Michele Bachmann Is Talking to the Internet--Not You

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Bachmann gazed rightward into the distance as she delivered the Tea Party's response to President Obama's State of the Union Tuesday night--an event that had already angered some Republicans, as her fellow Republican Rep. Paul Ryan was giving the official response from their party. What was she looking at? Did she want to make sure she was being filmed from her best side, like Mariah Carey? Was it a visual clue that she's only speaking to the right wing of America? No, she was just looking at a different camera, apparently. But the little goof only underscored the GOP's difficulty in getting its tea-oriented members of Congress to toe the party line.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan gave the official GOP rebuttal to Obama, and CNN was the only network that carried Bachmann's speech. Republicans were angry CNN chose to broadcast the twin addresses, because it gave the party the appearance of being fractured, Politico's Keach Hagley reports. (When have politicians ever complained about getting too much TV time?) Was Bachmann's speech a distraction? And if so, was it a pleasant one?

  • Little Impact, Politics Daily's Matt Lewis argues. "Had Bachmann's speech wowed us by making Ryan's remarks look comparatively small, hers might have been a hit and thus become a tradition. Or had the speech been a train wreck, generating the wrong kind of media attention and diverting attention from Ryan, that still might have been better -- in terms of making this speech a tradition. But my guess is it might be even harder for the Tea Party Express to get media coverage for a response next year. Ultimately, Bachmann committed the real unforgivable sin. She was . . . boring."
  • Maybe It Was on Purpose, Noreene Malone guesses at Slate. On TV, Bachmann "was looking over your shoulder, not at the camera. The TV camera, anyway: I didn't watch online, but according to my Twitter feed, she was gazing directly at the webcam. Bachmann's eye contact, then, is reserved for the Web faithful--for those bypassing the lamestream media, that is."
  • This Looks Familiar, Wonkette's Ken Layne notes. "You know how cats sometimes 'see something' in a distant empty corner of the room and then their eyes get SO BIG and their ears fold back and then they just take off running through the house as if they are being pursued by an Actual Devil Monster?" That's Bachmann, Layne says.
  • The Fractured Right  The two rebuttals "showed just how fractured rightwing opposition has become in the US," The Guardian's James Meikle writes. Bachmann's "approach differed from the more conciliatory remarks made by Ryan."
[W]hile both focused on Obama and the Democrats, both speeches were equally aimed at each other: Ryan in placating the Tea Party and the Tea Party in holding him and the establishment accountable. The dueling speeches also showed the challenge the GOP leaders have in unifying their party and demonstrated that they will have to spend as much, if not more time, looking inwards – or to the right – as they do dealing Obama and the Democrats. ... Unless the GOP – both in Congress and on the 2012 field – unites, they risk ceding increasing ground to Obama and the Democrats.

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