Control of the cultural and media landscape places some powerful weapons in the hands of the Left. One of their favorites is the Shroud of Contempt, which they use to muffle targeted individuals by declaring them unfit to be taken seriously. The public has been conditioned to applaud “moderates” and recoil from “extremists,” so painting someone as a horrid extremist is an effective way to airbrush them out of the national conversation.
The Left has been trying to staple the Shroud of Contempt over Sarah Palin since the moment of her national debut – and I do mean “moment” literally. Now they are racing to throw it over presidential candidate and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann as well. The Shroud of Contempt must be applied early, and vigorously, because it doesn’t work very well after the public has accepted an individual as a qualified combatant in the arena of ideas.
Thus, last week’s Rolling Stone published a feverish, deranged piece from Matt Taibbi, in which Bachmann is described as a figure of buffoonish insanity – a “religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions.” The first evidence he introduces for this characterization is Bachmann’s belief that “the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill,” which is objectively true, although it’s possible the slow-witted Taibbi either does not know this, or does not understand it. The goal of his piece is slander, not argument.
A big part of the Bachmann smear campaign involves castigating her for the same kind of gaffes that are resolutely and absolutely ignored when a “certified genius” like Barack Obama commits them. Thus, Bachmann is stupid for telling a Tea Party crowd in New Hampshire that “it was your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world,” when it was actually one of the other 56 states.
Likewise, Bachmann is castigated for her sincere religious faith, which makes her a “crazed Divine Wind kamikaze-for-Jesus” to Taibbi. (In case you’re wondering about that strange turn of phrase, “divine wind” is the literal translation of “kamikaze,” although again it is possible Taibbi doesn’t know that.) In contrast, when a liberal Democrat muses about the importance of faith in their lives – as virtually all of them do – it is treated as evidence of their deep spirituality.
The problem with using manufactured contempt as a political weapon is that it’s an addictive drug. It’s cheap and easy, and saves you the trouble of engaging the actual arguments advanced by the target.
Bachmann is a sane critic of an insane system, saying on the CBS News program Face the Nation last weekend that “it isn’t true the government would default on its debt” if the debt ceiling is not raised, because the Treasury Department “can very simply pay the interest on the debt first, then we’re not in default.” She is absolutely and objectively correct about this, which makes her assertion that liberal debt ceiling politics amount to “scare tactics” very difficult to refute. It’s much easier to mock her as an oddball for raising all those foster kids.
Bachmann thinks “every part of government” needs to “be on the table right now,” which is a fantastically dangerous idea to people who need large chunks of government to be accepted without question as permanent, semi-divine institutions. Since the agenda of Big Government is demonstrably disastrous, with the aid of a simple spreadsheet, its acolytes need to take out their worst enemies with pre-emptive strikes. Bachmann faces the same kind of incoming artillery as Rep. Paul Ryan did, and will soon be likewise accused of murderous intent toward women and old folks.
The density of the Shroud of Contempt thrown at Bachmann led even the generally fair-minded Chris Wallace of Fox News to ask her, in a Sunday interview, “Are you a flake?” It is absolutely inconceivable that even the most eccentric Democrat candidate would be asked such a question, especially a woman. At worst they might be asked to respond to some direct and specific accusation of strange speech or behavior, rather than being asked to refute a general perception of flakiness.
Bachmann slapped down the question, which she described as “insulting,” by pointing to her long marriage, legal training, experience as a businesswoman and tax layer, legislative record, and proprietorship of a charter school as qualifications for running a serious campaign. Wallace later apologized for the “flake” question, acknowledging that viewers were “upset and felt I had been rude to her,” but he “didn’t mean any disrespect.”
Unfortunately for the Left, Iowa polling that puts Bachmann in a stunning second place behind Mitt Romney shows that voters are listening to what she says, not what clumsy character assassins are babbling about her. She officially kicked off her campaign with an event in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa today. Win or lose, she’s in the game. The Shroud of Contempt has been torn.