Michele Bachmann is saying goodbye to Congress. Her exit means less work for fact checkers, tougher times for Democrats who tried making her a Republican Party symbol (though they’re planning on running against her anyway), leaner times for comedians — and a huge sigh of relief to the Republican Party’s establishment. The overwhelming consensus is that her leaving will help the GOP.
The Daily Beast‘s John Avlon labeled Bachmann “the congresswoman who represented the worst of modern American politics more than she ever tried to represent her Minnesota constituents.” In Avlon’s words, she “degraded national debate, consistently chose fear mongering over facts, and exhibited every impulse of the demagogue and the ideologue.” Avlon focused on one particular statement in her farewell announcement:
She wants the world to know that “this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff. It was clearly understood that compliance with all rules and regulations was an absolute necessity for my presidential campaign.” In a word: bullshit. The Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into her presidential campaign that was first disclosed by The Daily Beast is due to release its initial report soon. [Daily Beast]
Ostensibly, Bachmann’s decision not to run is a Godsend to the GOP. She has been a reliable outrageous quote machine who reinforces the perception that the Republican Party’s right wing is way, way, way out there. Conservative Intelligence Briefing‘s David Freddoso further notes that Bachmann’s exit removes a huge financial “black hole” for conservatives since Bachmann “may hold a lifetime record” for wasting campaign donations from small donors:
So if you’re a true conservative, do you want more Michele Bachmanns in the House? What you probably want are more people who share your principles but who won’t subject them to ridicule; who won’t make their re-election races needlessly expensive; and who can hold down a safe congressional seat easily so that they’re not competing for money that could go to conservatives running for shakier seats. [Conservative Intelligence Briefing]
Bachmann was a political celebrity who accomplished little (only one of the 58 bills she introduced passed the House) but whose push-the-envelope assertions tapped into partisan resentments, anger, and rage. She created a following, making her famous in the conservative media and infamous in the mainstream media.
Veteran editor and blogger Robert Stein asks: “How did a mouthy back bencher parlay ignorance that made Sarah Palin look like Winston Churchill into such prominence? And does her downfall amid murky misuse of campaign funds portend a continuing descent of the GOP into a diehard faction of the major party it once was?”
CNN columnist L.Z. Granderson says her retirement should “help the GOP scrub stupid” away:
The fact is, the brand of spitfire politics Bachmann, [Sarah] Palin et al. employ is usually not patient or intelligent. It’s often irresponsible hyperbole designed to generate buzz as opposed to inform. If directed properly, it’s an effective way to win an election. But the problem with spitfire is that it’s sometimes hard to control. [CNN]
That’s why legendary Democratic strategist James Carville remains buoyant. When Morning Joe‘s Republican Joe Scarborough mentioned Bachmann’s retirement, Carville’s response was: “It makes me so sad and you so happy, Joe. God closes one door for Michele Bachmann and opens three to [Republican Texas Rep.] Louie Gohmert.”
Indeed, the GOP still has many high-profile verbal bomb throwers that will hurt its image — particularly ascending Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who some say talks like the late Sen. Joe McCarthy, looks like McCarthy, and even resembles the evil puppet in the movie Magic.
Meanwhile, all but the most skillful public relations people would declare the Republican Party’s more inclusive “rebranding” effort a hair away from being embalmed. Democrats are gleefully hammering Republicans for the party’s “recruiting nightmare” for Senate races, and point to the party’s failing effort to woo increasingly influential Hispanic voters. Reuters reports a strong chance that the Republican House will kill immigration reform.
Bachmann built her career on saying no and appealing to hyper-ideologists — thus highlighting the weakness of the House’s Republican leadership. She helped solidify a far-right political style and was instrumental in rallying conservative opposition to ObamaCare. Her retirement means one more member of the Republican Party’s right-wing fringe will pass not-too-quietly into the political night. But many independent and centrist voters will unlikely be impressed if one character has dropped out of political Looney Tunes while the high-visibility series still continues its big-cast-of-characters run.
By: Joe Gandelman, The Week, June 3, 2013
I used to think Michele Bachmann was hilarious, and so did you: I know because you clicked the blog posts that I wrote about her. It didn’t matter what she did. She could make a funny face, pronounce a word incorrectly, pronounce a word correctly—the traffic would always come. She provided a constant fix of comical escapism that readers loved. Like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann was always a sure success.
