Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sarah Bachmann

I'm so old I remember when Matt Taibbi skewered the powerful, not just the latest Face of Right-Wing Evil to pearl-clutching liberals. I also remember a time when Sarah Palin was, without dispute, the crazed Christian monster who Must Be Stopped. Now, as demonstrated by Taibbi's latest piece for Rolling Stone, that role has been taken by Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann.

Now, Bachmann isn't exactly a sympathetic character. And, like any other public figure, she's more than deserving of a good, rhetorical-guns-blazing take down. But -- to hop on my little hobby horse -- when the U.S. is engaged in a half-dozen wars, with the president openly and defiantly violating the supposed law of the land with his bombing of Libya, it seems to me that Rolling Stone's energy would be better spent going after the guy with the blood of poor foreigners on his hands rather than some batty lawmaker from Minnesota engaged in a vanity run for the White House. Not that she should just be ignored, but let's leave the Bachmann bashing to the local alternative weeklies and blogs, which have done such a good job covering the congresswoman that Taibbi based the bulk of his article on their work (his editor says Taibbi's citations were removed due to space constraints).

Taibbi's piece is lightweight liberal catnip, a reaffirmation of every good Democrat's belief that the dangerous crazies are on the other side. It's big on Taibbi's trademark rhetorical beatings and . . . that's about it. And the hits it takes at Bachmann, who is one hell of a big target, are at times curious. For example, Taibbi notes that, after an unsatisfying stint as a public school teacher, Bachmann "was soon mobilizing against an educational-standards program called Profile of Learning, an early precursor to No Child Left Behind":
Under the program, state educators and local businesses teamed up to craft a curriculum that would help young people prepare for the work force — but Bachmann saw through their devious scheme. "She thought it was a socialist plot to turn our children into little worker-automatons," says Bill Prendergast, a Stillwater resident who wrote for the town's newspaper and has documented every step of Bachmann's career.
Of all the things to criticize Bachmann for, we're singling out her opposition to "an early precursor to No Child Left Behind"? Are you, to channel Taibbi, fucking kidding me?

While Taibbi's source, Daily Kos blogger Bill Predergast, mocks Bachmann for believing the program to "help young people prepare for the work force" -- language presumably taken verbatim from the local chamber of commerce -- is aimed at turning children into "little worker-automatons," the mockery seems to me utterly mistaken. The reason businessmen support preparing young people "for the work force" is not because their altruists, but because they're self-interested capitalists: every dollar the state spends on worker training is a dollar they don't have to spend themselves. While perhaps a tad rhetorically over the top (not entirely, in my view), it's not all that far-fetched to believe programs sponsored by businessmen are aimed creating a ready supply of worker-automatons in order to benefit -- shockingly! -- businessmen.

But hey, who am I to get in the way of a feel-good bashing of liberals' latest loony, right-wing enemy of the month? One can knock the practice, but it's certainly a hell of a lot more fun taking down the other team's crazies than soberly addressing the respectable and sane mass murderers from your own.


  1. Lately you've been skewering some of my favorite liberal writers (Digby, Taibbi).

    Could you please stop criticizing the most powerful man on the planet and his misguided enablers, and instead write more about powerless clownish bogeymen? I don't want to have to think while reading Digby's latest anti-GOP rant.

  2. I wondered at Taibbi's inclusion of the No Child Left Behind predecessor, as well. That would seem to be one of the two times per day that Bachmann's hands are pointing in the right place.

  3. I just read your piece on Ron Paul in Dissident Voice and I think it's incredible. Well done. I emailed it to friends/family.

  4. jcapan7:55 PM

    Greenwald, to his great credit, is the only A-list blogger who consistently targets those in power. That said, I'm unsure if I've ever seen him take Digby to task for her vast obfuscatory enterprise.

    And it's a crying shame Taibbi wastes his estimable talents--he has a unique capacity to convey liberal thought in a palatable manner to those who actually need persuading. Unfortunately, he'd rather talk almost exclusively to his peers, fellow pampered elites, insult the weak and disenfranchised, and as this post indicates take on those out of power/distract.

  5. No child left behind is nothing more than a reaffirmation of what the school system is designed to be in the first place. Its function is to churn out obedient consumers. Period.

  6. @jcapan: So I'm not about to get in a flame war defending Digby or anything, but I'm wondering if you could elaborate a bit on her "vast obfuscatory enterprise."

    The way I see it, sure at the end of the day she's all blue team all the way, but she knows how to build a smart, principle-based argument and is fully capable of calling bullshit on her own, even if she does tend to bust out the kid gloves when she does it, as Charles demonstrated the other day.

    But I'm assuming you all know something I don't, where does the vast obfuscatory enterprise come in?

  7. jcapan8:55 PM

    IMO, her raison d'être is twofold:

    To focus her "smart, principle-based arguments" almost exclusively on GOP lunacy, even when they're out of power entirely (the first half of Obama's term), or democrats are equally culpable.

    And, two, to maintain the illusion that our system involves two parties, as opposed to rival factions offering to blow the oligarchs for cash.

  8. jcapan9:25 PM

    Or let the late, great brother IOZ sing it:

  9. Wow, reading that Digby piece was like walking through a museum of DNC-approved Paul family attack memes. You've got the non sequitur reference to his monetary policies, the "he's on the right side...for the wrong reasons" canard, she even managed to squeeze in a reference to Rand's opposition to the Civil Rights Act.

    I'm not obsessed with Ron Paul or anything, but for some reason I thought Digby was above this kind of partisan smearing. Oh well, gotta run guys, I heard Eric Cantor's opposing Obama on something and THUS ENDING DEMOCRACY

  10. Troville10:46 AM

    The only thing I hate worse than Republicans is partisan Democrats. Forget about their elitism, their blatant hypocrisy, their idolizing of those in power, and their "humanitarian" warmongering. What really makes my blood pressure surge and my skin crawl is the insufferable smugness that drips from every self-righteous condemnation of the GOP that they churn out. It's nice to find somebody so gleefully skewering these apologists for mass murder and state power.

  11. ghostlypresence6:29 PM

    It's a shame about Taibbi. He's got immense talent which lately he squanders on party politics. He's still extremely useful in making the machinations of Wall Street intelligible and skewering the financial elites.

    Someone wondered why Greenwald doesn't take Digby to the woodshed. It seems to me that he's more concerned taking Obama and co to the woodshed than other bloggers. Also, he seems fairly charitable toward bloggers who get it right at least some of the time. He's even nice to Andrew Sullivan.

    I've never understood lefty bloggers' obsession with Digby to be quite honest. She's a relatively minor player in the whole disinformation scheme of things. Matt Yglesias is another. I mean, who gives a shit?

  12. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Taibbi is a great man. He can get away with blather about Bachman and Weiner because on alternate days he does take on the powerful--like a bloody toothy badger--Goldman Sachs, its revolving-door govt. consultants, and their ilk.

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