Books, Pop Culture and Political Humor from J.D. Rhoades, best-selling author, attorney, and award-winning newspaper columnist.
"Like [Lee] Child, Rhoades dishes out one airtight action scene after another, mixing in just enough character-building moments and holding our interest in a full cast of nicely developed supporting players."-Booklist
This past week, those on the American right stopped patting themselves on the back for nearly causing America to default long enough to engage in another of their favorite pastimes: whining that they’re being picked on.
This time, the source of the injury to their delicate feelings was the cover of Newsweek, featuring the visage of Michele Bachmann.
The cover photo, over a headline dubbing her “The Queen of Rage,” showed Bachmann looking pretty much like she’s looked in a lot of pictures and videos, including her much-parodied response to the State of the Union address: staring off into space, wide-eyed, as if she’s watching a troupe of fairies dancing in a mystic circle only she can see.
Republican fairies, naturally. Non-gay ones.
Of course, to the right, running an accurate photograph of their current icon is like quoting her past statements accurately: proof of a vast left-wing conspiracy in the media.
“Can anyone really say with a straight face that the mainstream media is not totally biased against conservatives?” a conservative blogger at a site called “Freedom’s Lighthouse” complained.
Gee, I don’t know, dude. Maybe you should ask Anthony Weiner how the media go easy on liberals. Or you could ask Bill Clinton, who was once shown on a Time magazine cover with his face printed as a frightening-looking photo negative, over the headline “Why People Don’t Trust Bill Clinton.”
Actually, Bachmann’s supporters should be ecstatic about the Newsweek cover, because once they begin their customary temper tantrum, it’s like throwing a switch that sends the talking heads and chattering pundits of the allegedly “liberal” media into their own customary fits of blather about their favorite subject: themselves. Was the picture unfair? Are we sexist? Would anyone in the media distort appearances to try to make a male Democratic front runner look unhinged for the sake of a story?
Maybe you should direct that last question to Howard Dean.
Meanwhile, something a lot more substantive that can and should be more closely examined about Bachmann gets pushed to the back burner: the fact that the woman who’s so given to railing about government spending and programs isn’t shy about benefiting from them herself.
She’s been a vocal critic of federal home loan programs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even while she and her husband were taking out a $417,000 home loan backed by those agencies. The Bachmann family farm received $251,000 in federal farm payments between 1995 and 2006, and Michele took $50,000 in profit out of the place in 2008.
The clinic run by Bachmann’s husband received money from Medicaid, a program she decries for “swelling the welfare rolls,” until her hubby got caught taking it. At that point, according to a Bachmann spokesman, Medicaid became “a valuable form of insurance for many Americans.”
Then, as a congresswoman, Bachmann frequently appealed to agencies like the EPA (which she’s suggested she’d eliminate if she were president), the Agriculture Department, and the Department of Transportation for funds from the very stimulus programs she once dubbed “fantasy economics.”
She also praised Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for using government money to help prop up the struggling pork industry in her state and urged him to continue to “stabilize prices through direct government purchasing.”
The website Politico has referred to this sort of behavior as “selective socialism.” It’s the sort of thing we’ve gotten used to from the right, which, as I’ve said before, often reminds me of a teenager screaming at her parents “I hate you, you ruined my life, I wish you were dead!” then demanding a ride to the mall.
Maybe, like the tea partiers who want to “keep the government’s hands off Medicare,” Michele Bachmann is actually so unhinged that she truly doesn’t regard it as government spending if it’s spent on her. Or maybe she’s just another grifter assuring the rubes that she’s the only one who’s looking after their interests while she pockets government cash with both hands.
In any case, those are bigger questions about Bachmann than the superficial one of whether or not the Newsweek cover made her look bad.
Modern media types, however, are notorious these days for concentrating on style (or “optics,” to use the new buzzword) rather than substance. They’re more interested in fretting about whether they’re “balanced” than in whether they’re reporting the truth.
That’s not because they’re liberal. It’s because they’re lousy at their jobs.