What she knows about the culture of the country she claims to represent wouldn't fill an action toy's gym sock. That's why Michele Bachmann—who announced she was retiring from Congress a couple of days ago—probably has no idea that she was played by one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history two years before her own birth.
I mean, of course, Mercedes McCambridge—the witch-hunting villainess of Nicholas Ray's 1954 Johnny Guitar. In later life, she also voiced Satan in The Exorcist, but let's not stoop to such low-hanging fruit. McCambridge was a formidable performer, and she understood the hysterical roots of Bachmann's political persona better than our own Michele ever will.
Michele Bachmann’s retirement from the House of Representatives is an obvious loss for political journalists and their editors, who could guarantee web traffic by just reprinting anything she said, with minimal comment. That was especially true during the Republican presidential primaries.
My home state of Minnesota holds its caucus today, and no one really knows how the election will turn out. Public Policy Polling rolled out numbers last night that gave Rick Santorum a decent lead with 33 percent of the vote followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 22 percent, and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 20 percent. Besides PPP there has been little polling in the state, and tracking numbers on Sunday had all of the candidates clustered together, so it's really anyone's guess how the caucus vote will roll in tonight. It's a nonbinding caucus, so the results themselves won't play a role in delegate math.
Now that Ron Paul is leading some Iowa polls, the knives are out—as they have been for every non-Romney contender this year. Michele Bachmann is warning of the apocalyptic consequences of Paul’s isolationist tendencies, while Rick Perry wants everyone to know that his fellow Texan is a big ol’ earmarker. Iowans are fretting that a Paul victory will spell doom for the caucuses.
PolitiFact, which has become the premier fact-checking entity in American journalism, just announced its nominees for its annual "Lie of the Year" award. This is, of course, a gimmick designed to bring more attention to the group's work. There's nothing wrong with that—lots of organizations do similar things. But because PolitiFact has built a good reputation among journalists (not unchallenged, though—it's been criticized by both the right and the left at various times, and some of those criticisms have been valid), it has a good deal at stake in making sure its "Lie of the Year" is as persuasive as possible. In other words, the decision will be political.
Michele Bachmann—or at least her publicity manager—did her research. The Prospect received an early copy of Bachmann’s new book, "Core of Conviction: My Story," last week. In honor of the book’s release today, we’ve compiled the five “Best of Bachmann” moments from the book.
1. Bachmann’s great-great-grandfather won a farm from Jesse James in a game of poker. Bachmann claims that Halvor Munson won a farm in Iola, Kansas, playing poker with Jesse James on a river raft. According to a short biography on Munson, written by a family genealogist, it is likely that Munson did meet Jesse James (before his name became synonymous with outlaws of the American West), but the claim that he won a farm from James is nothing more than family lore.
Every four years, many people decide to run for president. You don't hear about most of them, because the news media decide, and reasonably so, to ignore folks like the immortal Charles Doty. Even among those who have held major political office, however, some are deemed serious and some are not. For instance, Buddy Roemer — a former member of Congress and governor of Louisiana — is considered not serious, as is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Both are running for the Republican nomination, but neither gets invited to debates or has journalists reporting on their campaigns. Yet Michele Bachmann is considered one of the "real" candidates, even as she languishes in the mid-single-digits in polls.
For a while, the Republican presidential nominating contest was between Mitt Romney and a bunch of underperforming candidates. Then Michele Bachmann entered the race, offering a shiny new object for everyone to look at for a couple of weeks. She was charismatic, novel, and extremist enough to appeal to the large portion of the Republican primary electorate for whom there is no such thing as being too conservative. But then a new shiny object popped up, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is also charismatic, novel, and extremist. So Bachmann is sinking, and Perry is on top for the moment.
On Tuesday reports came out that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is considering jumping into the GOP presidential race. Just two days earlier, sitting members of the House of Representatives – Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul -- finished in first and second place in the Iowa Straw Poll. Though none of these candidates (and potential candidates) are favored to win the nomination, it is clear that members of the House, and Michele Bachmann especially, are playing a much larger role in the primaries than House members traditionally have.
Reading this story on Peter E. Waldron, a staffer for Michele Bachmann in Iowa who was arrested on charges of terrorism in Uganda (the charges were later dropped) I can't help but think of how fortunate he was that he was not immediately assumed to be guilty, placed in indefinite military detention, and then forced through a trial process biased towards the government's claims.
There’s a lot of chatter about the decision of the moderators in last night’s Republican debate to ask Michele Bachmann “As president, would you be submissive to your husband?” But for all the focus on whether or not the question is sexist, the real problem is that asking it mostly helps the candidate without shedding further light on anything important about their views.
The always astute Tom Schaller has an article over at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball discussing the unusually large contingent of current and former House members in this year's Republican presidential primaries, in which he makes this observation:
In fact, recent history actually suggests that losing an early-career bid to win a seat in the House of Representatives may be the best way to clear a path to the Oval Office. Though they didn’t realize it at the time, the three most recent presidents probably saved their political careers from dead-ending in the House by losing: Bill Clinton (AR-3) in 1974; George W. Bush (TX-19) in 1978; and Barack Obama (IL-1) in 2000.
Benjy Sarlin reports on Texas Governor Rick Perry's evolution from an immigration moderate (liberal by today's standards) who signed a state DREAM Act and opposed the E-Verify employment verification system to a border hawk who supported Arizona-style restrictionist legislation in his own state.