Michele Bachmann’s mantra is that an appreciation of the founding and history of America provides is all that is necessary to solve our modern day problems.
There may be a kernel of truth in this, but since she is apparently ignorant of American history (and the present, for that matter), she is in no position to arrive at any workable solutions. However, nitpicking her scholarliness on historical particulars is not only beside the point, it might very well enhance her popularity.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” and Bachmann exemplifies this as no other Presidential candidate today. She is an ideologue who simply has no use for facts, sincere in her ignorance and conscientious in her stupidity. Worse still, her supporters don’t care whether she gets the words right as long as she is humming their tune.
Bachmann is certainly not alone among her Republican brethren in her disdain of facts and accuracy, but it is her breezy disregard for such that makes her unique. Mitt Romney anguishes publicly over whether his criticism of Obamacare is intellectually honest in view of his own state-run system in Massachusetts. Sarah Palin was shamed into trying to paper over her Paul Revere gaffe by attempting to tweak history to comport with her original misstatement. Bachmann, however, is utterly immune to shame. When confronted with reality, she simply brushes it aside, saying “people make mistakes,” and forges ahead. What is more significant, her supporters consider this praiseworthy.
Those of us in the reality-based community may have a good laugh at Bachmann’s graceless fumbling, but her relentless stream of boneheaded boners can easily be written off (and they will be by her supporters) as innocent errors by someone with a sketchy-but-sufficient command of American history. It’s arguable that someone who claims to derive her solutions from her knowledge of our history ought to at least do some cramming before writing a speech, but does it really matter? Does it really matter in what state or city “the shot heard ‘round the world” was fired when one is preparing to tackle America’s energy policy? Probably not.
During a recent CNN interview, Bachmann stretched the truth like a piece of taffy in selling her supporters on the efficacy of her Presidential bid. Entertainingly unabashed puffery, yes, but again, it can and will be explained away as awkward politicking by a citizen “outsider” reluctantly playing the media game required by the Swiftian tightrope act of our modern day election theatre. For a nation embroiled in two and a half wars, does it really matter precisely when Michele Bachmann entered the race for President? Probably not.
The sobering truth is that such comical misstatements, which prompted NPR reporter Frank James to call Bachmann “a one-person, full-employment act for fact-checking reporters,” are in truth, only the tip of the iceberg. They are emblematic of her willful, sincere ignorance, and the Tea Partiers who support her emulate her in this. What’s more, they accept contradictory notions simultaneously without a whit of cognitive dissonance. Bachmann’s scholarly command of the history of America’s founding is one of her greatest strengths, but too much historical scholarliness is the weakness of effete intellectuals and lefty ideologues. Bachmann’s hardheaded truth telling is a breath of fresh air, but stretching the truth here and there is a necessary evil.
It’s entertaining and moderately newsworthy when Bachmann verbally slips on a banana peel, particularly when it’s her own banana peel, but public gloating merely burnishes her anti-establishment street cred in the eyes of low-information voters.
Meanwhile, Bachmann is pushing the truthiness envelope in her sparkling new presidential campaign website. Although it is primarily a collection of ham-handed criticisms of President Obama, she also offers her positions on a variety of important issues (and some not-so-important issues as well). These calculated statements are no less muddleheaded than her offhand public utterances, but they cannot be dismissed quite so easily. In short, she puts into black and white the same twisted, counterproductive prescriptions for America’s ills she’s been hawking verbally for years. She promises to:
- Create jobs by lifting business restrictions and “placing our trust in investors”
- Default on our debt, cut spending, and hamstring government
- Repeal the Affordable Health Care Act and make each citizen a health care profit center
- Make America more secure through some unspecified measures
- Lower energy prices by endangering the environment
In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter whether Michele Bachmann can distinguish the Constitution from the Declaration of Independence—or from the New Testament, for that matter. And as George W. Bush proved, a penchant for misstatements can morph into a charming eccentricity in the minds of charitably predisposed voters. What matters far more than her minimal intellectual firepower is her catastrophic policies, her ill-considered written statements, and her reflexively anti-government prejudices.
Fact checkers would do well to put their history texts aside and direct their investigations to the present.
And the future.
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