On Sunday I wrote about the “Spirit of Joe McCarthy” in this election. Today, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza writes about the implosion of Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s campaign to keep her seat in a traditionally Republican suburban Twin Cities district. On her way to an easy victory over her Democratic opponent she did an interview Friday with Chris Mathews on "Hardball", alleging that Barack Obama held "anti-American" and followed that with this:
"What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.”The comment, said Cillizza,
immediately lit up the blogosphere, energized the campaign of former Blaine Mayor Elwyn Tinklenberg (great name!) and turned Bachmann's race from an afterthought into one of the most high profile House races in the country.For her part, Bachmann may not have helped herself by writing an article for Politico on Monday in which she claimed that
Tinklenberg has raised more than $800,000 in the aftermath of Bachmann's comments and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Jen Crider has called this a "$1 million mistake" on the part of the Republican incumbent.
And, the Cook Political Report -- one of the most highly respected handicappers of Congressional races and The Fix alma mater -- moved the race (subscription required) from likely Republican to toss up yesterday.
Of the race, Cook House editor David Wasserman wrote: "Bachmann's comments likely changed the complexion of her reelection race overnight and helped to turn the race into even more of a referendum on her."
I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.Hmm… You listen to the interview with Mathews and see what you think. She didn’t call for a House Un-American Activities Committee but she did call for the media to do a “penetrating expose” on who in congress is “pro-America or anti-America.”
Despite Bachmann’s attempt to blame the Democrats for the angry reaction to her words, I can only tell you that when I watched the interview, I didn’t need anyone’s help for those comments to take me back to the chillingly sick days of Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. I have, however, been heartened by so many others who felt the same nausea I did when I watched the interview.
Cillizza concludes his report with somber words for the congresswoman from Minnesota:
Not only did she commit a major blunder but she also did it at the worst possible time and in one of the worst election cycles in recent memory. In past years, national Republicans might have been able to bail Bachmann out. But, the money just isn't there this time around. Bachmann is on her own -- a very lonely place to be.I don’t know if she will win re-election in her district, but I have been reminded again that the spirit of Joe McCarthy is still out there. McCarthy succeeded for as long as he did because he was able to intimidate people who knew better but who feared speaking out against him.
I thought about that this morning when I heard Obama speaking in Florida. At one point, he mentioned McCain and a few people began to boo. He stopped and said sharply, “No! No! No! We don’t need that!” He hesitated a moment and then said, “We need you to vote.” The response was great applause and there were no more boos. I wish McCain and Palin didn’t seem to need to be energized by crowds booing Obama. The rhetoric questioning Obama’s patriotism and calling him a socialist appears designed to elicit that very response. For me, it is testimony to the smallness of the speakers’ characters, their paucity of ideas, and their dimishing chances to win.
It’s time to say “No! No! No! We don’t need that.” We can say that when we hear it from friends and acquaintances. We can also say it when we vote.