#Excelsior502- Pity Michele Bachmann. It must be tough enough to be a Congresscritter without the added burden of being a punching bag for the political Left in this country, it must be doubly-hard to be a Congresscritter running for national office with the added bonus of being way too easy to tag with a torrent of left jabs in the immediate seconds before the final knockout blow is delivered.
And, yes, the mixing of metaphors vis-à-vis boxing and politics is especially relevant when discussing the candidacy of Mrs. Bachmann. For all intents and purposes, Michele Bachmann is the Vito Antuofermo of the 2012 GOP field.
For those who do not remember him, Antuofermo was a knockabout boxer who made it relatively big in the mid-to-late 1970’s. His greatest attributes (if you can call them such) were a propensity to take a tremendous asswhipping at the hands of otherwise mediocre pugilists, and to bleed profusely the second anyone gave him as much as a cold stare. After a short stint as the middleweight champion, Antuofermo pursued a short-lived acting career (he was in The Godfather, Part III), and then promptly vanished from the collective memory of all but the most ardent boxing fans. What most can remember was Vito’s ability to step into a ring, be pummeled insensate, and then somehow emerge still breathing.
That short stint as Middleweight champ was the highlight of Vito’s otherwise lackluster career. A wiser man with similarly average talents might have retired while he was on top, figuring that lightning would only strike once, but not Antuofermo.
One always wonders just why it is that a man would subject himself to such a horrific experience repeatedly, but I as I remember it, it often appeared as if Vito just didn’t know any better, and probably didn’t even know what day of the week it was after a while. He was a fighter, after all, and that was what he did. It was second nature to him, in much the same way its second nature for a neutered dog to continue to hump the sofa: he’s not sure exactly why he must do so, just that he’s compelled to do it, and the end result is so much wasted effort.
Bachmann has repeatedly referred to herself as a ‘fighter’. She fights for this or that cause, many of them taken up by the recently-ascendant Tea Party. Much like Antuofermo, however, she often manages to come out on the losing end, battered and bloody, and seemingly unaware that victory might require a change of tactics, or that it’s perhaps best to let someone else take the beating and give this particular fight a miss while you perfect your footwork.
Without further ado, here are five reasons why Michele Bachmann should quit while she’s ahead:
1. Michele Bachmann, The Fighter, Has Fewer Victories Than Even Vito Antuofermo:
Since the beginning of the 2012 popularity contest that is the GOP primaries, Bachmann has regaled us all, ad nauseum, about how she ‘fights’ for us. She fought against TARP and the other government bailout plans. She fought against Obamacare. She fought against raising the Debt Limit Ceiling. She fought against the Obama-era explosion of Federal regulations that have probably done more to tie up capital than anything else.
Last time I looked, TARP not only passed through Congress, but has apparently gone even farther than was originally transmitted to the American people. We thought that ‘only’ $700 billion was being funneled into the banks, but it now turns out that number was closer to $7 trillion, and that foreign banks received a good deal of that money, too.
Obamacare is the law, and the only reason it hasn’t sent us into the economic equivalent of the Ninth Ring of Hell is because it hasn’t taken effect yet, and won’t until 2014, unless a sweeping republican victory in 2012 makes repeal a foregone conclusion.
The Debt Limit was raised anyway, not withstanding the fig leaf of promised Federal budget cuts…someday…in one of those backroom deals that promise much, deliver nothing, and keep issues alive for political – rather than practical -- purposes that Washington politicians have shaped into an ultimately self-defeating art form that destroys the lives of the Average American.
Michele Bachmann seems to keep losing fights, and while one must give her proper respect and full credit for continuing to tilt Quixotically at this at this or that political windmill, one begins to wonder just when it is that the gap between intentions and results became so unimportant, and when it became irrelevant to the process of deciding just who is fit to be president of the United States.
It’s one thing to fight; it’s an altogether different thing to win…even occasionally. While one might learn more from defeat than it is possible to do in victory, it’s also true that people will follow winners if only because winners are usually proven commodities who seem to know what they're doing.
