New at Live Action – Bachmann-Bashing ThinkProgress Fails Biology 101

My latest Live Action post:

If you write for the Health section of a prominent website, shouldn’t you have a working knowledge of basic human biology? Apparently not if that website is ThinkProgress, where Rebecca Leber claims to have caught pro-life Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann in an inconsistency about women’s health.

Discussing health care on MSNBC, Bachmann said:

What we want is women to be able to make their own choices […] We want women to make their own choices in healthcare. You see that’s the lie that happens under Obamacare. The President of the United States effectively becomes a health care dictator. Women don’t need anyone to tell them what to do on health care. We want women to have their own choices, their own money, that way they can make their own choices for the future of their own bodies. [Emphasis in original.]

Leber questions the “irony” of Bachmann’s answer, given the “GOP war on women targeting Planned Parenthood, abortion services, and contraception coverage”:

Bachmann doesn’t believe a women’s right to choose applies in all cases, though, promising on the presidential campaign trail that in addition to supporting an abortion ban, she wouldn’t allow exceptions for rape or for the woman’s health.

It seems pro-aborts have been misusing terminology so long that they can no longer recognize its proper use.

Read the rest at Live Action.

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Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann: A Dissent

Something’s rotten in Denmark—or, in this case, the blogosphere. Much of the Right seems to have united around Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who currently leads the 2012 Republican pack by a wide margin, thanks to a combination of Texas’ impressive job-creation record, his bold, take-no-prisoners style, and his ostensible conservatism on all the major issues.

Except…he’s not all that conservative, or all that appealing a candidate. He’s got a horrendous immigration record, he initially tried to use states’ rights as an excuse to punt on gay marriage and abortion, his 2008 pick was the radically pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani, he’s a practitioner of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, he seems to have an Obama-like ego, he’s a surprisingly clumsy debater (to the point where he can’t even give a compelling defense of his own position on global warming), and, in the scandal that’s been getting the most press lately, he signed an executive order trying to force young schoolgirls to be injected with an unproven vaccine meant to prevent an illness which children cannot contract in schools through casual contact. 

As Michelle Malkin and Shannen Coffin have explained, the Gardasil mandate raises multiple serious questions about Perry’s principles and trustworthiness. There’s the fact that his EO circumvented the democratic process and tried to unilaterally impose a sweeping policy change. There’s the fact that his position presumes the government has the right to make medical decisions for parents for reasons completely unrelated to the justification for traditional school inoculations, as explained by Rick Santorum. There’s the fact that he both defends the mandate and condemns its critics with leftist-style emotional appeals about who does and doesn’t care about disease. And there’s the unproven but certainly plausible possibility that his decision was motivated at least partially by cronyism.

The defenses leveled by Perry and his supporters don’t hold water. First is that he apologized. Only partially—he’s said the EO was a mistake, but not the core policy (nor has he apologized to those he’s slandered as not caring about Texan children). Second is that the policy had an opt-out. But not only is it offensive from a limited-government perspective to presume that the state is going to do something to your child unless you take proactive measures to stop them, the opt-out itself had numerous shortcomings. Third—and most pathetic—is that the policy never went into effect. Obviously, we don’t give people a pass for trying to do wrong simply because they didn’t succeed!

Perry’s been taking a beating for this from several competitors, including Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul. But this week, the focus shifted from Perry’s statism to Bachmann’s incompetence, as she relayed the story of a mother who told her Gardasil caused her daughter’s mental retardation. To be clear, she absolutely deserves criticism for recklessly passing along an anecdote without bothering to verify it. (Full disclosure: This is one of several blunders that have convinced me she doesn’t have the good sense or communication ability to be the Republican nominee, and so I no longer support her for president.)

But the response from two of the Right’s biggest professional blogs has been something else entirely. At RedState, Lori Ziganto says Bachmann “has shown she is of bad character,” Ben Howe thinks she “should be ashamed” for “diminish[ing] the pro-life movement for her own political gain,” Brad Jackson & Elizabeth Blackney discuss Bachmann needing to “pray the crazy away,” and Leon Wolfe declares that Bachmann doesn’t “deserve to be one of the 435 people who gets to contribute to the creation of legislation that might one day influence health policy in America.” (Before Bachmann became an issue here, RedState’s Streiff also impugned Malkin’s “integrity and intellect” for questioning Perry, a nasty, unfounded attack on a conservative heroine which RS editor Erick Erickson refused to criticize.)

