Monday, June 27, 2011

Catch of the Day

Shared, to Conor Friedersdorf, who explained why "Are you a flake?" is a softball question to ask a presidential candidate, and to David S. Bernstein, who tweeted it earlier.

For those behind the news a bit, this is about Chris Wallace of Fox, who asked it of Michele Bachmann this morning. Friedersdorf and my brother are exactly right -- it's a question that just tees it up for the candidate to say whatever she wants and, if she's so inclined, to also complain about being picked on by the press. Although as James Fallows pointed out earlier, Bachmann has shown at least some basic skills at handling tougher questions, too.

All that said: I'm just as much of a Bachmann skeptic as ever. Let me just hit one part of it...Jonathan Chait believes that Bachmann skeptics are missing an important point:
[T]he religious right has changed -- its power to bend the party to its will has decreased, and its focus has largely merged with that of the GOP as a whole, so that the religious right is almost as concerned with economics and foreign policy as with social issues. Bachmann represents that transformation...And there's hardly any difference in the way she discusses these issues and the way most other Republicans do. They are all speaking the same apocalyptic language now.
I think Chait is correct about Republicans, and conservatives, and Bachmann. Where I think he's wrong is that I don't think that's going to set her apart from the rest of the field -- certainly not Santorum and Cain, but also not from Pawlenty and Perry, and on issue positions and current rhetoric, probably not from Romney, either. I definitely do think that a candidate from Bachmann's wing of the party can win it; I just don't think that it's likely at all that Bachmann can.


  1. Lawrence FechtenbergerJune 27, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Your repeated arguments against Bachmann succeeding are certainly reasonable, and generally persuasive, but I still have to feel that you underestimate her to some extent.

    It comes down to this: Someone has to win the Republican nomination. I would say that, as of now, the nomination is Romney's to lose, but I would also say that he is perfectly capable of losing it. The assumption that Pawlenty will pick up the voters who cannot take Romney seems to be based on a platonic ideal of the man, rather than the actual, uninspiring candidate who is out there. Speculation about Perry, Palin, and Ryan could easily turn out to be as meaningful as the speculation about Huckabee, Daniels, and Barbour was. Of the remaining, declared candidates--Gingrich, Huntsman, Paul, Santorum, Cain, etc.--I simply cannot see any logic by which anyone of these can be called more plausible than Bachmann.

    I know your argument is that, if it ever did come down to a choice between Romney and Bachmann, the establishment would hurry to the former's side, and shut the latter out. It seems to me, however, that this depends on how damaged he is at that point. Okay, put that way I seem to be predicting a scandal, or a gaffe of "macaca" proportions, and those are unlikely. Still, it seems to me that Bachmann is as well positioned as anyone, and better than most, to take advantage of Romney's failings.

  2. Not that it matters to the conclusion, but I have a real problem with Chait's characterization. The religious right has not lost power - look at all the anti-abortion legislation. Yeah, that's mostly at the state level, but Bachmann is an evangelical.

    What we have is a very unstable alliance between evangelicals and Ayn Randians. The fact that Rand provides "intellectual" cover for being a perpetually resentful adolescent makes for an enthusiastic honeymoon, but only because they are both in opposition to the President. It can't, and won't, last.

  3. Lawrence,
    I think the problem with Bachmann, more than anyone besides Palin, is that she is GOING to have multiple macaca moments. The woman has a pathological need to state things just the wrong way. She offends the left, true, but she says a lot of things that are just plain stupid. I saw a piece today that notes that she has had something like 24 statements fact-checked by, and only 1 of them was true whereas 17 were false, and 7 of those were "pants on fire" false. Call them a liberal hit-squad or whatever, but I think it's very fair to say that Bachmann has a problem filtering what she says. Hell, today, she goes and claims her hometown is John Wayne's, when it's actually John Wayne Gacy's! Sometimes, she'll be making dog-whistle points. But your scenario requires Romney (or Perry) to say something that trips them up...and that's really all that comes out of Bachmann's mouth.

    I'm not saying that someone with Bachmann's issue positions won't/can't win the GOP nom. Heck, I expect that. It's her MOUTH that can't win.

  4. Can I nominate myself for catch of the day, now that it's a new day? It also involves a Bachmann Sunday morning interview, but with Bob Schieffer. Actually, I just made a second catch on the way to explaining my first catch- Why the heck is Michelle Bachmann on two Sunday shows at once? How about instead of two Bachmann appearances, one show has a Democratic guest invited to comment on the GOP ultimatums in the debt ceiling debate? Anyway, the first catch is Bob Schieffer asked Michelle Bachmann a more aggressive if more professional question than Chris Wallace did: basically, are you a complete liar? Her non-answers included the claim that Obama promised the stimulus would keep unemployment below 8%. Which is a lie. He never promised that. She "answered" a question about her lying with a lie. Romney has made the same lie by the way.


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