Bill Whalen

Bachmann Derangement Overdrive

Over the course of a roughly 50-hour stretch from early Sunday to midday Tuesday, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann managed to achieve the following:

She reminded conservatives just how much they detest the media for perceived slights against the right – this time, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace asking Bachmann point-blank if, as he claimed Washington swells were buzzing, she was indeed a “flake”.

She announced for president in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, only to start another media firestorm by giving the impression that John Wayne, the actor, and John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, wereinterchangeable Hawkeyes.

She found herself the scorn of at least one high-profile entertainer – singer Tom Petty requesting that the Tea Party darling stop playing “American Girl” at her rallies (the same tune, by the way, that Hillary Clinton was playing back in 2008). Presumably, that also goes for Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (presumably, no candidate wants anything to do with another Petty hit: “Free Fallin”).

In other words, at a time when most GOP hopefuls are toiling away in anonymity in the early-primary states, Bachmann had the press questioning her intelligence, had conservatives convinced she was being victimized, and had the liberal elite gnashing its teeth in disgust.

Even Tina Fey would have to admit: it’s a pretty good Sarah Palin impersonation.

The “Mama Grizzly” comparison (does that make Bachmann, a Minnesotan, a “Mama Muskie”?) seems apt as, like Palin, the congresswoman has her own special brand of organized chaos – heretofore known as Palin Derangement Syndrome) – that sends both the political left and the political right into a tizzy.

So what it is about the latest Republican presidential hopeful that stokes such controversy?

A few theories:

  • She’s Not Always an Arsonist, But She Does Start Fires. Let’s call the Wayne-Wayne Gacy hubbub an innocent gaffe. Add to that Bachmann mistakenly believing that the Battles of Concord and Lexington were fought in New Hampshire. She’s not the first politician to make an accidental blunder (click here to see President Obama discussing the 57 states he’s visited). Then again, Bachmann claimed NATO forces killed 30,000 Libyans, warned of Obamacare “death panels”, and slammed Obama, not Bush 43, for the Wall Street bailout (here’s a longer list of other controversial statements). As in tennis, those are unforced errors.
  • She Must Be One of Two Conservative Stereotypes: Brain-Dead or Brain-Damaged. Remember when Ronald Reagan was a simpleton with an economics degree from Eureka College, and George W. Bush was a dunce who somehow earned degrees from Yale and Harvard? Bachmann is a tax attorney and businesswoman. Therefore, if she’s smart but conservative, she must be slightly unhinged. It’s a variation of the media’s approach to Newt Gingrich (brilliant, but an undisciplined man-child) and a flashback to Dan Quayle (not bright, not qualified for higher office).
  • She’s a Woman – Good Luck Dealing with the Press. This applies to both parties. Hillary Clinton ran for president and couldn’t escape discussion of her wardrobe choices. Ditto, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, each running for statewide office in California. After the Wallace interview, I tried to recall the last time a male candidate was asked so bluntly to address a negative characterization – Bill Clinton and philandering, John McCain and his famed temper. I drew a blank. It’s time the political media examined whether a double standard applies to coverage of the two genders.

The view from Washington may be that Bachmann is too bombastic and de classe to be taken seriously as a stateswoman. But the view from Iowa has her at 22% in the polls and in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney.

Maybe it’s time the press moved past the “gotcha’s” and began a serious examination of Michele Bachmann’s record and platform.

That is, if they’re not too busy lying in wait for the next gaffe.

(photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

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