Meanwhile, at Pajamas Media, PJM CEO Roger Simon said Bachmann and Santorum sounded “rabid, and frankly scary” in criticizing Perry (please note that he’s talking about the debate itself, not Bachmann’s subsequent retardation claim). Bryan Preston has done six posts so far blasting Bachmann over this, including declaration’s that she’s “descend[ed] into self-parody” and that her “time as a serious candidate is over.”

Again, I want to be clear that the criticism isn’t what I have a problem with. Michele Bachmann has displayed a clear pattern of factual sloppiness and rhetorical recklessness. I am, however, asking why there’s such a double-standard—why all of a sudden Bachmann is being treated with a level of scorn no GOP candidate other than Ron Paul ever gets, at least not in such volume and unanimity, from the blogosphere.

Rick Perry gives speeches to La Raza and smears lawmakers who resisted his Gardasil mandate as heartless monsters who don’t care about women’s health; Mitt Romney continues to insist his state’s healthcare plan was a good thing; and Herman Cain shows no signs of having assembled a coherent foreign policy platform, despite campaigning to become leader of the free worldall of which are bigger substantive problems than repeating an anecdote without bothering to verify it—and the blogosphere reaction is much more diverse and balanced. Some criticize, some defend, but most conclude that the problems aren’t disqualifying on their own. (Heck, going back to the last election, not even Rudy Giuliani’s support for partial-birth abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion was enough for a consensus that he was beyond the pale!)   

Perhaps the most suspicious thing is that these new Bachmann critics apparently weren’t this bothered by Bachmann’s own previous blunders, like signing the Iowa Family pledge without reading it, that weird talk of Tea Partiers slitting our writs and signing a blood oath together, or calling on people to be “armed and dangerous” in opposition to Obama. Those were worth varying degrees of criticism, but she was still generally considered a respectable choice for the nomination.

What happened? Rick Perry. The biggest difference between this gaffe and all of Bachmann’s others (as well as the aforementioned failings of various other candidates) seems to be that this time, she made it while crossing the latest man to be anointed Savior by a segment of the Right that still hasn’t gotten over the hero-worship tendencies that have all too often led conservatives to gloss over the failings of various politicians, including George W. Bush, Fred Thompson, and Sarah Palin.

How many times does the movement have to replay this game until we finally see that it’s about principles, not personalities? When will we stop being infatuated with alluring poll numbers and conservative-sounding bravado, and instead maintain the detached objectivity to consistently judge all those who would be our standard-bearers?

The Official CFO 2012 Republican Presidential Roundup

In the 2008 Republican primary, it was pretty easy for to pick a candidate early on: I endorsed and vigorously supported Mitt Romney. I reasoned at the time that, aside from his formidable private-sector experience and squeaky-clean personal life, he best unified the social, fiscal, and defense wings of conservatism, and though there were a couple flip-flops in his record, the baggage and positions of his competitors were easily worse. I stand by that decision.

This time around, though, the decision has been more difficult, essentially because the candidates seem more evenly mediocre. Romney looks worse (for reasons we’ll get into below), there are no extreme babykillers among the viable candidates who need to be derailed, and overall there’s just nobody whose assets aren’t marred by substantial drawbacks of one form or another.

But recently, enough has come into focus that I feel comfortable making concrete pronouncements about the major active, official candidates, including an endorsement. So here’s an alphabetical rundown of my take on each candidate, with my endorsement at the end.

Michele Bachmann: Bachmann strikes all the right notes on the Constitution, life, marriage, economics, and defense, she’s got the passion to convince people of her sincerity and her ability to mount a tough challenge to Obama, and she couldn’t care less about whether or not her remarks or positions are expedient or establishment-approved. On the other hand, she’s sometimes a clumsy communicator, and has had a string of minor gaffes and blunders (not reading that Iowa pledge more closely is the most recent example). Ultimately, I’d be more than comfortable voting for Bachmann over Obama.

