OK. Michele Bachmann is the darling of the Tea Party.
She also has called President Obama’s anti-American and still says he is running a “gangster government.” She believes, reports Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, that “light bulbs are killing our cats and dogs,” that God instructed her to get involved in politics, and that she and her husband married because they shared “a unique series of divine visions.”
She is, quite frankly, really out there.
So why — seven months before Republican presidential primary voters cast their first ballot, 16-plus months before the next presidential election, even before your July 4 cookout — are political prognosticators salivating over this hard-right, third-term congresswoman from Minnesota?
Want some evidence?
Today, Washingtonpost.com ran an analysis with the headline “Michele Bachmann has a unique appeal for voters.” Writes its author, Chris Cillizza of the Post’s Fix column, “Bachmann’s candidacy is heavily premised on her personal story — she is the only woman (and mother) in the race and mentions the fact that she has raised five children and 23 foster children at nearly every campaign stop. It’s what makes her stand out in the field.”
On Thursday, Mara Liasson of NPR was even more gushing in a piece, titled “Solid start puts Bachmann in front-runner territory.” Liasson ended her report from Iowa with these words: “But Bachmann is the conservative woman of the moment, and right now, she is the leading alternative to the front-runner, Mitt Romney.”
Excuse me? Says who — besides the news media?
It happens that Thursday also was the day The New York Times reported that a new Times/CBS News poll found that no candidate has earned the enthusiastic support of more than 7 percent of Republican voters to date. That’s right — 7 — one digit. The same poll didn’t gauge this, but I’ll bet most Republican voters couldn’t even pick more than a few of the declared candidates out of a police lineup let alone figure out what they stand for.
So it strikes me as truly irresponsible for the salivating news media to be sanctimoniously anointing front-runners right now.
Playing the horse race of politics is a hallowed — and often meaningless — tradition of the mainstream media pundits and prognosticators. But to be in full gallop on June 29, 2011 is simply absurd. Do you see any sports reporters predicting the winner of next year’s NBA playoffs right now? It’s worth noting that they will come well before the next presidential election.
Promoting someone as downright batty as Bachmann appears to be is not only dumb but potentially dangerous. As Taibbi writes in his article, “Michele Bachmann’s Holy War,” whatever Bachman is “she’s no joke … She is a television camera’s dream, a threat to do or say something insane at any time, the ultimate reality-show protagonist. She has brilliantly piloted a media system that is incapable of averting its eyes from a story…”
And that really is what this is all about. Except I’d call it a media circus rather than story, the same kind of circus that surrounded Sarah Palin until the boys and girls on the political bus smelled new blood and rushed off to start filing what’s sure to be dozens and dozens of breathless and repetitive stories about her.
But who is playing whom here?
As I’ve said before, it’s summer. And what reporters want to work hard enough to engage an American public off to the beach and baseball games with real news? Who wants to dig deep to find, for example, a good way of telling the story of the revolution in attitudes toward same sex marriage in America? Who wants to really show the pain of those who’ve been pushed out the back door of America’s economy?
That takes hard work, creativity, a real commitment to the journalist’s responsibility.
It’s so much easier to pass on Tweets about Anthony Weiner and anoint Michele Bachmann as the new darling of the Republican Party.
Only that just might get her elected president.