Do you get the sense that Michele Bachmann is under attack by the press? I do.
And Rep. Bachmann is winning the fight.
The Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, ran a poll of likely GOP voters late last month and found that she was statistically tied with Mitt Romney for first place with all of the other candidates trailing by more than 10 percent.
Whenever the press spotlights one of her stumbles at the microphone the Minnesota congresswoman gets a flood of support and money. She becomes ‘Every Woman,’ a misunderstood Tea Party mother of five facing down an elitist, arrogant, Obama-leaning press corps.
Her latest political slip-up came at the official kick-off of her presidential campaign. She had an unfortunate spell of confusion over which well-known person shares her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa -- she thought it was movie star John Wayne but in fact it was mass murderer John Wayne Gacy.
Yes, it is easy for reporters to make fun of such a big flub. But the press is missing a bigger story.
The problem with Bachmann’s candidacy is not the gaffes she makes or her many misstatements about American history. The bigger issue is her extreme right-wing views and where she would take the country if she were elected president.
News outlets ranging from Rolling Stone to The Daily Beast to The Weekly Standard have all run in-depth profiles of the GOP contender recentlyl. The net result of this coverage is that the public is beginning to learn who she is and what she believes.
She condemned the 2010 census as a conspiracy in which the government was out to gather information to use against its citizens. She encouraged people not to respond to the census even though the Constitution calls for the government to perform a census and for citizens to participate.
With the possible exception of Rick Santorum, who once famously compared homosexuality to beastiality, Bachmann is the most virulent opponent of gay rights seeking the Republican nomination. Bachmann gained prominence in the Minnesota State Senate for proposing an amendment to the state’s constitution banning gay marriage.
In 2010, when he was campaigning for her Democratic opponent in Minnesota, former President Bill Clinton said of Bachmann’s campaign that they make “Richard Nixon look like a member of the Students for a Democratic Society. They make Newt Gingrich and George Bush look like garden-variety liberals, and we're laughing, but just think about this.”
She has also, according to Rolling Stone, “rejected AmeriCorps as an attempt to build ‘re-education camps for young people where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward.’” In fact, despite the well-documented struggles of America’s elementary and secondary schools she is a loud voice against standards to improve American schools.
Her personal biography also an eye-opener. For instance, Bachmann tells people that she is a “former federal tax litigation attorney.” That kind of statement while technically true is also misleading. She was an attorney who worked for the Internal Revenue Service. She was on big government’s side and forced people to hand over their money to Uncle Sam. What a curious person to be wind up as one of the leaders of the Tea Party movement -- a movement which is named after a tax revolt and purports to be about lower taxes
Back in March when speculation about a Bachmann presidential run first began, I wrote that she was “dancing on the razor’s edge of becoming marginalized as someone who is not serious — a self-serving celebrity, in high school lingo a ‘Mean Girl.’”
On Bill Maher’s HBO show last week, MSNBC host Chris Matthews boldly predicted that she would beat Mitt Romney and win the GOP nomination. To which, Maher replied “She’s not a mean girl. She’s a crazy girl with mean ideas.”
It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment when Michele Bachmann made her debut on the national political stage. I first became aware of her after an interview in October of 2008 in which she tried to explain her claim that candidate Obama held “Anti-American” views.
The freshman Congresswoman threw out an astonishing charge against the whole of the House and Senate. "I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America. I think people would be -- would love to see an expose like that."
Less than three years later, Bachmann has emerged overnight as a front runner for her party’s nomination for president of the United States. If she wins the nomination, she will be the first woman to appear at the top of the presidential ticket of a major American political party.
If she beats President Obama in the general election she will be the first woman president as well as the first person to be elected directly to the presidency from the House of Representatives since James Garfield in 1881.
And while the media hasn’t gotten around to doing that “penetrating expose” on the anti-American views of members of Congress, they are just now getting beyond the widely reported gaffe by Rep. Bachmann and beginning to expose a really big story – her radicalism.
Juan Williams is a writer, author and Fox News political analyst. His next book is "Muzzled: The Assault On Honest Debate" (Crown/Random House) which will be released later this month.