As the death spiral of the 2008 election spins down to single digit days remaining, this weekend finds me in foul spirits, getting a bit angry, and even taking a good friend to task. The reason is an incident which probably should have faded from the political radar by now, but apparently won’t be going away. It involves the recent incendiary remarks by Minnesota 6th District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann when she appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, effectively saying that the majority party members of Congress should be investigated to see if they are “unamerican” because they hold liberal views different from her own. I found the original exchange troubling enough, but the point where I became increasingly annoyed was when I saw a number of Right-leaning pundits insisting that Matthews somehow set a “trap” for Bachmann. These include my old friend Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, who continues on that course today.
Our friend Michele Bachmann has a new ad out for the final ten days of the campaign, and it corrects a mistake she made in last week’s appearance on Hardball. “I may not always get my words right,” Rep. Bachmann says, “but I know my heart is right”:
Sometimes people make mistakes. Michele doesn’t explicitly apologize for the remarks she made after carelessly falling into the rhetorical trap laid by Matthews, but she acknowledges her error.
If any of Bachmann’s supporters had chosen to simply refer to it as a “mistake” and leave it at that, I suppose I could live with it. It most certainly was a mistake, at least in the political sense of the word. But this continued insistence that the Congresswoman was somehow an unwitting pawn in Matthews’ evil machinations is well beyond the pale. Let’s rewind for a moment and take a look at this trap that Chris so cleverly laid. Here’s a few excerpts from the original transcript which you are free to read in full and judge for yourself.
(By the way, there will be a political contribution challenge at the end of this piece, so please read on.
It starts out innocently enough, with Bachmann talking about Obama’s relationships with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. (Not issues which ever carried a lot of weight with me, but I still say you’re free to consider them if you wish.) Then comes the Hardball Metallic Jaws of Death.
REP. BACHMANN: You have a troika of the most leftist administration in the history of our country.
Ok, now watch carefully. Here comes the “trap.” (I just don’t want you to miss it.)
MR. MATTHEWS: If you have liberal views, does that mean you have anti-American views? What’s the connection? I don’t get the connection. What’s the connection between liberal and leftist and anti-American?
Alright. Now stop and think for a moment. Imagine that you are an adult woman who has been elected to represent your district in Congress. A television talking head has just pitched you that question. How do you answer it? Wouldn’t you quickly dismiss such rhetoric and talk about how different people have differing views of the best direction for the country? Might you not mention how conservative values, lower taxes, etc. are the right way to go? I can see a Republican sticking with saying that Ayers and Wright are anti-American, but that’s where you leave it. If this is a trap, it’s one that Wile E. Coyote would have seen from a mile away. But not Bachmann.
REP. BACHMANN: Anti-American is the point, because –
MR. MATTHEWS: I mean, if you’re liberal, are you anti-American?
REP. BACHMANN: Well, the liberals that are Jeremiah Wright and that are Bill Ayers, they’re over-the-top anti-American. And that’s the question that Americans have. Remember, it was Michelle Obama who said she’s only recently proud of her country. And so these are very anti-American views.
The train wreck continues to get more awful by the moment.
MR. MATTHEWS: So this is a character issue. You believe that Barack Obama may — you’re suspicious because of this relationship — may have anti-American views. Otherwise it’s probably irrelevant to this discussion.
REP. BACHMANN: Absolutely.
MR. MATTHEWS: So you believe it brings into –
REP. BACHMANN: I absolutely –
MR. MATTHEWS: So you believe that Barack Obama may have anti- American views.
REP. BACHMANN: Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views. That’s what the American people are concerned about. That’s why they want to know what his answers are. That’s why Joe the plumber has figured so highly in the last few days –
It goes on for a bit and gets even more painful, until we arrive at the final nails in the coffin.
MR. MATTHEWS: Well, he’s a United States senator from Illinois. He’s one of the people you suspect as being anti-American. How many people in the Congress of the United States do you think are anti- American? You’ve already suspected Barack Obama. Is he alone, or are there others? How many do you suspect of your colleagues as being anti-American?
REP. BACHMANN: What I would say — what I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.
This isn’t a “mistake” and it wasn’t a “trap” worthy of catching a one legged mouse who’d been starving for a month. That is a flat out call to investigate – NOT people like Ayers or Wright – but seated members of Congress who have a different political philosophy than Bachmann does. Why would she say it? We’re left with three possible conclusions:
1. Michelle Bachmann is such an acidic, divisive character that she feels her Congressional colleagues who disagree with her should be rounded up and carted away.
2. She is willing to spew abusive, divisive rhetoric which she doesn’t believe herself in public.
3. She’s dumber than Wile E. Coyote.
No matter which of these is the case, I’m left pondering the now-iconic sentiment that, “we all get the government we deserve.” The people of the 6th District elected her, and now the polls indicate that they might not want that kind of poison in their congressional seat.
In the linked Hot Air post above, Ed decides that he’s angry with the NRCC for pulling funding from Bachmann’s campaign. He’s sent in a 100 dollar donation to Bachmann and issued a challenge to his readers to match or exceed it. Well, I’m pretty angry that this is the level to which our elected leaders have sunk, so I have answered Ed’s challenge by sending in my own matching donation to her opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg. If you think Bachmann’s type of divisive rancor is what we need in Congress, Ed provides a link where you can donate. If you disagree, you can join me in donating to Tinklenberg here.
(Ed, I’ll mail you a copy of my donation receipt shortly for your challenge. Nudge nudge wink wink.)
EDIT: If you do happen to donate to Tinklenberg, let us know in comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll give you some props here if you like.
UPDATE: Readers joining in for the Tinklenberg contributions!