Minnesota Republican 6th District Representative Michelle Bachmann on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews today suggested that Barack Obama isn't sufficiently "American" and is not worthy of being elected to the White House. Her reasons for suggesting that Obama doesn't belong in the White House included Obama's (very peripheral) association with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers. That's standard Republican boilerplate commonly employed by John McCain's campaign at this late stage of the election season as Team McCain desperately tries to regain ground in the polls.
However, Bachmann's reasoning as to why Obama doesn't deserve the Presidency didn't stop at Obama's loose association with Ayers, nor did it stop with Obama. Bachmann brought up the tired issues of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's and Father Michael Pfleger's supposedly anti-American statements and attitudes disseminated at Obama's church in Chicago and she suggested that these individuals have had an anti-American influence on Obama. Bachmann didn't stop there. She basically accused every American citizen who is not a Republican, and every member of Congress who is not a Republican (or Joe Lieberman) of being a liberal and a leftist, and, thus, anti-American.
Watch for yourself:
Of course, no interview with a Republican would be complete without the Republican whining about his/her perception that the American media has a Liberal Bias. Bachmann delivered by issuing a challenge to the so-called Liberal Media: "What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America."
Matthews prodded Bachmann with a flurry of questions, but he didn't ask the ones that I wished he had, which include, "Representative Bachmann, do you believe that those Americans who do not share your views, or Republican views in general, should automatically be considered un-American?" Or, "Representative Bachmann, how would you define what it means to be American?"
Bachmann essentially exhumed the ghost of Joe McCarthy. Bachmann seemed to believe that Congress is stacked with secret anti-American agents in much the same way that McCarthy believed that there were communists everywhere (Reds under your beds!). Republican campaign strategists might exploit low-information voters' limited understandings of views other than their own and the people who hold them and propagate the idea that Obama "pals around with terrorists" in a cynical attempt to influence this election. But Bachmann, like McCarthy, seemed to genuinely believe that Obama and perhaps hordes of others in Congress (and perhaps throughout America) have some sort of desire to destroy America. Bachmann's comments didn't suggest that she thought or understood that it is possible for a person to be simultaneously an American, an upstanding citizen, and hold views different from her own. She didn't seem to understand that people who express their desires to take America in a new direction are not inherently un-American. She didn't seem to understand that expressing dissent is, in fact, one of the most American things one can do. America was founded on dissent; Declaration of Independence, anyone?
This fundamental misunderstanding of freedom itself has become one of the primary engines driving today's Republican Party and what now passes for conservative thought and discourse. Perhaps that's far more alarming than the ridiculous comments of a single intellectually challenged Republican Representative. Unfortunately, Bachmann's attitudes have become representative of today's Republicans.
(Oh, and Rachel Maddow just reported that Bachmann's Democratic opponent has seen over $30,000 in donations since the MSNBC interview aired this afternoon.)