For those who have been paying attention, there's been a radical change in the way the media treats Michele Bachmann. It was not so long ago that the Congresswoman was being painted with the same brush and texture they applied to Sarah Palin. Both Republican women were characterized as "stupid," "ignorant," "crazy" and "right wing extremists."
But since the Minnesotan announced the formation of an exploratory committee around the end of March, the media narrative about her has morphed from "as horrible as Palin" into "not quite as terrible as Palin" and finally into "very much preferable to Palin." No, this is not just prejudice as a Palin supporter speaking, and it's not simply a conspiracy theory.
Don't believe us? A search engine provides all the evidence required for a demonstration of what we're talking about. Chris Matthews is pretty high up on the mailing list to receive DNC talking points, so we'll see how the meme has morphed from the point of view he expresses as the host of MSNBC's "Hardball."
Matthews used the terms "zombie-like" and "Moonie-like" to describe Bachmann on November 24, 2010 and implied that she was some sort of "Manchurian Candidate":
"Look at her eye contact. I asked her when we had her on election night if she's under hypnosis. She doesn't answer the question. She looks straight ahead in that kind of zombie-like manner, like she's waiting for somebody to flash a card, like in 'Manchurian Candidate.' I mean, I don't know what her state is."Now here's Matthews January 19, 2011 calling Bachmann a "screamer" and "pretty close to a nut case":
"This kind of talk from Michele Bachmann. I don't know why she's allowed to be an extremist, and everybody is coaxing on the Right, Republicans saying the President should move to the center and be reasonable and moderate, where she's allowed to be out there as a screamer, and in many cases pretty close to a nut case."By April 5, 2011, however, "Tweety" Matthews is chirping a slightly softer tune. He says that Bachmann is preparing seriously for a presidential campaign, calls her "exciting" and "attractive," mentions her politically appealing family life, and even predicts she will be a force to be reckoned with in Iowa. But that's not the half of it. Very strangely, Matthews made the claim that “we created her here,” meaning on his MSNBC show, and when guest Jonathan Alter attacks Bachmann, Matthew rises to her defense:
"Michelle Bachmann, female candidate, may run with all of the boring guys if Sarah Palin doesn't get in... One exciting, hard right, attractive candidate against four boring guys. I think she's got a good shot at winning that Iowa caucus. Just because she's a really interesting entry right now."By June 14, 2011, Matthews had come 180 degrees on Bachmann. Gone are the slurs, replaced with such praise as "poised, informed and serious." Suddenly, "a star" is born. Her performance in Monday night's GOP debate gets rated as "great" by Matthews, who asks, "Could she be the candidate that Sarah Palin was supposed to be?" NewsBuster Scott Whitlock, noticing the sea change in Matthews' treatment of Bachmann, questions the talk show host's motives, asking, "What is Chris Matthews up to?"
What about her personal story? Forget the ideology for a minute. She's had a big family, five kids she's raised, something like fifteen foster kids she's taken in."
"Maybe the biggest story from last night was not Romney's cool or Pawlenty's retreat, but the emergence of a star, Michele Bachmann. She was, of course, created here. She came off as poised, informed, that's right, Gene, poised, informed and serious. Could she be the candidate that Sarah Palin was supposed to be?"In answer to Scott's question, what Matthews is up to, we believe, is playing the left's latest strategy, whether it comes down from high as a DNC talking point or was "brainstormed" on some newer, more secure revision of JournoList, to play Michele Bachmann against Sarah Palin. The goal is to push Bachmann so hard as to discourage Sarah Palin from getting in the presidential race, and failing that, to make sure that Bachmann knocks her out. Matthews is not acting alone. All of MSNBC is playing, and across the media, in fact, we are seeing a kinder, gentler approach to Rep. Bachmann.
"First of all, what did you think of her performance last night? Because we all thought she was great."
"And she is what she is. I've always given her credit for not being, for example, a birther, who plays on cheap shots."
We're not the only ones having such thoughts. Tom Tillotson of Florida Political Press saw this coming over ten days ago, before the media's transition was complete:
Naturally, being of the tea party mindset and having absolutely no trust in the media, my conspiratorial juices, which I like to refer to as skeptical intrigue, begin to flow.Can you see what's going on here? We certainly hope Sarah Palin sees it. Given her sharp political instincts, we are of the opinion that she may well be aware of it. All the more reason, we submit, for her to get into the race and get in soon. Please governor, don't let them get away with this. You have proven them wrong and thwarted their plans many times in your political career. You know what is at stake here. One of the many reasons why we support you and believe in you so earnestly is that you are a fighter. If you get in this fight, you know there are millions of us who will be in your corner, and unlike a few untrustworthy souls, we will not abandon you. You can kick their butts. And they're just asking for it.
As for Palin, pundits on the right are fond of saying that the media will always let you know who they’re most afraid of by looking at who they go at the hardest. And there can be no doubt that Sarah Palin is that person. Just look at the frothing at the mouth taking place this week over her bus tour.
Yet, compare that to the cordial treatment that Michele Bachmann receives and it just doesn’t make sense. Unless the media has an agenda. An agenda aimed at the one they fear the most.
Then it hits me like a bolt of lightening!
I submit that the media is capitalizing on Michele Bachmann’s prominence in an attempt to supplant Sarah Palin as the queen of conservatism. By indirectly promoting Bachmann, which they do by not going at her with both guns blazing, the goal is to knock Palin from her perch and replace her with someone they do not lie awake at night exasperating over.
Within the tea party movement, as admired as she is, Bachmann just doesn’t quite have the star power of Sarah Palin. Sure, she’s a prolific fundraiser and her negatives are nowhere near Palin’s, but at the end of the day, unless something significant happens, she’s going to have her hands full trying to unseat Barack Obama.
And the media knows this, hence their willingness to play her against Sarah Palin.
Related: See here and here.