It became part of the daily routine: Post a 20-second clip of Michele Bachmann saying something silly, secure ten trillion page views, then work on a lengthier piece with actual value that five or six people would read. Many young political writers were able to have their jobs because traffic was heavily subsidized by Michele Bachmann saying something weird at a barbecue in Ames or whatever, everyday.
Many commentators will miss her for this reason. James Carville, for one, called her retirement announcement a “sad day.” Who will deliver the funnies now? Texas Representative Louie Gohmert, Carville suggested. We’ve still got Gohmert.
Yeah, I don’t know. It’s difficult to call Bachmann’s retirement a “sad” event right now, even with tongue in cheek. Face it: The show had been getting less and less worth watching in recent seasons. Almost entirely infuriating, really, if worth caring about at all. Let’s not remember Michele Bachmann as the goof she got away with portraying for so many years, while she was really doing so much damage. Her “legacy,” which, hope against hope, will eventually prove nil, was a very nasty, egomaniacal one, rife with smears and dark innuendo. The harm she caused to the political culture far outweighs the lift of a daily laugh. Peak Bachmann coincided with her political career’s high-water mark—that period in the summer of 2011, when she briefly led the polls for the Republican presidential nomination, before collapsing. Inflated, perhaps, by her success, she began to flaunt her uglier beliefs. Bachmann’s tumble from the top (which would have happened over one thing or another, eventually) accelerated into free fall during an early September 2011 debate, when she attacked fellow eventual loser Rick Perry over his 2007 gubernatorial mandate for all sixth-grade Texas girls be vaccinated against HPV. There were legitimate angles to work here—Perry’s close ties with a lobbyist from Merck, the pharmaceutical company that made the HPV vaccine Gardasil. She made that point during the debate. Afterwards, however, she went on television to describe her encounter with a woman in the audience:
“She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter,” Bachmann said. “There is no second chance for these little girls if there is any dangerous consequences to their bodies.”
Repeating this without qualification wasn’t just sloppy; it was pernicious and wholly inappropriate. Medical professionals are constantly working to swat back such rumors that embed in the mind quickly and are difficult to erase. And here was a presidential candidate, bizarrely trusted by a not insignificant number of parents, voicing it as truth on national television. That’s not stupidity, or whimsy, or comical ineptness. It’s viciousness. This was the year of the debt ceiling crisis, as well. Perhaps you remember it? It was that fantastic time when Congress considered arbitrarily destroying the credit of the United States and, along with it, the entire global economy, all because Republican politicians thought it would be too much of a hassle to explain what the debt ceiling was to their constituents. (Or, in a scary number of cases, to learn what it was themselves.) Michele Bachmann was a prominent player in that group. And even after the crisis had passed, at the non-fatal but still very avoidable cost of an S&P downgrade of U.S. debt, Bachmann was still out there, explaining to America that she had witnessed the crisis and proudly learned no lessons from it:
“I think we just heard from Standard & Poor’s. When they dropped—when they dropped our credit rating, what they said is, we don’t have an ability to repay our debt. That’s what the final word was from them. I was proved right in my position: We should not have raised the debt ceiling. And instead, we should have cut government spending, which was not done. And then we needed to get our spending priorities in order.”
And so she pledged repeatedly to never sign a debt ceiling hike if she were elected president. To call this position of hers, or her personally, stupid, would have let this off the hook too easily. What if she wasn’t? What if she was just awful? Her most egregious move may have come last summer, when she smeared Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide Huma Abedin as being in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood’s perceived attempts to infiltrate “the highest reaches of the federal government.” Her evidence was … limited. She relied upon lunatic sources like Frank Gaffney, who likely checks for Muslims under his bed each night before going to sleep. Per Salon:
In case Abedin hasn’t already been through enough already, Bachmann is now questioning her loyalty to the U.S. by asserting that Abedin has three family members who are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood (Abedin is Muslim). She’s been targeted before by anti-Muslim activists, and Bachmann notes that Abedin’s position “affords her routine access to the Secretary and to policy-making.” Bachmann also claims the state has “taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”
At some point in the last year, the voters in Bachmann’s district decided that maybe they would be better served by an alternate member of Congress. She won with only 50.4 percent of the vote in 2012, and now, facing a more difficult rematch for 2014, Bachmann is choosing to make the exit on her grounds. Nevertheless, she managed to win a whole four terms to the House of Representatives. What many laughed at for the early years were the same things that others took as reasons to support her candidacies.
