Thursday, June 16, 2011

The extremism of Michele Bachmann

If anyone "won" the self-regarding lovefest that was the Republican presidential debate in New Hamphire the other night, it was likely Mitt Romney, even if that was only because no one really wanted to take him on.

But if anyone truly exceeded expectations, which is how the media usually define winning, it was Michele Bachmann, who announced that she was filing her papers for a run and then "won" the debate mainly by showing that she can actually speak publicly without her head spinning 'round and vomit spewing from her mouth. If you've seen her on the talk-show circuit, you know she can do that, and some of us actually think she has somewhat impressive political/media skills, but it's nonetheless something of a revelation when she acts, well, normal. (Just as so many are amazed when Palin strings a coherent thought together. And, yes, that is amazing.)

But don't let that performance -- don't let her -- fool you. She's a dangerous right-wing extremist. You can learn all about her "bizarro world" here. I also recommend Michelle Goldberg's piece at The Daily Beast. Here's a taste:

Her anti-gay platform has alienated parts of her family. A mentor she described as a "great influence" has a history of addresses to white supremacists. A book she collaborated on advocates theocracy. Rep. Michele Bachmann's impressive performance at Monday's debate has catapulted her near the front of the GOP pack, but the radical roots of her ideology remain poorly understood.

Can she win? It seems unlikely, but maybe, especially if no one else emerges on the right (e.g., Rick Perry), if Romney fails to win sufficient conservative support, and if Tim Pawlenty or some other "bridge" candidate (i.e., able to link the GOP's more moderate establishment with the Tea Party and other right-wing elements) fails to break through. And she'll certainly have some key support of her own:

[N]o other candidate in the race is so completely a product of the evangelical right as Bachmann; she could easily become the Christian conservative alternative to the comparatively moderate Mormon Mitt Romney. "Michele Bachmann's a complete package," says Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition wunderkind who now runs the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "She's got charisma, she's got an authentic faith testimony, she's a proven fighter for conservative values, and she's well known." She's also great at raising money -- in the 2010 cycle, she amassed a record $13.2 million in donations.

She's certainly a package. Make sure to read the whole piece.

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