Is This All There Is?

I wish Michele Bachmann would stop sounding like an idiot, for her own sake and for the sake of all of womankind. Though I wouldn’t vote for her, I know she’s not an idiot. But she just keeps opening her mouth and saying things that are so freaking stupid, they make me want to reach through the television/intertubes and shake her and tell her to stop making my entire gender look like morons.

The woman has a post-doctorate degree in tax law. That takes a brain. Why won’t she make that obvious?

She said the “shot heard ’round the world” was fired in New Hampshire.

It was in Massachusetts.

She said the founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.

Um, the founding fathers owned slaves. Abraham Lincoln ended slavery. Sixteen presidents into the republic.

She said John Quincy Adams was one of the founding fathers.

John Quincy Adams was 10 when the country was formed. He later became the sixth president. Much later.

She said John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa.

John Wayne was from Winterset, 150 miles away. John Wayne Gacey, the serial killer– he was from Waterloo. (Lady. Google it. It’s not hard to fact-check your speeches.)

She said (and continues to say) that she believes states have the right to make laws and that she would not force them to overturn their laws on gay marriage, but that she favors a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage… which, by definition, overturns laws in states allowing it.

Alright… she studied hard at most things. Maybe just not history.

Bachmann is also painfully bad at walking back misstatements and owning up to mistakes. After her “shot heard ’round the world” comment, she posted on Facebook: “So I misplaced the battles Concord and Lexington by saying they were in New Hampshire. It was my mistake, Massachusetts is where they happened. New Hampshire is where they are still proud of it! And by the way, that will be the last time I borrow President Obama’s tele-prompter!”

I guess that means they’re not proud of it in Massachusetts anymore.

Nevermind that, when you’re running for president, you can’t just flippantly dismiss a misstatement that makes everyone think about elementary education. (See also: Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s ride.)

When Bachmann was questioned by Chris Wallace on her position on gay marriage and state vs. federal control over it, she couldn’t explain what she meant in any way that made sense (because it just flat-out doesn’t make sense – you either believe in state control over marriage or you believe in a constitutional amendment regarding it; you cannot possibly back both of those horses) and wound up talking about activist judges.

When George Stephanopolous of ABC News questioned her about the founding fathers/slavery statement, she started talking about how it’s good that we can change the things that are wrong in the country, talked about the Constitution, and then said the current administration is taking away our freedoms.

When she talks like that, when she answers direct questions with rambling talking points that only tangentially relate to what she’s been asked, she reminds an awful lot of people of Sarah Palin.

Pic snatched from theconservativetreehouse.wordpress.com, which may or may not still exist.

If she thinks that’s going to help her, I’m pretty sure she’s out to lunch.

With these two women coming from back-to-back Republican races, it’ll be a wonder if anybody (sane) ever thinks a woman could be smart enough to run the country and, by extension, the free world. A male friend of mine asked me, during the 2008 campaign, how I would feel as a woman if Sarah Palin wound up as vice-president. Politics aside, I told him there were so many other Republican women in American history – recent American history – who could do that job so much better that my feeling was, “Why does it have to be her?” Not “why does it have to be a Republican?” (I’m a registered Independent who, you may have guessed, leans left), but “why her?” I could have been proud if it were Ann Richards (though being dead would make her campaign difficult), or Kay Bailey Hutchinson, or Bay Buchanan, or Christine Todd-Whitman. I’m not saying I support their politics inherently, but those are smart, effective women.

It’s not fair to ask one female political candidate to carry a mantle for all of womankind, but frankly, that’s what she’ll likely be expected to do if she ever gets to that top echelon, and well… I’d like her to properly identify the Founding Fathers.

George Washington? Yes. (image from americaslibrary.gov)

George Bush? No. (pic from bspcn.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Bachmann and Palin are not the only politicians to make stupid mistakes when they open their mouths. Plenty of our male politicians do it too. I remember at one point during the previous presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain talked about the border of Iraq and Pakistan. The border of Iraq and Pakistan has its own names: Iran and Afghanistan. He made that mistake more than once. In fact, Sen. Joe Lieberman bent to quietly whisper a correction in his ear at one point (which must be why McCain originally wanted Lieberman to be his VP). He thought Darfur was in Somalia instead of Sudan. He called Vladmir Putin the president of Germany instead of Russia.

Facepalm, indeed. (pic from blog.reidreport.com)

These may seem like easy academic errors (after all, how many people know what nations border Iraq just off the top of their heads?) But when you’re campaigning to be president, and oh, there’s a war there, these kinds of fact errors matter. A lot.

And it’s not just Republicans who make these kinds of mistakes. President Obama said he had visited 57 states. He said his parents got together because of the march in Selma, Alabama, which happened three years after he was born. He said 10,000 people died in a tornado in Kansas that killed 11 people. Those are substantial fact-based errors too.

