity made possible by factors like technology? I think his examples are spot on and appropriate for the audience who might not see the changes in a manufacturing environment (because they don’t work in one) but have had the personal experience of using an ATM or a ticketing kiosk.

        It’s an added benefit that he can do so extemporaneously in a free-flowing interview with a professional journalist. Other politicians might run from such an interview to Tweet about “gotcha” questions and the “lamestream media,” (or go on the network that pays you as a “contributor” to do clean-up) but – to his credit – Mr. Obama is willing to have an intellectual discussion in which the outcome is not predetermined.

        He may not be the smartest man on Earth, but he’s a grown-up who doesn’t talk exclusively in sound bites. I have yet to see a Republican candidate – except maybe Mr. Huntsman – who seems to play on the same plane.

        – Austin

  6. Ms. Bachmann is an unremarkable political figure who had done little of import until the Chris Matthews’ Hardball interview in October 2008 in which she questioned the patriotism of Barack Obama. In the wake of that appearance, I give her credit for having the “intelligence” to recognize that saying outrageous things was a way to raise her profile (and her fundraising) among a segment of the populace looking for ways to express their unhappiness with things. This is the basis for her presidential candidacy.

    In my mind, hers is the same sort of appeal-to-the-lowest-common-denominator intelligence that has brought us Snooki and the Real Housewives of Wherever. Fear and anger are the easiest emotions to provoke and Ms. Bachmann is little more than the most recent example of this phenomenon (and hardly the worst).

    Had she chosen to stay in the 6th District, her ability to do harm would have been mostly limited to the residents of her district, but her seeking the presidency changes the game. IMHO she is dangerous because she appears to believe there are simple solutions to the complex issues the country faces, because she would seek to impose her narrow social agenda on me and my family and because I see no evidence that her positions are anything but the most reflexive sort of conservatism.

    The people who scare me most as leaders are those who have no doubts, who see things in black and white and who demonstrate a “means justify the end” sort of mentality. Ms. Bachmann – like her (former?) BFF Sara Palin – scores dangerously high on all three scales.

    – Austin

    • This would take the form of a theocracy right? Gays to the concentration camps? Things like that?

      My point with Dennis was essentially the same. Screeds like this are reality illiterate.

      • Not sure that I care to find out the specifics but I’m fairly confident that a society ordered to Ms. Bachmann’s preferences would be less tolerant, less diverse, less dynamic and less socially fluid.

        – Austin

  7. Hmm….”Epistemic closure” and “post modern moral equivalence” are kind of over my head, but thanks Eric for throwing them in. Sounds cool. What’s curious to me is the capacity for the advocates to find uttlerly insignificant the type of statement–Loveland stirring things up above–that underscore so emphatically Ms. Bachmann’s–what?–peculiar form of logic. I find myself researching a little paper on a self-proclaimed guru. The true-believer is able to disregard the least evidence contrary to the belief, so committed to the belief, rationality is ieter discarded or a new rationale created to conform to the belief.

    • I was writing to Loveland, and it is my sense he gets my reference.

      True believers? So she’s a Nazi? What?

      This is the thing. You ninnies want to indulge in these fantasies, but you don’t want to own them lest you look absurd.

      • Erik –You’re getting a little odd. But, must be something to be said for passionate belief, and you’ve fueled the conversation. Good work!

      • I’m perfectly happy to own my concerns, absurd or otherwise. To be clear: Ms. Bachmann is a dangerous wannabe leader in the vein of Jesse Ventura, Ross Perot, Sara Palin, Huey Long and others. I’m less concerned about her conservatism (hence why her predecessors come from all over the political spectrum) than I am about her certainty in her rightness, her infusion of her religious beliefs into her public duties and her apparently sincere belief that there are simple answers to the questions of the day.

        – Austin

      • Thats fair and clear, and not lazy code language.

  8. PS – I’m totally bummed nobody has complimented me on my “Tim the Highlander” mashup!

  9. Well, she did come out four square in favor of John Wayne Gacy, and even serial killers need love.

    • How so? How did she do that?

    • Oh, and a couple chortles would be good for effect.

      No really, how did she do that?

      • I could be wrong about this, but according to Colbert (see where i get my facts?), John Wayne is not from Waterloo IA (as Michele stated), but John Wayne Gacy is…..get it?

      • Yes, she confused Winterset with Waterloo. Not Gacy for Wayne. She did not confuse Gacy for Wayne. This is a matter of truth.