Besides, Congress is a major part of the problem, anyway (the real problem is cultural; Congress is just the seeping rash that is symptomatic of a deeper disease), so why should we expect the solution to come from within the ranks of that body, regardless of party affiliation? Bachmann, for all intents and purposes, is part of that despised subset of Americans with a 9% favorability rating. At this point, gonorrhea rates higher than most members of Congress, and no amount of ‘fighting’, let alone unsuccessful fighting, changes that fact. You might as well answer the bell next round with one hand tied behind your back and a blindfold on.
2. Michele Bachmann is Very Good at Telling You What She’s Against, But Just What The Hell is She For?
I’ve asked myself this question a number of times, and can’t come up with a good answer. Bachmann is very good at playing up general themes – taxes, government intervention, out-of-control A, B and C, Family Values (and why is that supposed to be the government’s concern, one wonders?) – but then often falls way short in terms of specifics.
And I’m not surprised at that, either. She’s a Congresscritter, after all, and Congresscritters often don’t do details. That’s what Congressional Aides are for. If there’s any American still under the mistaken impression that your Congressbeast actually has much of a hand in crafting the legislation with which we’re all taxed and regulated within an inch of our lives, guess again. Very few are.
Legislation in this country gets written by a conclave of Congressional Gophers, lawyers, lobbyists and interest groups, and Congresspeople are just the visible face, much like Alex Trebek flogging life insurance on Television. Hell, if we’ve learned anything these last few years, it’s that Congress doesn’t even bother to read most of what it produces, and if you did manage to have no life and therefore the time to give it a go, you’d be comatose within five minutes.
When Nancy Pelosi infamously said “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it…” in reference to Obamacare, she wasn’t being coy, nor was she just putting her notoriously colossal stupidity on public view yet one more time, she was accurately describing the culture of Modern Washington. It’s a “Ready, Fire, Aim!” mentality that is one part self-serving inanity, one part media manipulation, and three parts pure, evil asshole.
Giving Bachmann the benefit of the doubt for having at least a sense of professional ethics, it just might be too much to expect that anyone who’s been steeped in that sort of culture for any appreciable length of time can avoid being infected by that bass-ackwards thinking. If the point of the whole Obamacare debacle was to get something passed for the sake of it, or merely for strictly political purposes, then it’s safe to assume that what one side does the other does just as readily. Considering the results this form of Congressional action has brought us in recent years, just why the hell should we elevate anyone from the Congressional ranks at all?
One would think the remedy to that handicap – being a prominent part of a massively dysfunctional body that routinely fucks up by the numbers, and which passes laws without giving a second (or even first) thought about what a) the law is intended to do, b) it’s utility, c) it’s practicality and d) it’s ultimate costs and effects – would be a candidate who would be specific. Bachmann is anything but. Even Mitt Romney – flip-flopping, opportunistic used car salesman that he is – is incredibly specific about whatever politically-expedient positions he thinks he must espouse this day. Until Michele Bachmann can say more than “I fight”, and then explain her reasoning, motivations and strategies, she’s just another member of a mass of clods you wouldn’t hire to mop your floors.
3. The Curse of The Brilliant
It is my considered opinion that, contrary to what the Leftard Press would have you believe, that Michele Bachmann is quite literally brilliant. Before running for Congress she was a tax attorney, and by all accounts a very good and successful one. Stupid people don’t enjoy success in that sort of environment, which is why is so many mediocre to sub-par lawyers find their way into politics -- where brains and talent are not prerequisites -- much to our detriment.
But most very smart people I know suffer a lack of common sense. It’s one thing to be able to recite the cannons of law by heart, or to manage to manipulate the tax code for the benefit of a client, quote Shakespeare, or know the Periodic Table inside and out; it’s quite another to put that knowledge to practical use. In the Private Sector, Michele Bachmann made herself a fine living; in government, she’s not exactly covered herself in glory, mostly because government should be about common sense and the majority of people within it are profoundly lacking in such, regardless of their actual intellectual talents.