Herman Cain: I like Herman Cain the man, but I just can’t warm up to Herman Cain the would-be president. He’s generally solid on the issues and a great businessman, but his campaign seems to be something of a one-trick pony, with little more to offer than generic rhetoric about being an outsider and a problem solver, which simply isn’t enough to paper over the sense that he’s utterly unprepared when discussing foreign policy, which is kind of a big deal for a potential commander in chief. Of course, I’d happily vote for him in the general election, since our current president is far more incompetent…he just hides it better.

Newt Gingrich: Newt is frustrating. He’s extremely intelligent, a superb speaker and debater, has lots of terrific ideas, and is second to none in his ability to convey the gravity of a situation. But he’s also got a scandal-ridden personal life, a laundry list of foolish flirtations with liberals, and a horribly managed campaign. I’d still vote for Gingrich in the general, since I think most of his values are basically in the right place (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t love to see Barack Obama forced to debate this guy for an hour on stage?).


John Huntsman: Huntsman is a flake, a moderate-to-liberal Republican, and a phony. I wouldn’t vote for him in the general, which is good because he’s not getting the nomination. Next.
 
Gary Johnson: He’s like Ron Paul, only worse. He’s going nowhere, and under no circumstances would I vote for him. Next.

Ron Paul: I’ve written extensively about why Ron Paul’s treason, demagoguery, conspiracism, and dishonesty disqualify him from serious consideration, so I don’t think I need to repeat myself too much there. (Oh, and while I’ve admitted before that Paul’s got a solid record on abortion, pro-lifers should be aware that he says the only other candidate he’d support is Gary Johnson, the one pro-abort in the field this time around.) And did you know he’s drifting leftward on immigration? In the unlikely event that the GOP would be so irresponsible as to nominate Paul, I could not in good conscience vote for him, even in a general election against Obama.

Rick Perry: There seems to be a general sense that Perry’s the new favorite for Republican nomination, thanks to a combination of his job-creation record and the perception that he’s the True Conservative TM of the race. And that scares me for three reasons. First, his record on immigration is horrendous. Second, his recent calls to leave gay marriage and abortion to the states are troubling, even if he did flip-flop on both lickety-split. Third, how can you have faith in the liberty, limited-government principles of a guy who issued an executive order mandating that little girls be vaccinated with an unproven anti-STD drug? It’s vitally important that we get Obama out of office, and I’m willing to put up with a lot of bull for the greater good, so I’d vote for Perry in the general if it came to that…but I would do so reluctantly, and with very restrained expectations about his presidency.

Mitt Romney: After Romney dropped out last time, I said that if he put the effort into immersing himself in the movement and taking the lead on the issues, and if he stuck with it between 2008 and 2012, the nomination would be his for the taking. Well, that hasn’t happened. At best, we got the occasional okay-yet-unremarkable op-ed or sound byte. It’s bad enough that Romney hasn’t distinguished himself, but since then ObamaCare has reignited scrutiny over the healthcare plan he championed in Massachusetts, to the point where Democrats are giving him backhanded “thanks” for it. So the doubts about Mitt’s conservatism are bigger than ever, and he’s chosen to circle the wagons around RomneyCare rather than add another flip-flop to the list.  Mitt Romney’s drawbacks are even more pronounced this time around, and he brings nothing special to the table that would offset them. That said, I would vote for Romney in the general election—he still embraces (albeit imperfectly) all three legs of the conservative stool, I believe him when he says he wouldn’t replicate RomneyCare at the federal level, and I think he’s got strong potential to threaten Obama on the economy.  

Rick Santorum: Santorum is a strong fiscal conservative, a strong defense hawk, and arguably the premiere social conservative lawmaker of the past 20 years. He’s a veteran of the conservative movement, an experienced senator, and a courageous, unapologetic advocate of conservative principles. On paper, it seems like a no-brainer that he should be the Republican nominee. The problem is, he just can’t seem to gain any traction, which I believe is due to a combination of growing antipathy toward social conservatives among establishment Republicans and Santorum’s inability to make his message resonate with voters. I’d love to vote for him in the general…but sadly, I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity.

