August 28, 2009
Minnesota’s 6th district congressional Representative, Michelle Bachmann, missed a golden opportunity this afternoon to step back from the partisan talking points and rumor-mongering before an overflow crowd at her town hall meeting in a Junior High School auditorium in Lake Elmo. Fresh from criticism that she had been much too quick to depart an event earlier in the week in St. Cloud, Bachmann responded to virtually every question or comment from the crowd with long-winded recitations of her already familiar litany: that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world despite outcomes surpassed by many other nations, and that the government would be interfering in and controlling medical decisions in some vast bureaucracy that was somehow worse than the actuarial and profit-driven bureaucrats at insurance companies who already countermand medical orders.
The tone was set early on, when despite the moderators admonitions that the only topic open to discussion was health care, Ms. Bachmann launched into such a long-winded, wandering opening statement that the crowd grew restless. The session was obviously scripted to limit both the questions/comments and her need to respond, complete with a Texas congressman who also responded to virtually every question, yet evidently hadn’t gotten the “death panels” talking points from Bachmann’s staff. If the Congresswoman was really interested in hearing from her constituents she might have talked less, but alas like so many D.C.-based politicians she relied on posturing at length and repeatedly for the media and her base after paying lip-service to listening as the lines of questioners grew restless.
Ms. Bachmann had the chance to reach out to those looking for real information, she even repeated her recent notion that there would have to be a “safety net” for those without insurance (divining how this differs from a public option is left as an exercise for the voter, evidently,) after assuring the crowd that everybody wants the system reformed. Then, however, she resorted to amateurish theatrics (at least we didn’t see the Grassley dragon) and cheer-leading for unsupported assertions while cherry-picking points to assure her already-confirmed supporters that she wouldn’t let taxes on their children reach 80-90% to pay for reform (which she is in favor of, make no mistake about it) without addressing what she would do, or even suggest, to improve matters. All in all, while her base was delighted with the Obama-bashing, for the vast majority of those in attendance, including the dozens who couldn’t ask their questions, or thought they might hear ideas about how to address the skyrocketing costs of health care insurance, it was a waste of time.
The one accomplishment was the ratcheting up of polarization, in utter contrast to the Representative’s stated goal of attaining a bi-partisan solution. She lacks the rhetorical polish, and the quick familiarity with the facts, that her wingman (Congressman Burgess, R-TX, a self-described “McCain surrogate”) displayed, which made her look under-prepared, if not outright insecure. From the outset it was clear that the crowd was split, and while the majority were Bachmann loyalists that didn’t mute the opposition, which roared their own approval as one questioner started out by declaring she’d turned him from a Reagan voter into a Democratic (DFL) activist.
One has to marvel at the staunch GOP line regarding government ineptitude coming from those who have controlled the White House for such a large fraction of the last quarter century, at times complete with majorities in the Congress. Still, it’s clear that Ms. Bachmann has spent little time examining her positions logically; perhaps it’s all that special interest money she gets that keeps her aiming partisan criticism at the very institution that writes her paycheck, provides for a very generous retirement, and – ironically enough – provides and pays for her health care insurance plan.