Maybe it’s because I no longer have the pleasure of scrambling to meet traffic quotas each day, but right now, I see no cheeky reasons to mourn Bachmann’s loss from public service. She’s not funny anymore. She’s only terrible. Louie Gohmert isn’t funny anymore. Chuck Grassley’s Twitter isn’t funny anymore. Sarah Palin isn’t funny anymore. (Okay, she was sort of funny at CPAC.) If you never thought any of these sure-things were ever even slightly funny, consider our caps doffed. And join us in being content to see that for Bachmann, it’s all over.
By: Jim Newell, The New Republic, May 29, 2013
“The GOP’s Pitiful Reformers”: Those Who Falsely Deny The GOP Is Off Its Rocker Are Lying To Themselves And Their Readers
Over the weekend, Bob Dole delivered the opinion that he couldn’t make it in today’s Republican Party. And not just him: “Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly Nixon couldn’t have made it, ’cuz he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it.” His words put me in mind, as a disturbing number of things do these days, of the so-called conservative reformers, the half-dozen or so male pundit-intellectuals on the right who have, through some clever prestidigitation that I have yet to comprehend, come to be known as reformers. They are very smart fellows, and they can be interesting to read. But they are “reforming” the Republican Party in about the sense that Whitney Houston’s hairdresser was helping her by giving her a great coif. Houston’s problem in life wasn’t her hair, and what’s wrong with today’s GOP—what Dole was talking about—isn’t going to be fixed by figuring out exactly what kind of “base-broadening” the tax code needs.
The men often named in this group include David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, Yuval Levin, Reihan Salam, Avik Roy, and a few others. Josh Barro is sometimes included, as are David Frum and Bruce Bartlett. But these are errors: Frum and Bartlett have been so outspoken—courageously so, I note—in their contempt for today’s GOP that they have sort of taken themselves off the roster. Barro, a young Bloomberg View columnist, is (it seems to me) more than halfway down the Frum-Bartlett path.
There has been lots of interesting writing on my side of the fence about these men lately. Ryan Cooper wrote a big Washington Monthly piece with short bios of all of them and a rating system assessing their zeal for reform and access to power. Jon Chait profiled Barro in The Atlantic. Policy analyst Mike Konczal assessed whether their policy proposals really constitute something new that isn’t being said by elected officials within the party. Paul Krugman has weighed in as well.
The general verdict among these writers is that there isn’t much there there. Konczal takes them seriously as policy analysts but concludes that much of what they say “is actually a defense and potential extension of already-existing policies against people further to the right” and is ultimately “more gestural than substantive.” If you read through Cooper’s rating system, you will be struck by the consistency with which those he deems most committed to reform are the ones with the lowest juice quotient, while the one with the lowest reform rating—Levin, who just won some big quarter-million-dollar right-wing prize of some kind (wish we had those!)—has a perfect-10 insider score.
Just yesterday, Avik Roy responded to these and other articles by lamenting that we liberals just don’t understand what Al Haig might have called the “nuance-al” genius of the new breed. It seems liberal critics have missed the “important philosophical difference between the liberty- and opportunity-oriented conservatives.” Further, these con-reformers believe in equality of opportunity, not of outcomes, and therefore liberals (who support the latter, you see) couldn’t possibly grasp the depth of their insights.
Here’s what Roy says he wants: to “orient the GOP agenda around opportunity for those who least have it, to offer these individuals a superior alternative to failed statist policies.” Please. You get a lot of this from Republicans. Paul Ryan says things like this all the time. Rick Santorum did. Even Mitt Romney did, though to a lesser extent. But it’s all nonsense because they have invented a straw-man version of liberalism in their heads that isn’t anything like the liberalism that actually exists.
