Monday, October 17, 2011

Hanging Up: Bachmann's Political Theater (feat. Donald Trump)

Candidates and their campaign managers frequently make mistakes during primary season, and as the first caucuses and primaries edge closer, the consequences of these mistakes magnify. Michele Bachmann's been in just such a rut of late, miscalculating the backlash against her absence from the campaign trail in states like New Hampshire, and I'm sure there have been numerous discussions among her staff as to how best turn things around.

To be honest, I enjoy covering Michele Bachmann, and I had a great time photographing her events in New Hampshire two weekends back, but why in the world she would so publicly revisit one of the most shamed figures of the past year — Donald Trump — and hold a joint event with him tonight is beyond me.

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I dialed in to Michele Bachmann's "Telephone Town Hall" expecting to hear more of the same hackneyed lines about Obama being a one-term president and the urgent need to repeal Obamacare, and perhaps a surprising remark or two about her recent slide in the polls and how she plans to become relevant again within the GOP field. What I heard instead was

The American public knows Trump as a businessman, but even his television admirers wouldn't go so far as to praise him as Michele did when she called him "one of the most admired, respected businessmen in the country." She later described him as being known around the world as a leader in understanding the economy.

Are you kidding?

Over the course of an hour Trump led the way, answering callers' questions and steering the conversation onto more ridiculous topics by the minute. The two of them took turns raising the temperature of political desperation in the country, warning Americans with grand schemes of Chinese economic and military domination, OPEC manipulation, and in the words of Trump, an Occupy Wall Street movement he senses to be a George Soros-organized protest composed of people simply having a "really good time." Trump went so far as to say that the Libyan rebels should have given the Americans half of their oil in exchange for our tactical military assistance, that Barack Obama's personal mortgage should be investigated, and that the Obama birth certificate matter is not a closed discussion.

If Michele Bachmann sincerely thinks an association with Donald Trump is a wise campaign strategy, she makes Mike Huckabee's 2007 joint television advertisements with Chuck Norris look like brilliant political strategy. I like to think the strength of American political discourse owes to the wide spectrum of viewpoints that are represented, but tonight's event was a farce, an embarrassment to reasonable political thinking, and another misstep for the Bachmann campaign. As more and more voters realize they couldn't possibly agree with the outlandish remarks Bachmann has surrounded herself with, it's not surprising this national figure commands the support of only 5% of GOP voters in recent polling.

As my roommate listened in from the other room and remarked that "there are no rules that apply to anything they're saying," I couldn't agree more. And with that, I hung up.

(All photos: Luke N. Vargas. 2011. All Rights Reserved) 

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