Why Michelle Bachmann is No Fun to Pick On

Sarah Palin spoiled the media. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say she spoiled the public, who spoiled the media with their patronage whenever they covered her. In either case, the woman was endlessly fascinating. From that line in her 2008 RNC convention speech about not seeking the media’s good opinion, she assumed a fighting stance that could turn into plain insolence. When Joe Biden heard her ask him if she could call him Joe, he must have harumphed to himself that he’d been serving in the Senate since she was in a training bra, and that for her to be in a position to call him anything was a national scandal.

Since then, she’s been predictably unpredictable, re-writing her 2008 campaign itinerary, resigning Alaska’s governorship, tweeting to the masses, starring in a TLC reality show. With each of these moves, detractors told themselves that here, at last, was proof positive that she was an unelectable flake. But there remained the fear that what looked like self–indulgence might also represent a revolutionary approach to campaigning. Until recently, it seemed quite possible that Palin might, in the end, ascend the presidential podium to the strains of “My Way.”

With Michelle Bachmann, the GOP’s new front-runner, the formula just doesn’t work. Maybe it should. Bachmann has all the raw materials of Palinhood. As a conservative woman who opposes abortion and gay marriage, she’s fishing with the same bait that served Palin so well. If anything, Bachmann’s explicit and wholesale rejection of feminism sets her well to Palin’s right. If the media were the master agenda-setters and opinion-makers their critics take them for, then Bachmann’s strong showing in the Iowa straw poll should have raised her profile to Palinesque heights. But it hasn’t. Bachmann might yet be president, but she’ll never be a star.

In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi sums it up very neatly when he said that Bachmann is “the right kind of…crazy.” He means that, while her views may be extreme, her behavior is utterly conventional. As a speaker, she’s upbeat but dignified, warm but restrained, optimistic but not messianic. In Iowa, she praised “John Wayne’s America,” which strikes Salon’s Alex Pareene as “not far from being a white-supremacist dog whistle.” Pareene could be right — the Duke did fight Native Americans and Japanese — but delivered without a wide-eyed barracuda grin, the point just doesn’t carry.

Dwelling overlong on a female candidate’s appearance is dirty pool, but it’s still part of the game as we know it. (At least it’s a bipartisan affair: searching Google for “Hillary + Clinton + Cankles” turns up 24,500 results.) Whereas Sarah Palin has been compared to a sexy librarian and a slutty flight attendant, Taibbi once again has Bachmann’s number when he compares her to a Stepford wife — meaning, she’s well-maintained, even-featured and soignée, but not in any way saucy.

This week, Palin appears on the cover of Newsweek in a form-fitting sweatshirt. She is thrusting her bowsprit toward the camera — and toward the reader. Bachmann might one day feel obliged to follow suit. Newsweek’s Julia Baird warns of “an insistent, increasingly excitable focus on the supposed hotness of Republican women in the public eye.” But Bachmann’s heart wouldn’t be in it, any more than shooting the breeze over a Yngling beer likely engaged Obama’s. When Palin first emerged on the national stage, Abstinence Teacher author Tom Perrotta wrote that she embodied a familiar American archetype, the sexy puritan. “Sexy Puritans,“ Perrotta explains:

“engage in the culture war on two levels—not simply by advocating conservative positions on hot-button social issues but by embodying nonthreatening mainstream standards of female beauty and behavior at the same time. The net result is a paradox, a bit of cognitive dissonance very useful to the cultural right: You get a little thrill along with your traditional values, a wink along with the wagging finger.”

Not bad for a start, but Perrotta fails to acknowledge diversity within the species. It’s hard to pull off both halves of the act — the wink and the wagged finger — with equal conviction. It’s natural to stress one over the other. If Palin, like the young Britney Spears, is more of a winker, Bachmann, like Anita Bryant, is more of a wagger. That may be the safer choice. Waggers may be less eye-catching than winkers, but they’re also less vulnerable to charges of manipulation.

Compared to Palin’s, Bachmann’s gaffes are also less titillating. Though Palin does not lack for native intelligence, her knowledge has always been practical and parochial. In Blind Allegiance: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years, former Palin aide Frank Bailey claims Palin fumbled Katie Couric’s infamous question — “Which papers do you read?” — because an honest answer would have consisted solely of Alaskan papers. Palin came to seem, in Peggy Noonan’s words, “rather proud” to be judged ignorant by the media, since “it was proof of her authenticity.” Henry Ford dismissed history as bunk; Palin might add half a dozen other disciplines to the list. It’s as though she’s waging war on knowledge as we know it.