Sometimes I do think we’re sexist when it comes to female politicians, regardless to which party they belong. Chris Wallace, pointing out her history of making false, or at least partly false, statements, asked Rep. Michele Bachmann if she’s a flake. He stopped for a second before he said it, as if he knew it might cause a problem, and it did; he got a lot of flak from viewers who thought the question was sexist. I happen to agree. We don’t call men flaky. It’s not a perception problem; it’s a wording problem. Wallace could have found a better way to say it, but he chose a sexist word. That’s terribly unfortunate. I’m not going to peg him with the entire weight of sexism in this country and its political system, but it’s an example.

And again, it’s not just Republican women who take flak, although it seems the other side takes flak for different reasons. Remember how up-in-arms people got when the tough as nails Hillary Clinton momentarily softened and she got teary at a public event? We love it when men do that, but legions of people shrieked that Sen. Clinton wasn’t strong enough to run the country. If she showed her mettle, she was a b*&^h. If she softened, she was weak.

We seem to be in a political environment right now that allows any attractive Conservative woman to run for president or vice-president. I don’t know why that is; I don’t know why more attractive Democratic women aren’t garnering national attention. Then again, I don’t want those to be the criteria for candidacy; I’d much prefer someone like now-Secretary Clinton, who’s got the brains and the chops to get things done and not come across like an idiot.

But maybe, after all these years, this country still likes its women pretty and maybe not so goshdarned obvious about their smarts.

Nobody likes a show-off. Unless the show-off is a man. In which case, he’s just confident and capable.

Congresswoman Bachmann is smart, but maybe she’s not very politically savvy. Maybe that’s the distinction we need to make. She knows her talking points (without having to write them on her hand) and she knows that she needs to focus everything she says on how to make President Obama retire in 2012. But she has no skill or deftness, and apparently she either has no staff to help her with it, or she doesn’t listen to them. And either she needs to learn that or she’s going to continue to be the whipping girl for everybody out to find someone to hate in this election cycle.

Why be a sacrificial lamb? Get smart, or get out.

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15 thoughts on “Is This All There Is?

  1. Great post – I like that you aren’t just reaming the entire political party (which, regardless of how good your arguments might be, would still seem more like you just don’t like that party), but actually focusing on the issue of these womens’ effectiveness, and the fact that they aren’t the first politicians to develope a case of foot-in-mouth disease.

    • Glad you liked it. I think both parties have heaps of problems. There are lots of things I don’t like about each, and right now, I probably have more problems with the Republicans. But I have this annoying tendency to try to be fair. And being an Independent is probably a sign that I don’t like being pigeon-holed. 🙂

  2. Here’s hoping most Americans are smart enough to realize we can’t stereotype an entire gender based on the examples of two individuals. I, for one, don’t feel like either of them represents all women, but then, I also use the word “flaky” to describe men as well as women….

    • I hope you’re right, too, but I think it makes women look bad, and it particuarly makes conservative women look bad, when Palin and Bachmann are the major female faces of the campaigns. Then again, I might just be oversensitive. Welcome back, by the way!

  3. Good pull with Obama’s errors. I’d forgotten those.

    When I think of sharp women, who would easily have gotten my vote, I think: Ann Richards, Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton.

    I’m still not willing to give Bachman a nod on intelligence, though. I know too many smart people who lack degrees, and too many dumb people who have amazing credentials. She might be politically savvy, but I’m not willing to trust her to do any mental heavy lifting.

    • It’s only fair to point them out, I think. Your point on smart people who don’t have degrees and dumb people who do is well-taken. But I don’t think Bachmann has shown any political savvy yet; at least, not campaign savvy. She’s never been in a national campaign, and I think that’s showing.

  4. As an independent smart person with a degree who leans fairly far right, I agree with most everything you say, including that Hillary Clinton would make a better president than either Bachmann or Palin. I also agree that women are treated differently by both male politicians and the media. The truth is I think male chauvinism is much more alive in this country than it is politically correct to admit and it comes from both sides of the political aisle, whether it’s Wallace questioning Bachmann or Limbaugh talking about Pelosi. Truthfully, I don’t think any smart person … with a degree or without … would run for political office these days, which is why we are in such a sorry state, at least in part.

    • Aha, fair point! I guess it depends on one’s definition of smarts, but I certainly think you have to be a looney toon (in addition to being incredibly egotistical) to run for president. So I guess they’re all crazy.

  5. I believe a certain amount of the nonsense that comes out of Bachmann’s mouth is trolling. The target audience doesn’t notice it. It you notice how inane it is, you’re not the target audience.

    • Interesting point… but I wonder who she’s trying to reel in with the Founding Fathers Fought to End Slavery By Which I Mean John Quincy Adams Was A Founding Father Even Though He Was Ten nonsense. The other stuff, the stuff that’s sort of insane but still a political platform… you’re probably right!

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