A few years ago, Santorum published his book It Takes a Family, his response to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village. He said the book was about poverty. As Mark Schmitt noted in a merciless review in The American Prospect, Santorum kept announcing that he was advancing brave new proposals that the “village elders” (the liberal establishment) would never countenance. The only problem was that every one of Santorum’s brave new ideas—helping poor families build wealth—were old liberal ideas. Asset-building as an idea has existed since about 1990, and it wasn’t conservatives who invented it.
The journal I edit (also not conservative!) just published a big symposium on asset-building. We did that in conjunction with a group called the Corporation for Enterprise Development, which has been working on the issue for 20 years. They’re a nonpartisan group, so they are not political with a big P, but let’s just say I don’t think there are many Atlas Shrugged readers roaming CFED’s halls. Put more simply, it’s liberals who have led the way on asset-building for years, in the academy and on Capitol Hill. But Santorum has, and all conservatives have, a liberal demon in their heads who wants poor people to remain dependent on big-daddy government. It’s a lie, and a really lame and stupid one.
And let’s say an asset-building-related piece of legislation—there are several, and they’re just sitting there—became the subject of attention and controversy. Who would be for it, and who would be against it? We know very well who. At the first syllable Obama uttered in its favor, the Republicans practically to a person would oppose it. And now, finally, we get to the real problem with the GOP, a problem these people all just ignore, and why the opening analogy to Whitney’s stylist is apt.
The big problem with today’s Republican Party isn’t its policies. Certainly, those policies are extreme and would be deeply injurious to middle-class and poorer Americans should they be enacted. But Bob Dole wasn’t thinking, I don’t believe, just of policies. He was talking about the whole package—the intolerance, the proud stupidity, the paranoia, the resentments, the rage. These are intertwined with policy of course—indeed they often drive policy. But they are the party’s real problem. And where these “reformers” fail is that they never, ever, ever (that I have seen) criticize it with any punch at all.
Hey, Avik! Would you like to know why 90 percent of black people aren’t listening to your message? Because you don’t want them to vote! Not you personally (at least I assume), but your party. I know that you think black people are victims of false consciousness (how Marxist of you!), but do you also think they are stupid? If you and your wonderful Arthur Brooks want to develop a program to attract black voters, you might start by trying to change your party’s position on the question of attempting to pervert the law to deny them their franchise.
But they’ll never do that. And these people never call out the crazies. I’m sure that Louie Gohmert and Steve King probably embarrass them. Or maybe they don’t; Ponnuru recently penned a pretty sprightly defense of Ted Cruz. This is actually an interesting question, and I suppose the answer varies from person to person. But either way the result isn’t flattering. Those who falsely deny that the current GOP is off its rocker are lying to themselves and their readers, while those who genuinely don’t think it is are by definition out to lunch themselves. And the bottom line is that if they don’t say anything about all this, then they’re simply not reforming the Republican Party in any sense that is worth taking remotely seriously.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 28, 2013
Say what you will about Politico, but aside from the many bits of useful phenomenological data its vast minions gather each day, it serves as a sort of public utility in instantly and thoroughly expressing the shifting perspectives of the MSM. Today, having misinterpreted and buried the Tea Party Movement a thousand times, Politico (in this piece by Tarini Parti) now takes judicial notice of its return on Capitol Hill:
The Tea Party Caucus is back in action with a new strategy and a growing membership.
Roughly 20 House Republicans attended a closed-door meeting Thursday evening in the Rayburn House Office Building, along with staffers from nearly 40 congressional offices, including those of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul.
It comes as conservatives continue to flex their muscle, making life difficult for GOP leaders in the House on issues like Obamacare, and as the debate on immigration legislation heats up.
Conservative mainstays such as Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Tom Price (R-Ga.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) were among those at the meeting. A source said the entire GOP House delegation from South Carolina was there as well.
Mike Shields, chief of staff to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, spoke at the meeting – an indication that the GOP establishment is making an effort to work with the tea party lawmakers.
Also in attendance: Conservative radio talk show host Rusty Humphries and representatives from organizations including the Tea Party Express and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. TheTeaParty.net organized the meeting, which was closed to press.