Aside from her perhaps over-publicized confusion regarding men named John, Bachmann is bedeviled most by details. And even that may be her choice. Of the “Top 12 Bachmann Gaffes” listed by newser, most look more than anything like spin, or strategic misrepresentation. For example, Bachmann once stated that, in 1961, the national debt came only to $300 billion, and a gallon of gasoline sold for only $0.31. True enough, says newser, until you adjust for inflation. Then, gas prices start to look more like $2.25. The debt still accounted for 55% of our GDP. “So she has a point,” concludes newswer, “but the difference is not nearly as dramatic as she’s implying.” Still awake?

And in her own subtle way, Bachmann is bedeviling the media. Since her trip to Iowa, many of Palin’s old enemies have offered Bachmann Palin’s seat of danger. In reporting her mixing-up of John Wayne’s birthplace with John Wayne Gacy’s, Salon photoshopped a clown’s nose — presumably a reference to Gacy’s favorite legal creative outlet — onto Bachmann’s picture. Playing the closest thing they could find to the Bristol card, or even the Trig birther card, Jon Stewart and Dan Savage have suggested, with varying degrees of earnestness, that Bachmann’s husband Marcus is gay.

But it doesn’t seem to be taking — not really. In contrast to Palin’s approach, Bachmann hasn’t swung back or made any serious attempt to rally her troops and keep the story going. When called on her misstatement that the Founding Fathers had “worked tirelessly” to end slavery, she smiled serenely, cited John Quincy Adams who had been “a young boy” during the nation’s foundation years, and who worked to end slavery as an adult. For her, that counted. Knowing he was licked, George Stephanopolous moved on to the next question. Like the kid said in the Connect Four commercial, pretty sneaky, Sis.

Heading up Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone profile is a caricature in which a a wild-eyed Bachmann, clad in armor, brandishes a sword and a Bible. Except for the Bible, this is not really a picture of Bachmann at all; it’s a picture of Sarah Palin with Bachmann’s face, or something like it. If the media really expect to rattle Bachmann, they’re going to have to put that kind of wishful thinking to bed. They’re dealing with an altogether different animal with altogether different weaknesses. Unless the media can sound those out, they may have to get used to another conservative president who, after the manner of Reagan, dresses for success in Teflon.

UPDATE: Hot Air and Instapundit just linked me. Thank you, kind sirs!

Instapundit:

Hotair:

  • Melody

    “The real Bachman problem is going to be her presence for some years in an apparently anti-Catholic church.” I’ve been mulling over the question of her former denomonational affiliation for several days. I think I’ve finally figured out why it is bugging me. I don’t agree with Bachman on a number of things, and have already decided that I probably won’t be voting for her in the primaries. But I don’t hate her, or anything. I guess it doesn’t shock me that evangelical/fundamental Protestants hold the views expressed by the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod. Some of my own relatives hold those views. I am a lifelong Catholic, but I am on good terms with all of them and we don’t argue religion, we take a “live and let live” approach. I think it would have been better for Bachman to stay in the church she had been such a longtime member of, rather than try to distance herself from it. It is what it is. She could make the point that, yes, her denomination has these beliefs, but she is personally committed to treating all Americans equally without prejudice to their religious beliefs or lack of them. Catholics don’t exactly have a perfect record for religious tolerance through all periods of history, either.

  • Melody

    “The real Bachman problem is going to be her presence for some years in an apparently anti-Catholic church.” I’ve been mulling over the question of her former denomonational affiliation for several days. I think I’ve finally figured out why it is bugging me. I don’t agree with Bachman on a number of things, and have already decided that I probably won’t be voting for her in the primaries. But I don’t hate her, or anything. I guess it doesn’t shock me that evangelical/fundamental Protestants hold the views expressed by the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod. Some of my own relatives hold those views. I am a lifelong Catholic, but I am on good terms with all of them and we don’t argue religion, we take a “live and let live” approach. I think it would have been better for Bachman to stay in the church she had been such a longtime member of, rather than try to distance herself from it. It is what it is. She could make the point that, yes, her denomination has these beliefs, but she is personally committed to treating all Americans equally without prejudice to their religious beliefs or lack of them. Catholics don’t exactly have a perfect record for religious tolerance through all periods of history, either.

