“What troubles me about the US today is that the reaction to the Obama presidency is so irrational, emotional and, dare I say it, ignorant.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann’s “House Call” protest against health care reform at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 5, 2009. (Photo credit: Graham Moomaw / The Washington Independent; photo added to article)
By Michael White
The Guardian (London) Political Blog
November 27, 2009
Extended excerpt with sidebars, links, graphics, and video added
Did you read about Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the thinking man’s Sarah Palin, in the Observer the other weekend? …
First, a confession about finding myself in a place where, as an admirer of the United States of America, I never expected to be.
Barely a week passes nowadays without my questioning what has been one of the basic principles informing my lifelong world view – namely that, whatever wrong or foolish things are done in the name of the US, to its own citizens or to others, counterveiling forces of intelligence and decency will eventually restore a better equilibrium. That’s the 200-year story of the republic.
A good and obvious example of this proposition at work can be seen in last year’s election of Barack Obama to succeed George Bush as president and to correct much of his egregious folly. The wider world applauded or, at least, sighed with relief.
After eight years, here was a president who seemed to get it: to get it about the economy, on both Main Street and Wall Street, about inequality and military-diplomatic unilateralism, about the rise of Asia and the hyper-sensitivity of Islam, about climate change and the need to reform America’s unfair and expensive healthcare provision, which is dragging the country down.
Obama still does get it, and I am not one of those people already writing off his presidency, as another old chum did over a drink yesterday.
I do worry about the president’s still unproven ability to master the forces he has to confront – by choice or necessity – at home or abroad.
He talks the talk brilliantly, but can he walk the walk, as a president must? “Can he do it?” remains the pivotal question. I certainly hope so. …
What troubles me about the US today in ways I never expected to witness in my lifetime is not Obama’s failure to solve all its urgent problems in a year, or even four.
It is the scale of the irrational, emotional and, dare I add, ignorant, reaction his presidency has unleashed on the American right, some of it understandable in a fast-changing and confusing world, much of it ugly and increasingly violent in tone.
Sidebar: Bachmann Rebuked for Nazi Image
Friends keep saying: “It’s changed since you lived there, Mike.” …
Here’s where Congresswoman Bachmann comes in. Hats off to a mother of five who came up the hard way (divorced parents and poverty), can also find the time to run a business, foster 23 kids and get elected to represent Minnesota, one of the Midwest’s northern Great Lakes states that foreign tourists rarely see.
But Paul Harris’s account in the Observer [link added] has her making foolish remarks about all sorts of things, from CO2 emissions (“a harmless gas”) to Obama (a socialist leading a “gangster government”) and, of course, to healthcare reform.
Sidebar: Gangster Government
Thus, she said recently: “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”
Sidebar: Bachmann: “Slit Our Wrists”
Now, rational folk on both left and right can criticise the clutch of healthcare plans now being “reconciled” on Capitol Hill – for one thing, they don’t bear down enough on the excessive cost of the US medical and insurance industries (15% of GNP and rising). The US economy cannot stay competitive with non-wage costs like this.
And, no, I don’t think even William Hague would talk about wrist-slitting, not even on a bad day. Don’t trust politicians who invoke blood: it’s rarely their own that gets shed.
Needless to say, Bachmann inveighs against gays and abortion too – this in a country where doctors get murdered to uphold the sanctity of life.
Sidebar: Bachmann Stunt Back to Roots
One way or another, rightwing Republicans, rather like their Islamist enemies, seem to be very interested in sex. It often proves their trouser-dropping undoing. Ho ho.
Interestingly, the congresswoman also calls herself a “fool for Christ,” though I think something must have been lost in translation here.
Sidebar: Michele Bachmann ‘Lies in Christ’
The theory behind the article is that Alaska’s Palin is unelectable and did the McCain ticket harm in last year’s election. …
Sidebar: Bachmann Headlines British Press
What Palin may have done is paved the way for a more plausible version of her brand of rightwing, nationalistic politics.