Conclusion: If it were strictly a question of who I think would make the best president, I would back Rick Santorum. But unless he manages to grain some real traction, I don’t see him as a viable option, and I think Perry’s got the potential to fool enough people that we need a viable, trustworthy, conservative alternative. To that end, I am endorsing Michele Bachmann for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. She’s a little rough around the edges, but in the final analysis I believe she’s got the principles, the know-how, and the fire to take on Barack Obama and set America back on track.

New on American Thinker – There’s No Reason Libertarians and Gay Conservatives Can’t Support Michele Bachmann

My latest American Thinker post:
Whenever conservative candidates demonstrate their electoral viability, sensationalistic denunciations of said conservatives as beyond the pale are sure to follow. Last weekend, Michael Smerconish declared that Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN) has “lost a young conservative” named Ben Haney by signing the Iowa Family Leader’s Marriage Vow, which suggests homosexuality is a choice. And that’s not all:
In 2004, at the National Education Leadership Conference, you said of the gay lifestyle: “It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say this is gay. It’s anything but gay.”
Then there’s your husband, Marcus, who obtained his Ph.D. by virtue of a correspondence course. He runs a mental-health clinic but, according to Politico, is not registered with any of the three state boards that certify mental health practitioners. (Minnesota is one of the only states in which you can practice mental health without a license.) Last year, when asked during a radio interview about parenting homosexual children, he said:
“We have to understand: barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined. Just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn’t mean that we are supposed to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature. We have a responsibility as parents and as authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings from moving into the action steps. . .”
Marcus Bachmann has denied that his clinic engages in attempts to “pray away the gay,” but ABC’s Nightline recently aired an interview with a man who said that, at age 17, he sought help from Bachmann & Associates and: ” path for my therapy would be to read the Bible, pray to God that I would no longer be gay.”
First, some fact checking: According to the Minneapolis StarTribune, both Marcus Bachmann and interviewer Penna Dexter say the “barbarian” quote referred to children, not gays: “We believe that children are born with a nature that inclines them to challenge and break rules, and that it is thus the parents’ responsibility to guide their children along good and productive paths.” Further, Dr. Bachmann hasn’t denied that he advises gays to pray for sexual conversions; he simply clarifies that it’s “not a special interest of the business and would only be attempted at the client’s request.” However foolish or distasteful gays find such services, let’s keep in mind that they don’t affect anyone who doesn’t choose to utilize them.
As for the “is homosexuality a choice?” debate, I’ve mostly ignored it since it’s irrelevant to public policy—gay Americans would still deserve equal protection of their natural and political rights even if homosexuality was 100% optional, and there would still be powerful reasons to resist the redefinition of marriage even if everyone agreed that sexual orientation was set in stone from conception onward. That said, I suspect homosexuality is substantially predetermined because, as Haney says, “If you could simply choose who you were sexually attracted to, wouldn’t you choose the path of least resistance?”

GOP Debate Reaction

The following rankings are based strictly on their performance last night, not their overall merit as candidates.

First Place: A tie between Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich. I was surprised to see Bachmann at all, simply because she hadn’t made her intentions to run official before last night, and I didn’t expect to be as impressed with her performance as I was (I’ve always liked her passion for conservatism, but she has had a few foot-in-mouth issues). Bachmann was clear, polished, passionate, and generally delivered a performance that stood in stark contrast to the Left’s caricature of her as an unserious nut. Gingrich, unsurprisingly, delivered a performance that showcased his unmatched command of the details and a no-nonsense attitude that I think would have taken him far if…well, if he wasn’t Newt Gingrich, weighed down by all the baggage that entails.

Second Place: Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Solid performances, but more or less interchangeable in my view. Romney may have been a little more polished, though he’s lucky nobody forced him to get too specific about health care. Speaking of which…

Third Place: Tim Pawlenty. He would have been in a tree-way tie for second with Santorum and Romney, were it not for chickening out when given a chance to back up his attacks on RomneyCare. Tim does realize that, if he wins the nomination, he’ll have to say uncomplimentary things about Obama to his face, right?