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  • Mark81150

    Indeed, the raging hypocrisy is stunning, nothing Obama did, not his words, not his church, his pastor. are of any concern….

    But we’re supposed to fear those “extremist” conservative women who reject “feminism” in it’s deeply rooted left wing orthodoxy…. this article like all the ones in the MSM share the same bigoted hysteria against all women conservatives… They MUST conform to liberal values, or be labeled nutjobs by concern troll journalists…( If only… sigh,.. but those darn conservatives continue to have opinions we find objectionable..) .. I’ll tell you what, when you can show a little humility about the extremist views of this president, the lamestream media and it’s fixation on any gaff as proof that our conservative women are somehow unfit for an office that this president has soiled repeatedly with rank incompetence, crass hyper partisanship so intense only the most delusional of his supporters refuse to see it.

    Just another conservative women are dangerous to the Republic, but progressives are a saintly breed no matter how much worse their flaws are.. puff piece.

    Your definition of feminist isn’t ours,.. my daughter and wife are fine with it, and I’m at ease with a Bachman or Palin presidency..

    What’s truly offensive, is the false narrative that to be a woman for equality equals total and complete submission to the extremist left wing agenda.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000911456240 Buck Taylor

    and she will be out before the new yr. watch and wait

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000911456240 Buck Taylor

    mr dna , which one is you

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000911456240 Buck Taylor

    the reporter here should join the other reporter in a lonely theatre.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000911456240 Buck Taylor

    bachmann no chance palin every chance game will be on soon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000911456240 Buck Taylor

    get ready brian. a hurricane is going to blow in within 6 wks. game on

  • Mark81150

    Careful my friend,….. wouldn’t want to upset the locals with facts they conveniently have forgotten to mention.. like the perpetual gaff machine in the White House…

    tsh,…. we’re supposed to think only republicans and conservatives make gaffs…

    That gaffs are signs of extremism and low grade intelligence… except when Obama or that walking pinball machine Biden are doing it. Liberals love to define conservatives as angry,.. they are correct only in the sense…

    we’re
    damn
    tired
    of
    being
    lied
    about…

    sick of the false narratives, the charges that fit the left far better than it does us… and the hateful projections they slap on us nonstop.

  • Elizabeth McClintic

    Feminism is believing the best in women, not the hating of all things male. The radical feminists wanted to wear the jock straps. the authentic Feminists believe in their womanhood which includes acceptance of their fertility. They also believe that they are a complementary of the male species which is a threat to no one. Hand in glove, the perfect fit.

  • orbicularioculi

    Matt Taibbi is a liberal dipstick. Mattie, let me advise you that more than half of Americans who VOTE agree with Michelle Bachmann’s views on issues.

  • Mark81150

    “In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi sums it up very neatly when he said that Bachmann is “the right kind of…crazy.” He means that, while her views may be extreme, her behavior is utterly conventional. As a speaker, she’s upbeat but dignified, warm but restrained, optimistic but not messianic. In Iowa, she praised “John Wayne’s America,” which strikes Salon’s Alex Pareene as “not far from being a white-supremacist dog whistle.” Pareene could be right — the Duke did fight Native Americans and Japanese — but delivered without a wide-eyed barracuda grin, the point just doesn’t carry. ”

    _________________________________________-

    The “right kind of crazy”…… That is so offensive on so many levels, it’s hard to point to just one. The liberal mind fully exposed for all to see,.. and they forever wonder why self identified liberals never seem to be able to crack the over 20% of voters ceiling. It’s because you can’t stop being so intensely insulting, you come across as small minded hateful bigots.

    For the record,…

    Have you even seen a John Wayne western? The ignorance with your rejoinder,.. oh John Wayne may be a racist dog whistle… because he fought Indians and Japanese…

    So every American actor in a WW II film who fought the Japanese, is a racist symbol now?

    Any,.. repeat any John Wayne fan could have told you in a second, John Wayne deeply respected Native Americans and their culture, His films treated Mexicans and Native Americans with respect, long long before any so called liberal came along. The Alamo was a testiment to Mexican, and Texan courage,.. Big Jake, Cahill U.S. Marshal, the Undefeated with Rock Hudson where he had an adopted Chief’s son, are all cases in point.

