“I think he’s brilliant. I think he’s a genius,” Rep. Michele Bachmann once said of local scribe and “Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor, as Hart Van Denburg of City Pages reminds us, and perhaps one can see why. Keillor’s sweetly satirical version of Minnesota, Lake Wobegon, has about as little resemblance of anything you’ll actually find in Minnesota as the world of Snoopy and Charlie Brown resemble Charles Schulz’s boyhood in St. Paul. But Lake Wobegon is loosely inspired by Marine on St. Croix, and, son of a gun, as it happens, that’s in the 6th Congressional District. Bachmann’s district.
In fact, the very district where Keillor is supporting Tarryl Clark in her bid for Bachmann’s seat. As reported by the Associated Press, Keillor wrote about Bachmann in a fundraising appeal for Clark, saying that having Bachmann in Congress is “embarrassing to me and a great many Minnesotans.” The story ends with a retort from Bachmann’s camp: “Bachmann spokesman Sergio Gor says Keillor should stick with what he knows best, making up stories.”
If PolitiFact is to be believed, Keillor isn’t alone in making up stories. They looked into a claim that Bachmann made that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “has been busy sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she’s flying.” As you might suspect by the graphic they have chosen, showing a burning “truthometer” with its needle plunged into “pants on fire” territory, they didn’t find her claim credible. As entertaining as it might be to imagine Pelosi flying jets while hammered on top-shelf liquor, PolitiFact points out that the $100K Bachmann mentions is for all “in-flight services,” and that liquor was a small percentage of the total.
This got MinnPost’s Eric Black wondering why politicians don’t apologize and issue corrections when they make misstatements, as journalists are rumored to do. Black speaks to a Republican campaign tactician about Bachmann and hears this in response: “The staff’s attitude would be that the difference between what Bachmann said and what Politifact wrote was ‘so nuanced,’ and that 98 percent of the audience the campaign cares about (the voters of the district) don’t know that Bachmann ever said it or that Politifact ever wrote about it.” Now, it’s worth noting that this comment was not from a Bachmann representative; as is typical, they did not respond to requests for an interview. But nonetheless, this is an interesting use of the word “nuance” from a GOP tactician. After all, the Bachmann comment was false. It seems the “nuance” between true and untrue here is that voters either don’t know about the misstatement or are supposed to not care.
Bachmann was one of the women featured in a recent Newsweek story on the “Mama Grizzly” appellation — a self-appellation, really — that’s been popping up lately, thanks to Sarah Palin and the various female candidates she has endorsed. Author Lisa Miller lists the Mama Grizzlies among us, including Nikki Haley, Carly Fiorina and, of course, Bachmann. Although Sarah Palin selected this auto-branding to suggest a sort of dangerous and instinctual protectiveness toward children, Miller writes, “With few exceptions, the grizzlies have been disinterested in the issues and policies that their political opponents say are good for children — despite new numbers from the census showing that rising numbers of America’s children are poor.” “Policy debates about equal pay, parental leave, and day care hardly register with these grizzlies,” Miller says, and concludes with a bit of a zinger: “[I]n the wild, real mama grizzlies are known to be aggressive, irrational, and mean. The issues facing the country are complex, and bears are not.“
She also gets a jab in about Bachmann standing for smaller government — except where women’s reproductive rights are concerned. But that isn’t the only place where Bachmann favors letting the government make decisions for Americans. As Minnesota Public Radio’s Annie Baxter reports, Bachmann is getting an award from U.S. English Inc. for her part in co-sponsoring the English Language Unity Act. Not familiar with the act? Here’s the text of it.
MinnPost’s Derek Wallbank discusses Bachmann’s fundraising in the third quarter, which has been — well, let’s let Wallbank say it: “I described Rep. Michele Bachmann’s second quarter fundraising haul of $1.7 million as staggering, which it was. Today, the day after the third quarter ended, I need a bigger word — because she more than doubled it.” A good chunk of this money is going into television ads, and Minnesota Independent has the latest: “Tarryl Clark: Just another hypocritical politician,” says a scornful female narrator, which seems to be the favored voice of political ads nowadays. What’s the complaint? “When Clark had the chance to vote on a 5% pay cut for herself, she voted no and then voted herself a 45% per diem increase.”
One wishes such ads would come with references — according to KSTP, Clark actually cut her per diem by 18 percent. A little bit of searching produces this: An AP story from 2007 about a bipartisan push to increase per diems from $66 to $96 a day in the Senate and from $66 to $77 in the House. “Because per diem hadn’t been raised in quite a while, and because it reflected inflation since it was last changed, I think it made sense,” the story quotes Clark as saying, and then identifies her reimbursements from that year as $26,894.29. The story also quotes Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, who says, “To me, that makes perfect sense.” At that time, Koering had been reimbursed $30,841.23 for the year.
Jason Hoppin of the Pioneer Press also discusses Bachmann and Clark’s enormously expensive campaigning, especially focusing on their innovative use of technology. For instance, Bachmann’s campaign produced a cell phone ad that was sent out to anyone within a mile of the State Fair that accused Clark of wanting to raise taxes on Fair food. (KSTP had this to say about Bachmann’s claims: “[T]he claims about Clark voting specifically to raise taxes on ‘corn dogs’ and ‘deep-fried bacon’ are not true.”) Hoppin’s story also discusses Clark’s use of the Internet; her campaign has produced a series of webpages, most of them sarcastic, such as this one, which lets you be insulted by Bachmann’s “Jim the election guy” (this intrepid reporter tried it and was shocked to discover that he had “got in a tickle fight with Eric Massa”).
So how is all this affecting the polls? Well, if Minnesotans voted today, Bachmann would lose to Barack Obama. At least, that’s the finding of a Humphrey Institute/MPR poll detailed by Hart Van Denburg of City Pages. Specifically, while opinions in Minnesota are about evenly split as to whether he’s doing a good job, Obama would still beat Bachmann in a presidential race by 20 points. But what about Tim Pawlenty, who actually wants to run against Obama? Obama wins by 9 points. So what have we learned? Obama should run against Bachmann in Lake Wobegon.
In arts: Stuff About Minneapolis photographs a rather unusual piece of public art near 10th Avenue and 3rd Street South — an angry-looking wizard emerging from a grated window. The blog’s author, Paul Merrill, seems nonplussed by the art: “I wept quietly for a moment, while muttering ‘Please don’t kill me.’ After fifteen or twenty minutes I was able to compose myself, take a picture, and then I ran like hell.”
In sports: There is a large billboard near the new Twin stadium promoting a health care company, which will be visible from the field. Do the Twins like this? “Do we like it? No, we don’t,” Twins president Dave St. Peter tells WCCO’s Heather Brown.