        You have no misgivings about being invested in this sleight of hand PM? Cuz you gotta be a habitual auto-erotic self-aphyxiater to make this work mentally. It’s really that stupid. And I’d like to not be so derisive, but again, it’s really that stupid.

        This anecdote doesn’t speak well of anyone who relates it…. But we’re supposed to believe this reflects poorly on Bachmann’s intelligence…

        http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/06/what-do-michele-bachmann-and-a-serial-killer-have-in-common.php

      • Oh, come on, Erik–where is your sense of humor?

        I saw this on Colbert–which (here I am going to let you in on a secret) really isn’t a serious right wing talk show. It is a parody. Of course, in many parodies, there is an element of truth. The element of truth here is that Michele Bachmann is more than a little bit weird, as is true of many people. And, as a general rule, the farther you go out on the political spectrum (either to the right or to the left), the weirder they get. Michele is pretty far out on that right wing spectrum, and she is more than a little bit weird. that makes her a legitimate object for parody, and it also makes her (and Colbert) funny.

        Of course, it also allows those on the right to play the victim card–they (and Republican women) are being hounded to death, get no respect, from Democrats, and the Democrats are all real misogynists anyway–what a double standard! So much for the womens rights movement–it was all just a political attempt to take our freedoms away anyway! See, we were right to oppose this in the first place, because it was only rights for democratic women. Victimology 101. It was fun watching Hannity do this last night. Except that Hannity doesn’t know that he really is a parody–of himself!

        to paraphrase the immortal words of John “riggo” Riggens to Sandra Day O’Connor: “Come on, Erik baby, loosen up. You’re too tight!”

      • I’m hilarious PM. Really.

        My sense is most lefties who embrace the Gacy anecdote take it seriously, like ol’ Sherm there in one of the prior posts (chortle, chortle). I haven’t been disproven in any meaningful way. To say it’s all just a joke is timid dismissiveness.

    • Well, she did come out for the John Wayne from Waterloo which, unless there’s a John Wayne Olson who we should know about, is John Wayne Gacy.

      The real point is the one Ron Carey just made: she’s incompetent. In the first place this was a totally gratuitous remark, one there was no reason for her to make. Anyone keeping a sound bite in her back pocket ought to have a staff that’s good enough to make sure the sound bite is not something that will make he look foolish.

      I’m not that enthusiastic about the idolization of John Wayne since she seems to share the Reagan problem of confusing movies with history, but he wasn’t a serial killer.

      • The real point is a fair point, but you’re rationalizing so that you can flog this stupid hobby horse. Its insipid.

        Easily solved by trying to make the real point.

  10. Bachmann’s gaffes don’t begin to come close to Biden’s, in number and level of absurdity.

    The fact is, when you make a career of talking to the media (sans teleprompter), you’re prone to making gaffes.

    Bachmann is a trained as a tax attorney. She’s no fool. You hate her values and you use her gaffes as fodder.

    • I’m not concerned about fleeting mistakes, or slip-ups that the speaker immediately recants because they know what they said was in error, or in poor taste. See Biden calling health reform a “big f-ing deal” or asking the paralyzed guy to stand to be recognized. Or see Bachmann making a statement that sounded as if she thought the Founding Fathers ended slavery, when she clearly knows they didn’t. I agree with you, Newt, that happens to anyone who speaks a lot. Those gaffes are good for a laugh, but we all know that Bachmann knows slavery wasn’t ended in the early years of the nation and that she just made an honest slip of the tongue. That’s not my concern.

      Beyond fleeting slip-ups, are gross misunderstandings that the speaker persistently clings to despite a clear body of evidence to the contrary. CO2 is harmless, judges teach homosexuality, Intelligent Design has the backing of top scientists. Bachmann doesn’t say she slipped up when she said those things. She sticks by them because she doesn’t think she slipped up. That’s her version of reality, and her denial of a mountain of evidence is my concern.

      So let’s consider in-the-moment slip-ups and persistent misunderstandings in separate categories, because they are qualitatively very different. They have different implications in terms of ability to lead.

    • It is not that i hate her values, but rather that she seeks to impose her values on me. I do not want to live in John Wayne’s America. I do not think that Hollywood is a good source of inspiration for how we might like society to look.

  11. I am shocked–Shocked!!–that there is as yet no reference to this article on Michelle:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/michele-bachmanns-holy-war-20110622

    • I was going to get to that. Fact of the matter is the amount of racists in Stillwater is a very under reported story, and the local collusion and feel-goodism is such that it takes an out of towner like Taibbi to pull away the veil so to speak. It’s probably 85% racists in Stillwater, but you’d never know it by reading what passes for local coverage.