    To even imply that the Duke who gave hero status in his films to Americans of every color and creed was racist, is a filthy lie, and smear of biblical proportions. It’s common for liberals to hate John Wayne, it’s also common that they are indulging in a hate smear, just grabbing an American icon without knowing a damn thing about him, and using his image to sell the liberal narrative that to be patriotic, or conservative, is the same as being racist..

    You owe the Man’s memory a sincere apology..

    You smug liberals don’t get us at all,.. To say John Wayne’s America, to a conservative, or just plain American, is to love this nation for what it’s given us, for the brilliance of our founders, for the sacrifice of those who fought and those who died to make us a bastion of freedom in a world over run with tyrants, and monsters.. It’s an America where the old fashioned rules applied, where neighbor helped neighbor, where we all trusted in the goodness of each other, where common sense was indeed common, and where when adversity, disaster struck, we pulled together,…… a time before now, where indignant left-wingers went on holy wars to search out heretics to their new doctrine of submission to the state,.. where just loving your country made you suspect to them, and they revel in hating other Americans well before they’d blame any foreign enemy, even when the body count was 3000 of our own dead on American soil…

    The so called loyal left wing opposition was blaming us for it.. blaming Israel, joining in their own lunatic birther movement refered to as the truthers.. at one point accounting for a third of the democrat party.. but there were no big stories about the extremist left taking over the democrat party…

    Because that might have been accurate… the right has not gotten extreme..

    the left, rather has gone insane..

    I’ve had so called tolerant knowledgeable lefty’s tell me, I’m a racist, a liar, for pointing out that the 64 civil rights act passed only because the GOP overwhelmingly supported it, 80-82% in favor in the House and Senate… and I’ve had the same tolerant liberal tell me that the GOP was totally in opposition to it.. it’s an easily checked historical fact… and so many leftists believe the exact opposite, because they’ve been trained to always assume the worst about the center right part of America..

    That’s the ignorance that Bachman has to put up with, all of the time… that is what the fight is about, and why the left will say anything to sell the narrative that she and Sarah are crazy…

    So if the conservative part of America is angry,.. we damn well have good reasons to be.. we’re sick of the lies and distortions about us.

  • Elizabeth McClintic

    I’m thinking neither one wants you to shag them in a hotel and it is very sexist for you to make that comment. What an insult to their dignity as women.

    Why is it so hard for society to understand fidelity and commitment in a lifelong marriage? This is the recipe for happiness and fulfillment. Let Peace begin with you. That’s how it can flourish in the world.

  • Anonymous

    I’d vote for her. I suspect she actually believes the Constitution matters.

  • Anonymous

    “Extreme” now means “traditional American values.” So does “white supremacist,” as we see when Bachman’s invocation of “John Wayne’s America means not pride in American ideals but…white supremacy. Traditional conservatives are either David Carr’s “sloped forehead” imbeciles or racists. Or wild-eyed religious extremists (unless they are Black Liberation Theology wild-eyed extremists—then bringing up the subject elicits eye rolling and more accusations of racism.

    One thing the Left will never figure out about the popularity of Palin, Bachman and the so-called Tea Party (which is merely ignorant shorthand for the great majority of sensible Americans who don’t want us going off the statist cliff) is that the more they mischaracterize and slander mainstream Americans as sloped-forehead racist loons, the more they fuel their determination to unseat the Left from its seats of governmental power and cultural influence. So by all means, rant on, lefties. “Rolling Stone” really has its finger on the pulse of America, eh?

  • TomHolmes

    At what point the definition of normal became unmoored from reality I’m not certain, but I’m beginning to think that I know what the Romans felt like in their waning days, as all they’d always known slowly trickled away. They became too weak to hold on to what was theres, whereas we mortgage it out voluntarily, paying any price to keep the party going until tomorrow.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, the insouciant wit of the of the cultured class! By all means, let us focus on Palin’s “bowspirit” and Bachman’s “gaffes’ and bedevilment with “details.” And let us continue to ignore Obama’s daily lack of the most rudimentary knowledge of history, economics or American culture, his constantly “evolving” positions and promises on every matter to come before him, his utter lack of career achievement pre-2008, his extensive nest of anti-American, anti-capitalist associations and heroes his entire life, the racist loon who was his spiritual mentor prior to being summarily dumped during the 2008 campaign, his college dorm Marxist world view and his refusal to take responsibility for anything, including is own actions and words. Let’s make up silly, mean stories about conservative women.