Fourth Place: Herman Cain. I never expected to be as disappointed as I’ve been in Cain. Despite being able to speak with great confidence and clarity on economics, it’s clear he hasn’t made any effort to improve his foreign policy credentials. He also stumbled badly when trying to explain his remarks on the loyalty of Muslims, and I was disappointed to learn he wouldn’t support the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Fifth Place: Ron Paul. His delivery is so terrible that I can’t fathom how this guy managed to develop a cult of personality around himself. He comes across as the crazy uncle you’re constantly praying won’t embarrass you in front of dinner guests.

New on NewsReal – John Avlon Trashes Minnesota to Paint Bachmann and Pawlenty as Wingnuts

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Not content to let Eric Alterman have all the fun of belittling Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Daily Beast writer John Avlon has joined the Bachmann bashing bandwagon, too.  The Beast’s resident “extremism” hand-wringer is taking a more roundabout approach, suggesting that Bachmann is symptomatic of a broader radicalization of Minnesota, for which she and Gov. Tim Pawlenty “are going to have to answer for”:

In recent weeks, the Republican-controlled state legislature has clashed with liberal Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. Among their headline grabbing and eyebrow-raising legislative efforts have included trying to ban all abortions in the state after 20 weeks and forbidding anyone on public assistance from withdrawing more than $20 cash per month.

The man Dayton narrowly defeated in an overwhelmingly Republican election year was conservative-populist-turned-lobbyist Tom Emmer, who backed a “Tenther” bill that would require a two-thirds state legislative vote to ratify any federal legislation and supported a state constitutional ban on gay marriage.

This isn’t the first time Avlon has had trouble grasping the fact that just because he disagrees with a particular position, it doesn’t automatically follow that the position is beyond the pale. It’s unreasonable to ban abortion well after unborn babies can feel pain? It’s extreme to do what thirty other states already do on marriage? As for the restriction on withdrawing money, Mark Meed debunked that canard on March 21, and while the idea of state supermajorities having to ratify all federal laws does strike me as both constitutionally and practically problematic, it hardly signifies a kook epidemic that a gubernatorial candidate would embrace a questionable solution to a real problem—federal overreach over states’ rights.

Avlon continues in a similar vein, listing examples of Minnesota Republicans either saying off-color things or appearing with others who have. The players in question deserve heat for some of it, while other scandals are almost certainly overblown; I’ll leave the final judgment to Minnesota politicos.

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – Michele Bachmann Considers Presidential Run, Eric Alterman Demands Media Not Notice

My latest NewsReal post:

Have you ever wondered how lefty talking head Eric Alterman can possibly argue that the media is biased to the right? Well, his latest column in the Daily Beast provides a pretty good window into his methodology—moving the goalposts so far that even covering certain conservative candidates is an act of journalistic malpractice.

Alterman spends most of the piece mocking Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for a series of historical gaffes, suggesting that any presidential campaign by “an individual so obviously mentally and emotionally challenged” would be a hopeless “exercise in vanity and self-delusion,” which the press is only wasting its time by covering:

Michele Bachmann is “reportedly” ready to form a presidential exploratory committee in early June. Shame on me (and this website) for paying the slightest bit of attention to this foolish and ridiculous spectacle, but here we are […]

What does it say about our national media that this woman is considered a serious person? What is she doing being taken seriously on Meet the Press? Why in the world does ABC’s George Stephanopoulos think it important to find out whether she’s a fan—I kid you not—of Lady Gaga?
And how can any reporter expect anyone, anytime to take him or her seriously if they treat the “Bachmann for President” boomlet as anything but a symbol of a political system that has run itself off the rails of sanity?

If a history of stupid remarks disqualifies a politician from serious coverage, then how does Alterman explain the media’s slobbering love affair with Barack Obama, who’s got his own record of gaffes? Or maybe his running mate, Joe Biden?

To be sure, a candidate’s grasp of history is fair game for judging a would-be president, but the task of journalists is to judge who is running, not who should run. And like Bachmann or not, her potential bid for the presidency is a legitimate story, and she can’t be ignored.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.