      • Wow, I’m going to have to go back and read that article again! I thought it was just an indictment of Michele, not the entire town of Stillwater!

        Thanks, Erik–say, by any chance are you from Stillwater yourself? Is that how you know that everyone there (well, 85% or so) is a racist?

      • I see Eric’s point. I think the Rolling Stone author said something like “Stillwater is 95% white, which made it a perfect place for a Bachmann to rise to prominence.” Something like that. That does sound close to code language for “Stillwater is racist,” or at least white-centric, and that’s not a well supported assertion. Bachmann, for all her faults, doesn’t seem to be all that focused on race issues or race-based appeals, so Stillwater’s backing of her really isn’t particularly compelling evidence of Stillwater’s relative level of racism.

        Pieces like this Rolling Stone article go too far, I think. About 80% of the observations are very insightful observations, written beautifully. But he writes a lot of things to be entertaining, clever and colorful that are too personal or go too far for my tastes. Titanium balls dangling below skirt. Marriage built on Christian mission instead of love. Most Bachmann backers think Obama is the Anti-Christ from the Left Behind series. That stuff makes me cringe. At some point, the over-generalizations and artistic license makes pieces like this more cartoon than journalism.

    • Taibbi is part of a breed of Eastern elitist journalists whose contempt for middle America is off the charts. He reminds me of a visiting NY magazine writer I worked with who sniffed, “Why are there so many white people in Minnesota?” She went on to trash everything about us in print. The magazine died 12 months later.

      Sounds like Taibbi plagiarized his entire article from City Pages anyway. A talentless, raging, Vicodin-fueled asshole.

  12. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Michele’s husband was on the Medicaid dole! Sucking at the federal teat, eh?

    http://www.salon.com/news/michele_bachmann/index.html?story=/opinion/walsh/politics/2011/06/28/bachmann_gets_medicaid_subsidies

  13. Absolutely love this dialogue folks and all the thoughtful links and citations–the Crowd as always does its homework! And how can anyone not have an affection for the one apparently contrarian voice of Mr. Peterson as he’s assaulted by “evidence” from all sides that to me anyway raises serious issues over Ms. Bachmann’s competancy–and ability to basically even think clearly? Somewhere above, Erik says he hasn’t been “disproven”. Erik you were referring to what exactly (and I’m not asking rhetorically)?

    • Far be it for me to speak for Erik, but he might simply be asserting that Ms. Bachmann did not actually mistake John Wayne for John Wayne Gacy. Or perhaps he is asserting that Ms. Bachmann is not a supporter of John Wayne Gacy.

      Not exactly a high bar, but one I personally feel certain Ms. Bachmann ought to be able to step over handily.

      • You’ve paraphrased me OK. Note, qualitatively it’s substantially more than an assertion. Bachmann did not mistake Wayne for Gacy. She never said Gacy. Nor is she a supporter of Gacy. We’re talking truth…veritas…. fantasy…reality.

        She conflated Waterloo for Winterset. The Gacy part was made up by Colbert or someone else. This is not a bar she tripped over.

        I assert that a liberal who embraces the Gacy anecdote is kinda slow…dim…stupid.

      • She grew up there. When’s the last time anyone who grew up in St. Paul conflated it with St. Cloud? Give me a break.

  14. Ah, Thanks for the clarification Erik. That explains it. And as always gratitude to PM for the interpretation.

  15. More mangling of history by Ms. Bachmann. can’t seem to get her Adam’s straight–even with the facts in front of her. And does not seem to understand much about history, or slavery, for that matter.

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/06/look-shes-improving-ctd.html

    Well, maybe as none of this is in the bible….

  16. Do you guys differentiate between gaffes, slip ups, white lies, outright lies, mischaracterizations, misinterpretations, hyperbole, exaggerations, stupidity and material falsehoods?

    Bachmannisms pale in comparison to the utterances of Gore, Biden, Pelosi. Admit it.

  17. I wonder, given that Michele Bachmann’s political rise is centrally based on opposition to gay marriage, if she will be able to successfully morph into something else, or if the rapid acceptance of gay marriage will doom her.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/days-are-numbered-for-opponents-of-marriage-equality/2011/03/04/gIQAv6kD2H_blog.html?wprss=plum-line

    It will be interesting to see just how adroit she really is–can she start to downplay her opposition to gay marriage in order to move to the center, or not?

  18. and this, too:

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