Four days after her controversial appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball” with Chris Matthews and the resultant furor over her use of the word “anti-American” while discussing Barack Obama, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) is a woman targeted, hunted, and under fire.
Late last night, there were mounting reports that the National Republican Congressional Committee had pulled out of freshman lawmaker Bachmann’s re-election effort against Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg. Bachmann’s campaign manager Michelle Marsten confirmed this.
A spokeswoman for NRCC Chairman and Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole said that he would get back to me “as soon as possible.”
“Within twenty-four hours of my appearance on that show and my use of the word ‘anti-American’ that Chris Matthews had injected into the interview when we discussed Barack Obama, my opponent probably raised $2 million,” Bachmann told me on the day after the program between campaign appearances, “and I became ‘Typhoid Mary.’”
“I made a mistake going on Chris Matthews’ show,” the freshman lawmaker ruefully added.
Appearing on “Hardball” last Friday evening, Bachmann was discussing the importance of Obama’s association with 1960s Weather Underground leader Bill Ayres and why Obama, Joe Biden, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would constitute what she dubbed “a troika of the most leftist Administration in the history of our country.”
“If you have liberal views,” host Matthews asked, “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?
Bachmann began to respond that “Anti-American is the point, because –“
But Matthews cut her off and injected the phrase once again, saying “I mean, if you’re liberal, are you anti-American?”
“Well, the liberals that are Jeremiah Wright and that are Bill Ayers, they’re over-the-top anti-American.,” replied the Minnesota lawmaker, “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.”
“Okay,” said Matthews.
“Okay” indeed. Within hours of Bachmann’s exchange with Matthews — which the “Hardball” host repeated throughout the evening on MSNBC — Democrat Tinklenberg raised more than $640,000 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took another look at the race in Minnesota’s 6th District (which George W. Bush carried with 57 percent of the vote in ’04).
According to the Washingtonpost.com’s Politics blog, the DCCC began a TV salvo slamming Bachmann for her stand against regulation of the financial industry — “the leading edge of a seven-figure television buy that runs through election day.”
In campaigning for the suddenly competitive Tinklenberg, Speaker Pelosi — with whom Bachmann has clashed over her intent to revive the anti-talk radio “Fairness Doctrine” — said that the Minnesotan had “dishonored” her position as a Member of Congress.
And, as editorials in the media begin likening Bachmann to the late anti-Communist Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R.-Wisc.) and even suggesting she had called for investigations into alleged “anti-Americans,” her own party’s campaign arm put out the word they were pulling out of her suddenly lively re-election effort.
“Chris Matthews laid a trap and I walked into it,” the congresswoman told me, “He injected the phrase ‘anti-American’ and I had been saying ‘liberal.’ If I had simply said ‘radical’ or ‘leftist’ or ‘liberal’ again, it would have been fine. Finally, I said ‘anti-American’ in response to him — and I reget it. But he blew it out of proportion and the liberal media whipped their constituency into a frenzy.”
In voicing regret for her choice of the word Matthews had brought up, Bachmann also warned that “This is how they get conservatives to shut up — by making examples out of outspoken conservatives like me. Because of a poor choice of words that I repeated from someone else, the radical left is trying to offer me up on the cross of political correctness.”
Bachmann spoke to me before the NRCC said “You’re on your own.” And she was prophetic when she warned: “I am going to be destroyed in two weeks.” But then she added a note of hope: “But I won’t be destroyed if my conservative friends rise to the occasion.”