Sunday, October 19, 2008

Michele Bachmann: smiley face Joseph McCarthy

Representative Michele Bachmann, a Republican member of Congress from Minnesota, has called for an investigation into anti-Americanism among members of Congress. Without citing any factual evidence, she, along with her fellow Republicans, have made baseless, politically motivated charges of disloyalty by Democrats within the U.S. government the mainstay of their political advocacy.

Washington has not seen anything quite like this since the days of Joseph McCarthy and Pat McCarran. In the decade following World War II, those two senators and many others made careers of demonizing liberals as anti-American. Their actions terrorized countless innocent scapegoats and silenced political debate. Back then, the witch hunters allegedly acted in the name of anti-Communism. Now, the enemies are less clear -- even to Bachmann, who included Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko, ACORN and Sol Alinsky in some sort of vague domestic axis of evil. Thankfully, only true believers among the Republican right will buy into a witch hunt in which the nature of the alleged witches is so ill-defined. Sadly, those true believers are sometimes taking matter into their own hands (read here).

By the way, Bachmann is in a tight race for reelection. Apparently her constituents aren't exactly thrilled with her performance on the job or stands on the issues. It seems that she, like McCain and Palin and many other Republicans, are anxious to change the subject from questions of past performance, basic competence and stands on policy to something, anything, else. (Read the Democratic view of her reelection race here.)

from Sam Stein at the Huffington Post: Michele Bachmann Channels McCarthy: Obama "Very Anti-American," Congressional Witch Hunt Needed:

In a television appearance that outraged Democrats are already describing as Joseph McCarthy politics, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed on Friday that Barack Obama and his wife Michelle held anti-American views and couldn't be trusted in the White House. She even called for the major newspapers of the country to investigate other members of Congress to "find out if they are pro-America or anti-America."

Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball, Bachmann went well off the reservation when it comes to leveling political charges against the Democratic nominee.

"If we look at the collection of friends that Barack Obama has had in his life," she said, "it calls into question what Barack Obama's true beliefs and values and thoughts are. His attitudes, values, and beliefs with Jeremiah Wright on his view of the United negative; Bill Ayers, his negative view of the United States. We have seen one friend after another call into question his judgment -- but also, what it is that Barack Obama really believes?"

Goaded by a Chris Matthews to explain exactly what she was talking about (at one point Bachmann seemed to imply that liberalism was anti-Americanism), the congresswoman waded deeper into the mud.

"Remember it was Michele Obama who said she is only recently proud of her country and so these are very anti-American views," she said. "That's not the way that most Americans feel about our country. Most Americans are wild about America and they are very concerned to have a president who doesn't share those values."

Matthews later pressed her to name a single member of Congress other than Obama who she thought was anti-American. Bachmann, who initially wouldn't budge, called for a major "expose" into the matter.

"What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America," she said.

There were additional nuggets here and there. But the whole episode was a sight to behold. It is hard to imagine how this type of message actually helps the McCain campaign. For starters, there has been a relatively respected rule to leave candidate's wives out of campaign attacks. Moreover, there is already a deep resentment towards the severity of the political attacks McCain and his surrogates have launched against Barack Obama. Having a like-minded member of Congress essentially call for a witch hunt within Congress isn't the practical-minded message that the Arizona Republican wants out there.

What makes the incident even more bizarre is that Bachmann is in a close congressional race and just this past week offered warm words to the Illinois Democrat. "If the presidency would somehow go to Barack Obama, I would welcome him to the 6th District as well," she said after a debate. "As a matter of fact, I would put my hand on his shoulder and give him a kiss if he wanted to."

A Democratic campaign official emailed that Bachmann's Democratic opponent has raised at least $23,000 online since the Hardball segment aired.

After Bachmann's appearance, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel labeled the comments McCarthyist:

Update: A campaign to censure Rep. Michele Bachmann over her remarks has been launched.

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