Michele Bachmann for president. There's a bumper sticker that should definitely make the Obama team feel more confident about retaining the White House in 2012.
The Minnesota Congresswoman has just completed her third campaign trip to Iowa, where she told reporters she's weighing her options about a run for the presidency. Such a candidacy would only add to the chill of a numbing Midwest winter.
Michele Bachmann is a virtual gaffe machine. She, for example, found it an "interesting coincidence" that the two significant outbreaks of swine flu came while Democrats Carter and Obama were in office. She once famously declared, "Not all cultures are equal."
There are many intelligent, articulate women in the Republican Party. Why are they so frequently passed over in favor of those characterized by shallowness at best, and downright flakiness at worst? John McCain opened the door when he plucked Sarah Palin to be his running mate in 2008. Too outspoken for the national stage, too inexperienced in world affairs, and too unpredictable to be a heartbeat away, Palin's presence helped elect Barack Obama. More recently, Palin's ill-advised remarks about the Tucson shootings served to further remove her as a serious option for the GOP nomination in '12.
Yet Palin has created the modern model: brash, attractive and media-savvy.
On last November's ballot, there was Christine O'Donnell ("I am not a witch"), Sharron Angle (we need "Second Amendment remedies"), Linda McMahon ("It's insulting to the millions of people who watch [wrestling] to suggest that it is less than quality entertainment"), and Carly Fiorina ("We are members of the Had Enough Party") to name but a few who define "Republican female leader" in totally unelectable ways.
Now we have Michele Bachmann on the campaign trail in Iowa, doing the requisite meet-and-greet at the Smokey Row coffee shop in Des Moines, and delivering a speech in which she railed against America's "self-anointed elite." This would be a good place to restate: There are many highly qualified Republican women, but Rep. Bachmann is not one of them. So what is it about this style of mama grizzly, gun-toting, love-it-or-leave-it politics that seems to be the trademark of so many of the GOP's female candidates?
At least Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to be nominated for vice president by a major party, had the sense to wait several decades before talking crazy ("If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position"). But Bachmann, like Palin, is in the spotlight right now and seems to believe that wild rhetoric can succeed in today's presidential politics. It was Bachmann, after all, who said on MSNBC, "I'm very concerned that [Barack Obama] may have anti-American views."
This is not fighting the good fight, this is inciting members of both parties to yield to their worst instincts. Bachmann has become a highly-visible champion of the Tea Party, yet was rejected as the unofficial leader of its members in Congress by the new Speaker John Boehner.
The role was given to Kristi Noem of South Dakota - less well-known on the national stage, but from the same mold: wife, mother, rancher and hunter, with a lengthy record of traffic tickets in her home state, including 20 for speeding. Washington media were quick to label Noem, "The new Sarah Palin."
Where are the down-to-earth and well-qualified Republican women, and why do they remain silent while the outspoken but virtually unelectable members of their party hog the spotlight? Why would Michele Bachmann even waste the airfare on three trips to Iowa?
Faye Palin offered insight in '08 when asked why she might not be able to bring herself to vote for her daughter-in-law, Sarah. "I'm not sure what she brings to the ticket," she said, "other than she's a woman and a conservative."
Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He's also the long-time host of "Candid Camera," and may be reached at www.CandidCamera.com. This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.