Sidebar: Bachmann Eyes ‘Madam President’
True? I don’t know either, but the Washington columnist George Will, a bit of a power groupie the last time I looked, has started making obliging noises about Bachmann [link added], heroine of the grassroots anti-Obama “tea party” (as in Boston) movement.
So have the shock jocks on radio and Rupe’s demagogic Fox TV. Fasten your safety belt?
Pretty horrid things were said about George Dubya Bush in his time, I realise, though not by me until he’d earned them: climate change, Hurricane Katrina, the ballooning budget deficit, Guantanamo Bay and waterboarding, the shocking mismanagement of the occupation of Iraq, the unchecked excesses on Wall Street.
There’s a cycle to these things. Bill Clinton did some foolish, wrong things too, not all in the pizza delivery department either.
But it’s worth reminding fiscal conservatives that it was Ronald Reagan and both Bushes who racked up enormous federal deficits, now scarily matched by many of the 50 states after decades of tax cuts for the wealthy. …
As with healthcare reform, the US poor or nearly poor can be whipped up into a frenzy of indignation against the “government” plotting to interfere in their lives in ways that would puzzle German Christian Democrats.
Sidebar: Bachmann Call for Armed Revolt?
But a lot of fashionable isms are mixed into this heady brew – Christian fundamentalism (curiously in alliance with its Jewish cousins over Israel), survivalism, uber-capitalism posing as libertarian populism.
Sidebar: Condemning Beck and Bachmann
We’ve been here before (Senator Joe McCarthy came from Wisconsin, next door to Minnesota) and seen it off.
Sidebar: Bachmann’s ‘Anti-American’ Rant
But I sometimes feel the irrationality and violence – much of it driven by racial neurosis – that has been a growing part of the American landscape for 50 years may overwhelm the liberal, secular republic and its president.
Sidebar: Obama, Economy Fuel Hate Groups
In America, the sniper is always present. Years ago, when my wife sat watching Colonel Oliver North giving unabashed and arrogant evidence to Congress on his illegal activities selling weapons to Iran (and giving the profits to terrorists in Nicaragua), a cycle courier – black because this was Washington – delivered a parcel.
“Don’t worry about him,” the courier said with a nod towards the screen. “If too many people like him come down from the trees, we’ll take care of them. We’re armed to the teeth, too.”
Sidebar: Bachmann Heads Teabaggers
An alarming thought, but a reminder that the constitution’s right to bear arms cuts both ways, so that if the reactionary side resorts to violence – as the Old South did at Fort Sumter in 1861 – so can the other.
It’s a form of checks and balances for which the republic of 1787 is rightly famous.
Perhaps I should be more optimistic. Checks and balances are the American way and Honest Abe Lincoln called America “the last, best hope of mankind.”
Eric Roper reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Hot Dish Politics blog (Nov. 28, 2009) that MSNBC’s Ed Schultz devoted more than a quarter of his Nov. 25 show, live from Minneapolis, to Rep. Michele Bachmann — “an unusual amount of time even for Schultz, who perennially takes swipes at Bachmann in his ‘Psycho Talk’ segment.”
Bachmann and Palin team up (MSNBC “The Ed Show,” Nov. 25, 2009) – The National Tea Party Convention chose Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., as keynote speakers. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz and a panel – Matt Snyders of City Pages, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, and Republican Strategist Ron Christie – discuss their selection. (16:44)
By Bill Prendergast
Minnesota Progressive Project
Nov. 30, 2009
… and we know that because Ed thought the City Pages profile and interview of her was just wonderful; he “read it on the plane” before interviewing its author Matt Snyders. …
It’s very disappointing me to learn that Schultz — who’s devoted so much airtime to Bachmann’s craziness — is still so ill-informed about her that he saw the City Pages profile and interview as something valuable. …
Why do I say that Snyder’s profile was sucky and sloppily researched? …
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — November 30, 2008
One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that the fallout from a three-day terrorist rampage that killed nearly 200 people in Mumbai threatened to unravel India’s improving ties with Pakistan.
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