Oh, where to begin? I suppose I could run off a litany of bizarre, foolish, or simply incorrect statements by the twisted sisters of the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.
I could go on about Palin’s inability to answer such trick questions as ”what do you read?” or”what Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?” I could also speak of her effort to expand the Webster’s Dictionary by her creation of the word (not really) “refudiate.” Then there’s her ability to ”see Russia from her house.” Miss Alaska’s Palinisms have become the stuff of legend. I mean, if destroying the English language and speaking in an incomprehensible manner can be considered legendary.
For a while, it seemed that Sarah had the Tower of Babel all to herself. Not anymore. Republican House Representative from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann has now laid claim to Sarah’sintellectual lightweight crown. To be clear, it’s not as if Bachmann hasn’t made her share of bizarre statements over the years. Here is a small sample:
“There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.”
“If we took away the minimum wage–if conceivably it was gone–we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
“Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
“I just take the Bible for what it is, I guess, and recognize that I am not a scientist, not trained to be a scientist. I’m not a deep thinker on all of this. I wish I was. I wish I was more knowledgeable, but I’m not a scientist.”
No Michele, you are not a scientist. But you are on the House Intelligence Committee. Which aside from being an example of irony in its purest form, also means we can’t ignore you as easily as before.
In fact, it’s hard to ignore either of them now that they are the twin towers of the Tea Party. Not just because of the significance of that grass roots movement, but also for the sheer entertainment value.
Let’s just look at the last couple of weeks.
After the awful shooting of Democratic House member Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, Palin came under significant scrutiny for her previous use of inflammatory rhetoric and in particular, her display of cross hairs over targeted districts (including Giffords’) in a graphic on her web site. While this criticism was to some degree unfair (there is no evidence that the shooter was inspired by Palin), it was sharp and pointed in discussing the irresponsible and uncivil nature ofPalin’s behavior.
So, having been given an opportunity to respond, did Mrs. Palin show any contrition? Did she admit to at least getting a little overheated at times? Not our Sarah. Hell no, she doubled down by using the phrase ”blood libel” in referring to the media’s harsh treatment of her. Aside from the fact that she took a national tragedy and made it all about her, the use of the term ”blood libel”was taken as a very particular offense by the Jewish population. My suspicion is that she did not know that the term was originally used to blame Jews for the death of Christ and over the years has been a rallying cry for anti-Semites in rationalizing their deliberately unfair treatment of the followers of the Torah. I mean, what are the odds she would know? As former campaign advisor to John McCain, Steve Schmidt, once said as he walked away from interviewing her after she had been selected to run as VP, ”She doesn’t know anything.”
Not to be outdone, speaking in Iowa on January 24th, Bachmann said this: ”the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States….Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”There are so many things wrong with this comment that it is hard to know where to start. First off, John Quincy Adams was not a founder or a forefather. He was the son of John Adams who was indeed both of those things. Nor was Abraham Lincoln who actually signed into law the 13thamendment which outlawed slavery in 1864. Or, 88 years after the Declaration of Independence and 16 years after the death of one, John Quincy Adams. Does she understand what a founder is? You know, the one that found?
By her very loose definition, I’m not so sure that Ronald Reagan wouldn’t qualify.
Ah, but Mrs. Bachmann wasn’t done yet. In a truly bizarre Tea Party sponsored response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, a raccoon eyed Bachmann looked into the wrong camera, made several mis-statements about the deficit and mispronounced Iwo Jima in such a way that I am convinced she had never heard of the place prior to her presentation.
Bachmann’s performance effectively undercut the official Republican response delivered by House Representative from Wisconsin, Paul Ryan. And let me say this about Ryan, I agree with him on almost nothing. Among his ideas is the belief that Social Security should be privatized, and Medicare should be replaced with a coupon. That being said, Ryan is a serious individual who delivered a better than average response to the President. Unfortunately for the Republican Party, due to Mrs. Bachmann, no one is talking about Mr. Ryan.
Of course, all this focus on Mrs. Bachmann had to be chipping away at Mrs. Palin, who is nothing if not competetive. So, on Wednesday night, Mrs. Palin offered up her own response to the State of the Union. In her interview on FOX (naturally) with Greta Van Susteren, she referred to President Obama’s statement that we as a nation are at our “Sputnik moment” as it relates to our standing in the world, as “one of those WTF moments.” To see a national figure with presumed presidential aspirations to use a profane acronym to describe the speech of the President was one thing. However, what followed was something else altogether.
Here is the full quote:
“That was another one of those WTF moments, when he so often repeated this Sputnik moment that he would aspire Americans to celebrate. And he needs to remember that what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory in that race to space, yes, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union.”
So, let’s get this straight, she thinks the Soviet Union won the space race? Does she not know who landed on the moon? You know, ”One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?” And that’s not the only thing wrong with this statement. The Russian Sputnik spacecraft went into orbit in 1957. The Soviet Union fell in 1991. Their space program had little if anything to do with their demise. The actual collapse of the Soviet Union was due to a variety of economic and political issues, not the least of which was the nuclear arms race which sorely taxed the nation’s treasure. A rocket ship from 1957 was the least of their concerns.
It’s hard to imagine that mainstream Republicans are happy with these two. But what can they really do about it? The Tea Party has become the base of the Republican party, and you cannot win a Republican primary without your base. So, as a Republican, you criticize either of these two at your own peril.
Perhaps the best that the GOP can hope for is that they start going after each other. Which is entirely conceivable. Both are camera and microphone hounds–even if they require a controlled (see FOX) environment. When it comes to the leader of the soul of the Tea Party, I’ve got a pretty strong feeling that there can only be one.
While both Palin and Bachmann are prone to extraordinary gaffes, they are not exactly the same. There is an underlying meanness to Palin that I have yet to see in Bachmann. A nastiness that underscores her nickname, “The Barracuda.” Whereas Bachmann is a genuinewackadoodle. As one local politician (who shall remain nameless) confided in me, ”she really believes that the Martians are coming.”
So this is the choice before the Tea Party, and to a degree the GOP as well. The Tea Party has to decide who they like more, and the GOP has to decide who hurts them less. The crazy person who knows nothing, or the mean person who knows nothing.
Because, the truth is, neither of these messengers can be fixed. Both are guilty of profound levels of ignorance. Of which, there are two kinds. The regular sort, and the willful sort. The first kind can be fixed. The second kind cannot.
They don’t have the first kind.