Washington Post reporter Michael Leahy gets a telephone interview with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann that almost ends abruptly when she doesn’t like a question, but the reporter digs further and spends lots of time with conservative radio host Jason Lewis to come up with a lengthy profile for the newspaper.
Bachmann rarely talks with reporters, unless they’re from a conservative-leaning outlet, but Leahy was granted the brief telephone interview “on the condition there would be no questions about her re-election race.”
In the interview:
[S]he voiced frustration with what she regarded as the “media’s focus” on her “language.” She listened to a question about comments she had made regarding a federal program designed to expand the national number of community volunteers, a measure authored by the late Massachusetts senator and liberal lion Edward Kennedy and signed into law by President Obama. She was asked about her charge that the program would lead to political “reeducation camps” for its young participants.
Dead silence came over the telephone line.
After a while, it was time for the mainstream media’s next question. “Are you there, Congresswoman?”
The silence lengthened.
“Are you there, Congresswoman?”
Evenutally, she answered:
“Yes, I’m here,” she said finally.
She expressed uncertainty about whether she wished to continue with the interview, declining to answer the question. “I’m not interested in an interview … with false caricatures of who I am,” she said, adding that some questions were unfairly “pointing to extreme examples of who I am … extreme caricatures.”
After a moment, however, she pressed on, eventually observing that “people have the sense of the bias of mainstream media.” She indicated she had gone outside that mainstream to find new kinds of media outlets to even the political playing field. She lauded the “democratization of media,” which, she said, included the Internet.
Leahy spent time in Stillwater with Lewis and got a quote from John Wodele, who was an aide to Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Wodele, like Lewis, sees Bachmann as a much underestimated political talent. Having worked against Bachmann in a campaign, he learned about her appeal the hard way. “She has captured the indignation of the low-tax, no-tax crowd,” he says. “That truck driver who is coming home from his welding job or going off deer hunting on the weekends, the guy working hard and bothered by taxes? A lot of those people see her as one of them.”
No other House member in recent memory has risen so swiftly on the basis of speaking up. Although only in her second term, the Republican Bachmann is already better known than many senators in her party, widely popular with conservatives and “tea party” supporters. She has labeled the Obama administration a “gangster government” and expressed concerns that the president might harbor “un-American” views. At once revered and reviled, she is a talk-show producer’s dream, a fundraising juggernaut. Along with a few firebrand conservatives including Florida Republican senatorial hopeful Marco Rubio, she has built a large army of small donors.