By all accounts, Barack Obama is a brilliant man, but that’s belied by his inability to speak without having half-a-dozen teleprompters loaded with speeches that someone else wrote for him at hand. Bill Clinton was said to have been a keen intellect, but then again, he fucked trailer trash and married Hillary. Richard Nixon was a brilliant politician, but he was arrogant enough to believe that he was above the Law. Smart people don’t necessarily make the best leaders, particularly when they get too clever by half, which is what the trappings of power usually do to people.
That’s not to say that we should be electing complete retards to public office (at least any more than we are now); only that it may be great to be the smartest guy in the room, but this means absolute jack shit when that intellect is not tied to an ability to grasp the practical aspects of the problems at hand. By her own temperament and actions, Michele Bachmann has proved (to me at least) that she doesn’t have the same sense God gave an Irish Setter.
All of her fighting rhetoric is tied to failed causes. All of her anti-whatever lip service is divorced from an explanation of the practical considerations of reversing this or that policy, stating this or that particular goal. It’s seems to me that like most smart people, Michele Bachmann believes that she’s so clever that she can find the shortcuts that turn idea into action, and that the forces arrayed against her ideas and policies don't have something to say about these issues. For better or worse, this is a still a representative democracy, and it’s one thing to say “I want to reform Social Security” and quite another to manage that feat. This requires more than just being smart; it requires an appreciation of the finer points, something which Bachmann was good at when she was making a living as an attorney, but thus far has shown no evidence of having while sitting in Congress.
Once again, we have to consider Bachmann’s history of inglorious defeats on the broader range of issues, and her seeming inability to change tactics in order to overcome those defeats. This is the first sign that Michele Bachmann hasn’t got much in the way of common sense. To be fair, it’s a common disability in the ranks of government service. Better we should be led by one person with a high school education and enough sense to avoid sticking their privates in a wall outlet, than by 100 ‘smart’ people who ‘fight’ the same battles with the same tactics over and over again, expect a different result every time, and then wonder why that more favorable result never materializes.
If you needed yet another example, consider the recent Jimmy Fallon Show kerfuffle: someone with common sense and a level of awareness would have walked right the fuck off that set the second “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” began playing. Instead of doing the right thing, Bachmann got her face time and complained about the obvious bias inherent in that selection afterwards, and then probably only after someone else had pointed it out to her. In the end, while I cannot condone what Fallon and his crew did to Bachmann (would they do that to Michelle Obama or Maxine Waters?), it’s screamingly obvious to me that Bachmann either couldn’t figure out that she was being insulted, or simply didn’t give a fuck. Take your pick.
4. Michele Bachmann Can Scare the Fertilizer out Of You
I find Michele Bachmann rather attractive, personally. She’s not a bad-looking lady at all. Unless, of course, there’s a television camera nearby and then you begin to wonder if there’s anyone at home inside that mannequin on the screen.
While Bachmann may be brilliant, she exudes an aura of airheadedness. This manifests itself in what I like call “The Thousand Yard Stare”, a sort of unblinking, detached visage that gives one the impression that she’s not really here, that she is perhaps some form of alien robot being operated remotely from the Mother Ship. Somehow, she is unable to find a camera to look into whilst talking on any televised show; she always seems to be looking off center out in to some mystical distance, as if her attention is divided, or as if this whole thing is simply a routine that she has down pat so that she can do it in her sleep.
This might be an unfair observation on my part, but watching Michele Bachmann on television reminds me of the stellar performance turned in by Cate Blanchett as Queen Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings; Galadriel spoke in this dreamily airy semi-distracted fashion that led you to believe that while she was, in fact, living in this world, her true attention was drawn to another, invisible realm, someplace just over the top of your head.