    I got news for you, Max. The rest of the country has awakened to the historic blunder they made electing this constructed character we have in the White House. They may or may not consider Palin or Bachman fit for the job. But they like the way they stand up to the bully boys and girls in the retrograde media and tell the truth about what’s happening to the country. They are not only not fooled by the caricatures, their resolve is strengthened by every smug slander of these two brave women and the legions of Americans they speak for. They regard with disgust the childish, sexist, demeaning piling on game with which the Regressives insist on delighting themselves.

  • Anonymous

    The good news, Mark, is that the great “middle” of America is now fully aware of what you describe. They see the smug, smirking children of the entertainment/media/Regressive complex for the junior high Cool Kids Club they have become. Maher, Fey, Stewart, Dowd, Colbert and the entire “hip”, self-adulating denizens of New York Times/NPR World merely fan the flames now of the rage and disgust most Americans feel about what has become of their beloved country and who is running our cultural institutions. The more demeaning slanders like this Rolling Stone piece, the next Palin joke, the next “sloped forhead” slam against the “Tea Party”—the more all these things occur, the deeper the resolve becomes to unseat these bad children.

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  • rightactions

    You’re mistaken about feminism.

    Try again.

  • Holly in Nebraska

    George Carlin and I will say it if nobody else will.
    Tits.
    Palins has tits. Bachmann has breasts. Regular, contained, well-behaved. But tits? They’re OUT THERE! They’re IN YOUR FACE! And apparently, America wants tits.

    Now, Michele has arms. (Arms? Who’s advising her?). Nobody is getting out of line at McDonalds for arms. If MO had tits, America would be eating salad 3 times a day. But arms?
    Pass the ribs.

  • Gail F

    Um, no. The Puritans came to America because their bizarre behavior and theology was not acceptable to England, which had an established ANGLICAN church. Many others eventually came to the colonies because their individual sects were not accepted by the countries they came from — each of which had its own established church, and none of which were particularly tolerant of anyone outside it. Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation killed each other right and left. All the colonies (later states) had their own established churches, many of which were not tolerant of others. Look it up.

  • Anonymous

    Well, that may be part of it. But as America became more “liberal” in the classical sense, more tolerant and constructively self critical, it allowed the the pathologically critical voices to gain the upper hand in the culture. Good faith self reflection and self-improving criticism morphed into a nasty, petty business that reduced America to its shortcomings, ignoring the soaring moral triumphs it had delivered to the world as no other culture ever had. Exhibit A is someone like the pinched little mind who wrote the Rolling Stone article, identifying anything not openly contemptuous of everything American as “white supremacist.” It would be funny if it weren’t so toxic and hadn’t poisoned so many minds.

  • TomHolmes

    How does a society embrace the tolerance without inviting self destruction? Where is our good example? Have we become too soft to defend ourselves, relegating all of the qualities that vaulted us to the top of the global heap, indulging in an orgy of self-loathing while we beg forgiveness from our lessers for having made apparently their deficiency? We can no longer afford to dilute the lifeblood of America with those who will not embrace her. We can no longer afford to tolerate those who profess their love for America while they act to destroy her. The message is act, vote and work to motivate others. I have faith in the American people to recognize and clean up their own mess, but so many of our institutions have been corrupted to prevent the fail-safes from working.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rudy-Barye-Garcia/1612190210 Rudy Barye Garcia

    The cartoon is offensive (or should be offensive) to Christians. It summarizes the liberal media view of Christianity: burning women on the stake, bloody sword, bible thumping, rivers of blood, wild eye fanatic.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    I understand the concern. But Anglo-Saxon, and later American, culture has always been relatively tolerant of dissent and opinions that diverge from the common. The problem is not excessive tolerance, in my opinion. The problem is that liberals have tolerated intolerant world views (socialism, progressivism, radical Islam, to name only three) without strenuously champoining and defending its own noble achievements and ideals. It was OK to let the radicals into the dialog (rather than what? suppress them somehow?), but we have allowed them to shout the rest of us down and dominate the media, academia and the popular culture for nearly a half century now, without vigorously and relentlessly asserting the superiority of the classically liberal views that built the country. That those views are now called “far right” is but one example of how leaving the narrative to the radicals has produced misunderstanding, ignorance and confusion.

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