Commentary Magazine


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No Winners in Debt Crisis? Don’t Tell Bachmann.

Many pundits on both the left and the right are convinced Michele Bachmann’s boomlet is bound to collapse sooner or later. They believe she is too extreme to be taken seriously by the American people once they learn more about her. They also think her gaffes and scrutiny of her family will undo her. But instead of losing steam, the Tea Party heroine keeps gaining ground in polls. Part of the answer to this puzzle is to be found in Politico’s story about the way the Minnesota representative has, almost by accident, become the sole winner of a debt ceiling crisis that is threatening to sink both President Obama and the GOP congressional leadership.

The irony is being a backbench member of the House of Representatives was always thought too obscure a post to generate enough attention for a serious presidential candidate. But it is that status which is helping Bachmann stay in the news. Bachmann is an outsider in the House with no leadership responsibilities and no ties to either John Boehner or Eric Cantor that would motivate her to support any compromise on the issues of debt and taxes. The crisis has ramped up coverage of issues on which she is vocal while leaving her free to opine on television and on the stump and damn any thought of a short or long-term solution that doesn’t strictly conform to her own vision. While other Republicans are either bargaining with the White House or trying to sound like sober deal makers, Bachmann can wave the bloody shirt of debt and taxes all she wants to the applause of the GOP grass roots.

The media’s concentration on the subject also helps her because it diverts attention from her competitors who are not similarly positioned. It also has also distracted the public from the growing number of stories being written about Bachmann’s background as well as that of her husband. While a discussion of the allegedly anti-gay nature of Marcus Bachmann’s Christian counseling practice may not hurt his wife’s presidential hopes in Iowa or many other parts of the country, that story as well as others that portray her negatively have the potential to do her some damage eventually. Many observers believe Bachmann’s rise makes it inevitable the liberal media will do their best to tear her down in the same manner that turned Sarah Palin into a right-wing piñata.

While the Palinization of Bachmann may be only a matter of time, right now it is being put on hold while the nation holds its breath about the debt ceiling crisis. In the meantime, Bachmann is gaining strength, raising money and establishing herself as the leading populist conservative presidential contender. No matter what happens in the coming weeks about the debt, Bachmann appears to be the big winner of a crisis she will do nothing to help solve.