Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Burns on Bachmann

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence." — Rep. Michele Bachmann, April 28, 2009, speaking about the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak that actually happened when Gerald Ford was president  

BURNS ON BACHMANN. That sounds bad on a couple of levels. Douglas Burns wrote a snappy piece about Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann for Des Moines' Cityview. Doug is a fourth-generation newspaperman who also writes for the family-owned Carroll Daily Times Herald.

Apparently, neither Michele nor any of her staff would take questions after she spoke at recent campaign stop in Carroll, Iowa. What's that famous quote? "Never pick a fight with a man who buys his ink by the barrel."

No one seems to know for absolutely, positively sure to whom to attribute the quip, but the consensus seems to be that Mark Twain was the originator. Sounds like him and sounds like good advice.

Douglas says that Michele Bachmann
refused to take questions.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Douglas by phone, and I can attest that he's as nice as he is sharp-witted and eager for a story. What I like best about him is that he seems to be cut from the same cloth as journalism icons of the past who took to heart the vital role of the press as the fourth estate — the watchdog of government.

I have to agree with Jon Stewart who, in an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox "News", described journalists these days as "lazy. (Sorry, I can't help but editorialize about the "news" on Fox. Notice how almost no "news" of the whole Murdock/News Corp/News of the World scandal has appeared on Fox, which happens to be owned by Rupert Murdock.)

I long for the glory days of investigative journalism, not celebrity journalism. Of course there are notable exceptions like Douglas who itches to track down news, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel  who's also a stud-muffin IMHO  and CNN's Anderson Cooper. Heck, Jon Stewart is more of a journalist than most journalists, and he's a comedian!

Here's what Douglas had to say:

Bachmann playing by old 6-on-6 rules

by Douglas Burns for Des Moines' Cityview 

Michele Bachmann's staff is exceptionally smart. A-plus stuff, really.

They understand the GOP presidential aspirant thrives best in a cocoon. She can play offense, as long as she doesn't dribble the ball more than twice. Take a thought from A to B? Sure. But don't reach for C, especially if it involves American history and slavery.

Leave winsome Michele alone, fully miked and unstaffed, with no rip cord at the ready, and instead of just showing a blasphemous disregard for the history of the Civil War and civil rights, the Minnesota congresswoman may actually attempt to purchase a slave. Memo to Bachmann staff: watch her closely in South Carolina around black people.

And make sure she doesn't take unscripted questions. Just play your own game. Pretend Iowa is like it was in the 1960s when Michele lived in Waterloo.

For generations of Iowans, basketball was two different games. The boys played 5-on-5, the way the game stands today at all levels. Hawkeye State girls, on the other hand, went 6-on-6, with defensive and offensive duties split — a format that can be superior to watch from a spectator's standpoint, but sends a constant subtle gender message to the community of the walking and chewing gum variety.

In the 2012 Iowa Republican presidential caucuses, we are witnessing the resurrection of the old high school basketball regime: girls — Bachmann and the much-courted but not easily caught Sarah Palin — get the easy rules, the ones where you don't have to cross center court (or change subjects in a debate too quickly).

In an all-offense, no-defense plan, Bachmann and her staff refused to take questions from the local media during her recent stop in Carroll, something every other presidential candidate — Democrat and Republican — has done in Carroll (if they stopped here, and most have) in all election cycles we can recall.

Perhaps Cal Coolidge or Alf Landon or Woodrow Wilson snubbed us back in the day. But as for recent decades, the candidates fielded questions from local media. 

Bachmann had time to dance and sign autographs for the crowd, so she had time to take questions from the media.

 Newt Gingrich took our questions. So did Rick Santorum and Tim Pawlenty.

But on July 3, Bachmann was already in four-corners mode, seeking to run the clock and reduce opportunities for political turnovers. So she seeks friendly audiences. 

Her media schedule listed three separate appearances on FOX News just this past Tuesday and Wednesday, with Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Greta Van Susteren. Rupert Murdoch's folks probably won't even bother to hack Bachmann's voicemails to prep for the interviews.

You can't blame Bachmann for not taking questions. 

She's winning the Iowa caucuses.

In a recent poll conducted by The Iowa Republican.com, Bachmann received support from 25 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (who finished second in Iowa in the 2008 caucuses) pulls 21 percent.

 What's more, the British bookmaking site Ladbrokes.com has Bachmann favored to win the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses at odds of 7 to 4. She was at 5 to 2 just weeks ago.

But could this continue if she started regularly answering questions from Iowans who aren't cherry-picked by her earnest staffers? What if she faced questions from local newspapers in Iowa that can get deep into the weeds on rural issues, tire-kick the self-proclaimed Iowa-ness of this politician from Minnesota's Twin Cities.

Bachmann, 55, moved from Waterloo to Minnesota at age 12. Would she really bring an "Iowa voice" to the White House, or is she more of a suburban product these days, primped for American politics, reality TV-style. Bachmann is an attractive woman who makes head-turningly bizarre statements, which for some mysterious reason, resonate with older, rural men. Which is a more dangerous place in America to stand right now? Between a gaggle of teen-age girls and Justin Bieber or in the middle of Bachmann and a pack of rural retirees wearing seed hats in Iowa?

A more interesting place to be might be between Bachmann and God. God talks to her, gives her political advice, even. In Bachmann's universe, God is like Karl Rove, only with a long beard, booming voice and the ability to punctuate his thoughts with lightning bolts. According to Bachmann, God wants her to run for the presidency, just as she says He's wanted her to seek other offices. So if Bachmann falls short in her White House bid, can we presume God wanted her to lose as well?

One more quick note on this being-talked-to-by-God business. If we have attorney-client confidentiality and doctor-patient privilege, can't this same concept be extended to the God/worshipping-mortal relationship? Maybe God does talk to Bachmann. But shouldn't that be between them?

For the record, apparently God didn't want Michele Bachmann to be building any substantive legislative record in Congress — unless you count the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act. No joke. Bachmann introduced this bill March 1 (April 1 would have made more sense) out of concern that the United States is advancing too quickly with light bulbs.

"Her record in Congress, as I mentioned before, is, you know — again, great remarks, and great speeches, but in terms of results and accomplishments — nonexistent," fellow Minnesotan and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of their state, told "Fox and Friends."

Bachmann's campaign no doubt responded with detailed accounting of her work on behalf of light bulbs. Or should have.

But we do know where Bachmann stands on slavery. It's better for black kids than life under Obama, goes Team Bachmann's line of reasoning.

 Bachmann signed a marriage and values pledge put forward by the Iowa organization Family Leader.

 The pledge included the following statement: "Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President."

The Family Leader removed that sentence from its introduction to the pledge. But it was there in black and white, and Bachmann, responding to a firestorm of criticism over her John Hancock on the document, issued a statement opposing slavery.

"In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible," Bachmann's campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart told Politico.


A presidential candidate in 2012 is reduced to issuing a statement on slavery?

 Who does Bachmann think she is running against? Jefferson Davis?

Her supporters only wish. They'd switch to old Jeff faster than the tide turned at Pea Ridge.

Douglas Burns — Cityview.
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