When even the ultra-liberal National Organization for Women is attacking Newsweek's cover photo of Michele Bachmann as sexist it's clear that magazine has sunk to a new low, but the Lois Romano companion story may be even more insulting than the "Queen of Rage" photo itself. The article for the August 15 issue entitled, "Tea Party Queen, Why Michele Bachmann Is Riding High Going Into Iowa" oozes with contempt not only for the Minnesota Republican Congresswoman herself but also her Tea Party supporters.
Early on in the story Romano depicts crowd at one of her speeches as a bunch of rubes who are falling for her "shtick," as she observed:
"Petite and prim, the 55-year-old mother of five delivers her stump speech with the earnestness of a preacher. She pulls out a huge whiteboard and for dramatic effect scrawls just how many zeros can be found in a trillion.
The elderly, the unemployed, the exasperated, and even a few disillusioned Democrats crowd her rallies and cheer her not-going-to-take-it-anymore shtick, even as they recognize some of its inherent contradictions.
'You use the word 'anger.' It's not anger,' Bachmann told NEWSWEEK. Americans aren't expressing 'unhinged anger,' she says. 'People are saying the country is not working.'
Romano goes on to use Bachmann's rise to prominence as a way to take cheap shots at a Tea Party that, according to Romano, has: "brought Washington to a standstill and the nation to the brink of default."
Just months ago, Bachmann was the butt of jokes on late-night TV for her flawed grasp of U.S. history. But all that changed one night this spring when she took the stage at the first major GOP presidential debate with the middle-aged, drab men running for the nomination, and set herself apart with poise and precision. When others meandered or waffled, she shot back with answers that reduced Washington's dysfunctional gridlock to understandable soundbites.
In Iowa, where she was raised, Bachmann has become the living embodiment of the Tea Party. She and her allies have been called a maniacal gang of knife-wielding ideologues. That's hyperbole, of course. But the principled rigidity of her position has created some challenges for her campaign.
One is overcoming the perception of hypocrisy. Democrats—and some of Bachmann's Republican opponents—have noted the gulf between her rhetoric and record. She earned a federal salary as a lawyer for the IRS (an agency despised by the Tea Party), for example.
A little bit later in the story Romano continued her attack on the Tea Party via Bachmann:
But far more damaging than the charge of double standards may be the growing realization among Americans of just how radical the Tea Party movement really is. The willingness of its most committed members to risk national default for the sake of achieving its political goals has no doubt contributed to the dramatic rise in the number of Americans who view the movement unfavorably. In a New York Times/CBS News poll published on Aug. 5, 40 percent of respondents described their opinion of the Tea Party as "not favorable"—up from 18 percent in April 2010.
At a time of population growth, increasing health-care costs, swelling ranks of retirees, and a sharp and prolonged economic slump—all of which point to the need for increases in federal spending just to meet government's existing obligations—Bachmann and her Tea Party allies demand that Washington spend less...That means, of course, that its commitments would have to shrivel as well. In the Tea Party's ideal vision of America, large federal agencies and federal programs would be dismantled and the savings redirected to states with block grants and individuals through lower taxes. Whether that would leave people at the mercy of the freewheeling (and often treacherous) marketplace remains an open and untested question.
At this point Romano transitioned to how Bachmann's religious views could hurt her chances:
Asked if her positions are extreme, Bachmann replies that the Tea Party's ideals are simply the most rational solutions to a broken and profligate government, and that the only option is to stand tough. "I do not twist in the wind," she says proudly.
There's no telling if Republican primary voters will reward such intransigence. Even within the Tea Party itself, Bachmann is a polarizing figure. Many—especially in Iowa, with its high percentage of evangelical Christians—respond rapturously to her combination of antigovernment fervor and religiously inspired moral traditionalism on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But others are more consistent in their distaste for governmental meddling. For Matt Welch, editor in chief of the libertarian Reason magazine, Bachmann isn't the "queen of the Tea Party." In fact, he says, "she will have trouble" with its rank and file "if she's seen as being more concerned about social issues" than cutting the federal budget.
In her conclusion Romano managed to slam both Bachmann and her supporters with one final parting shot:
For now, Bachmann revels in the Iowa crowds, which don't fuss about the missing fine print behind her ideas, the perceived contradictions among them, or their radicalism.
David Dankel, a lifelong Democrat who voted for Obama, came to Ft. Dodge to see Bachmann because he was "tired of paying for everyone else." In April, Dankel saw his $16-an-hour factory job of 23 years move to Mexico. "I was getting ahead and now I can't find a job. Obama promised change—well, where is it?"
Sitting on the edge of a metal folding chair in a sweltering parking lot, Donna Fouts, 73, doesn't seem to care that Bachmann planned to vote against the debt-ceiling compromise that would ensure the arrival of her Social Security check and the military benefits owed to her sons and nephews. "Well, I'm sick of all them other politicians that tell me what to do with my life," she answers. "Something about her tells me to follow her."