For better or worse, we live in a visual age. Michele Bachmann does not make for an attractive visual, not because she’s ugly (far from it). but because you get the impression that she really just isn’t here, and the visual cue is that she either stares somewhere beyond you, or presents this vacant stare that Vanessa Redgrave once had down to a tee (five points to any reader who can identify the source of THAT reference).
People are looking for leadership they can put their confidence in. Michele Bachmann, mostly because of how she appears on television, doesn’t inspire much. All in all, one gets the distinct impression that Bachmann figures she can just ride the wave of national discontent embodied in the Tea Party spirit to higher office, and that her shortcomings – the distracted, detached look, the dearth of specifics, the lack of common sense, the long string of losses cooked up by the same old charge-up-the-middle strategy – would be discounted by an electorate that’s just fed up with being pissed off and pissed upon, a feeling that anyone would be infinitely better than what we currently have.
Considering the rush of people who made the fateful decision to vote for Barack Obama (a man with even fewer qualifications than Bachmann) she could be forgiven for making that vital strategic error. After all, the point of elevating Obama was that he was supposed to be something different, that he wasn’t one of the Usual Gang typically at the center of American Politics. He was to be the New Blood that would revitalize the Body Politic, a breath of fresh air, a new way of thinking, a divorce from the Old Politics -- and if you bought that I have a few bridges to sell you – so why couldn’t Bachmann expect likewise?
In the end, Michele Bachmann is much like Barack Obama in this regard: there’s no ‘there’ there. She is as much an empty vessel as he was, the major difference being that while people filled their Obama Cup with a new version of the old Socialist-With-A-Smiley-Face Kool-Aid, Bachmann’s is being filled with vintage Silent Majority wine given an exciting new bottle, rebranded as "Tea Party". Both taste like shit, but then again, the package was designed to be more important than the product, but marketed in the exact opposite fashion.
5. We DO Have Other Choices
And while I’ve been running them all down, one-by-one, at least one of them will eventually display enough of the skills and abilities needed to become President of the United States. In short, these are:
a. An ability to articulate a national agenda, with some broader details attached.
b. An ability to show a track record of success that inspires confidence. Beyond some minor Congressional dogsqueeze on single-issue advocacy items, Bachmann has few successes to show for all her ‘fighting’.
c. An ability to relate to the American people, to tell them the unvarnished truth about the current state of affairs and to convey your ideas in meaningful and tangible language – something beyond simply always ‘fighting’ – for righting the Ship of State.
d. Display the ability to be both adaptive and pragmatic. Bachmann is neither; she can’t be, because this would invalidate her self-created public crusader shtick, exposing her to the same approbation which clings to Mitt Romney like Saran Wrap covered in Crazy Glue, that once you set yourself up as the Fidei Defensor of Everything you’ve lost your ability to adapt and compromise without appearing to be a complete sellout. Michele Bachmann, by her own words and actions, is doomed to go down with the ship of her candidacy. This is a self-inflicted wound, probably taken by someone who thinks they’re too clever by half.
Michele Bachmann appears to have none of these qualities, whatever her real virtues may be, and one gets the distinct impression that the underlying motivation in her candidacy is sheer opportunism. She believes that she has the right combination of factors in her favor – massively displeased electorate, connections with the Tea Party, the sort of biography that sets ‘real’ conservative (small ‘c’ intentional) hearts a-flutter, Iowa roots that might gain a victory in at least the Iowa Caucuses that could propel her further -- but these are not exactly qualifications; they are simply taking points, the sort of thing one might jot down on the simple Pros-and-Cons list you might compile before buying auto insurance, not when electing a President.
This might be completely unfair of me, but it’s what I believe to be true.
Bachmann has gained herself some attention on the National Scene, which might be useful to her later on in her Congressional career, but without any record of even half-decent results or a program of action to go with it, it’s not likely that Bachmann will ever get much further, or achieve more prominence than she has to date. Frankly, I believe she’s already gotten far more attention than she’s ever truly warranted.
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