"I Haven't Had a Gaffe," Says Michele Bachmann

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 18 2011 3:34 PM

"I Haven't Had a Gaffe," Says Michele Bachmann

Well done, Greta Van Susteren, for tripping up Michele Bachmann on the strangeness of her argument that she's the most reliable Republican candidate.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

BACHMANN: I haven't had a gaffe or something that I've done that has caused me to fall in the polls. People see in me someone who's genuinely a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, a national security conservative and a Tea Partier. I'm the whole package...
VAN SUSTEREN: So you're talking about clunker -- you mean the allegations -- underline allegations, no proof of Mr. Herman Cain that there were two women who said that they were sexually harassed, and you had the Governor Perry's unfortunate 53-second gaffe at the -- one of the debates -- is that the clunker that brings people down?
BACHMANN: Those clunkers show that people -- that that hurts candidates in the polls. I haven't had something like that. But what I've been...
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you've had a few -- you've had a few little gaffes, maybe not recently, but you had the historic reference in Massachusetts, I think, and I think you had one...
BACHMANN: Well, I got Elvis Presley's birthday wrong, but I don't think that's a disqualifying factor for being president of the United States.
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In case you've forgotten, "getting Elvis Presley's birthday wrong" meant wishing Elvis "happy birthday" on the anniversary of his death. Stupid, because Bachmann comes out at campaign stops to the tune of Presley's cover of "Promised Land." Dumb, trivia, sure. And I'm sort of sick of "gaffe" being used when people clearly mean "flub." But what this reminds me of is a liberal theory about Bachmann that has been comprehensively debunked during the campaign. Matt Taibbi got at it in his preview of the Bachmann campaign. She was invincible, he claimed, because Republicans were angrier at the media for reporting her flubs than they were at her for making them. "When you laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese," wrote Taibbi, "these people don't learn that she is wrong. What they learn is that you're a dick, that they hate you more than ever, and that they're even more determined now to support anyone who promises not to laugh at their own visions and fantasies."

That's clearly not true, is it? Bachmann, Cain, and Perry have engendered the exact same reaction to their screw-ups. There's a wave of media-bashing from the base, collect-a-quotes from Tea Party leaders who say the media is unfair. And then the lights go elsewhere, and there's a slow, quiet, walk-away from the damaged candidates. In today's NH Journal poll of the Granite State, all three of the candidates I mentioned are deep, deep underwater on favorability. It's almost like Republican voters still pay attention to the media.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.