Paul Ryan’s Republican State of the Union response was not inspiring, but at least he didn’t embarrass himself or his party. That was left to Michelle Bachmann, the loopy Minnesota Republican who gave the response from the tea party caucus of the Republican Party.
It was incivil, disjointed and, in some places, outright wrong.
As the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank noted, President Obama and Ryan aimed for unifying rhetoric. But Bachmann wasn’t having it:
As the leader of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, the Minnesota Republican gave her own, unauthorized response to the State of the Union, live from the National Press Club, filmed by Fox News, broadcast live on CNN and telecast by the Tea Party Express. It had all the altitude of a punch to the gut.
“After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don’t have,” Bachmann said. “But, instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt, unlike anything we have seen in the history of our country.”
Armed with charts and photographs, but not a word of fellowship, she railed against “a bureaucracy that tells us which light bulbs to buy, and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama’s health care bill.”
The State of the Nation was conciliatory Tuesday night, as each side made gestures to the other, and lawmakers for the first time crossed the aisle to sit – and applaud – together. But Bachmann and her fellow Tea Partyers raged on.
Mainstream Republicans were enraged at Bachmann and at CNN for airing her speech. (They expressed no such fury at Fox News, which also aired her response.) No wonder. As WaPo blogger Chris Cillizza noted:
Even before President Obama took the podium, it was a good night for his party. Why? Because the coverage on all the cable channels leading up to the speech focused on the fact that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) AND Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) were both slated to give responses to the President’s speech. The dueling speeches highlighted the ongoing divide between the establishment GOP and the tea party movement at a time when lots and lots of casual political watchers were tuned in. Republicans need to find a way to heal this rift or at least litigate it in a less public manner heading into 2012.
Establishment Republicans already had a difficult job trying to manage the fallout from Sarah Palin’s constant tweets and videos — hoping she won’t mount a presidential campaign which will divide the base and persuade independents that the party has swung too far to the right. Now, they’ve got the task of also managing Bachmann, who seems to be contemplating a presidential bid.
— by Cynthia Tucker