The possibility that high attendance at the caucus meeting might reflect a continuing presence rather than a sudden resurgence was indirectly addressed by this quote from Louie Gohmert:
“I thought it was the energy we had when we first started things,” Gohmert told POLITICO after the meeting. “The Tea Party beliefs and movement never really went away. It was just that the caucus wasn’t really having meetings.”
True dat. You could make the case, in fact, that the relative quiescence of the Tea Party Caucus was attributable to its consolidation of power within the Republican “Establishment.” Now that strategic disagreements within the congressional GOP are re-emerging, it’s time to get loud and proud again. But the whole phenomenon shows how shallow all the talk about the GOP “rebranding” and “adjusting to new circumstances” really was–much less the fatuous chatter about “bipartisan breezes wafting through Congress.”
It’s entirely possible, not soon but in the foreseeable future, that the Republican Party and even the conservative movement can genuinely move beyond the “Spirit of 2010″ and begin to act like a political party rather than a wrecking crew. But anyone who has paid genuine attention to the Tea Party Movement must understand that these are people who violently oppose the idea of “moving on” or “adjusting to circumstances.” The whole point of “constitutional conservatism” is the belief in an eternal, perhaps even divinely ordained, governing model that never, ever, goes out of season. Maybe they’ll lose influence in the GOP and the country as a whole, but they aren’t going away or changing. Their periodic rediscovery by the MSM when once again fantasies of a “pragmatic” GOP prove illusory is one of the maddening but abiding aspects of contemporary political journalism.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 26, 2013
“Hot GOP Source”: Tabloids Become Reputable When They Provide An Opportunity To Link A Mass Murderer To Islam
There’s a hot new meme blowing up on the conservative blogosphere: James Holmes, the alleged Aurora, Colo., theater shooter, has become a devout Muslim. But where did it come from?
The Washington Times wrote a short report, which was quickly picked up by Fox Nation, conservative blogs and, naturally, the trifecta of the Islamophobic blogosphere: Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs, Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch, and David Horowitz’ Front Page.
“There are enough Muslims engaging in mass killings. Having a non-Muslim mass killer convert is like shipping coals to Newcastle or murderers to Islam,” Front Page’s Daniel Greenfield quipped. “Actually, if Holmes’ conversion was initiated post-massacre, it does lend to the canard that violence in Islam is perpetrated only by the extreme, misguided,” Jihad Watch tweeted.
All of the posts are based on the Washington Times report, which is in turn based on a report from the Daily Mail, the irreverent and often erroneous British tabloid.
The Daily Mail’s sourcing? An even more disreputable outfit: One unnamed “prison source” quoted by the National Enquirer. The Enquirer hasn’t posted its story online, but here’s the Daily Mail writeup:
The source said Holmes has turned to Islam as a way of justifying his horrific murder spree… “He has brainwashed himself into believing he was on his own personal jihad and that his victims were infidels,” a prison source told the National Enquirer. He now prays five times a day, sticks to a strict Muslim diet and spends hours each day studying the Qur’an, the source said. But his new routine has upset Muslim inmates.
There’s also the new thick beard Holmes recently started sporting in court — “a symbol of his new-found faith,” according to the Daily Mail. (We didn’t realize one could brainwash themselves.)
Now, it’s entirely possible that Holmes has converted to Islam, and even that he brainwashed himself into ex-post-facto justifying his killing with Islam or anything else as Holmes is severely disturbed, by all accounts, and could delude himself into thinking anything.
But does that say anything about Islam? Of course not. It says something about mental illness. If Holmes suddenly became a devout Pentecostal or Hindu in prison, would these bloggers be connecting the religion to the shooting in the way they are doing now?
It’s also funny to see conservative blogs suddenly cite the National Enquirer as a reputable source when the tabloid publishes something that conforms to a narrative they’re seeking to push. While the tabloid has broken news that the mainstream media missed in the past (thanks to their willingness to pay sources), and the Washington Times has been kind to them, the right bashed the rag for its series of scandalous Mitt Romney “scoops” during the election. Oh, and did we mention that it’s the National Enquirer?
It’s only a matter of time before Michele Bachmann or Louie Gohmert pick up the tabloid baton and carry it across the finish line on the floor of Congress and into the Congressional Record, where it will live forever.
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 21, 2013