No doubt there is a performance aspect to running for office. Still, the best that can be said of the interview Michele Bachmann did with David Gregory on Meet the Press is that the candidate’s performance produced an irresistible urge to watch the Manchurian Candidate again (I prefer the original). As in a similar interview with CNN, Bachmann appeared to have been coached to within an inch of her life.
Clearly, her predilection for matrimonial submissiveness extends to her relationship with her political handlers, because she had the spontaneity of a stalagmite. She has hired experienced, high-level Republican consultants; and it is apparent they understand her frequent blunders, slanders and bon duds, along with her heavily fringed biography, make her unacceptable not only to voters in a general election but even to a wary Republican establishment, which has the power, money and ruthlessness to sink her like the Bismarck.
How much whitewash can be lacquered over the woman, and whether any of it will stick surely will be revealed as she punches it out with fellow theocrat Rick Perry for the bay-at-the moon wing of Republican voters (now the majority). Each must carefully consider where, how much and when to trim the sails in the crazy-a-thon while still winning, serving up sufficient bloody meat to the voracious base, without indelibly scarring themselves for the main event. The fact that each of them has made statements that cause mental health professionals to page through the DSM-IV frantically makes it a real drama.
As more in-depth biographical information on Bachmann emerges, in particular from reporters Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker and Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast, it is clear her handlers will have their hands full to overflowing. Hers has been not merely a dalliance with some of the most deeply reactionary, eccentric and beyond the pale extremists within the American landscape, but a full immersion. When one champions historians offering up the historical revisionism that the War Between the States was a battle between the “godless north” and a Christian south practicing a kinder and gentler slavery, one is trafficking in truly bizarre currency to say the least. And hers isn’t simply deep religiosity, it’s Dominionism, a forthrightly theocratic program advocating Christian control over every facet of society including government.
Clearly her handlers have no choice but to try to keep a tarp tightly in place over this entire biography, at least to the extent awareness is restricted only to political junkies and such “high information” voters. The alternate risk is that she appears as the frightening automaton she was on Meet the Press. Reigning her in to a fault in interviews is the only option the consultants have, understanding as they do that once she opens up on her deeply held convictions when the tape is rolling the game is all but over. But relentlessly avoiding questions, preaching on with her talking points in front of an interviewer as though in front of mirror gets a little chilly, and a little creepy.
It’s slightly ironic, but more than that disturbing when people of such conviction and utter certitude accept the need to conceal or to shade so much of their own history, and the influences they theretofore loudly proclaimed. It speaks to the very unsavoriness of their enterprise, a wish to conceal their deepest convictions and their truest intents from those they are seeking to govern. Deception at this level isn’t simply slick: it’s evil.