Originally, this response from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on behalf of the Tea Party Express was intended to get published through the group’s Internet portal alone. CNN decided to air it live, which created consternation from both sides of the aisle. Republicans fretted that Bachmann’s response would generate a false media spin of an intraparty split and a Tea Party splintering, while Democrats complained that giving air time to two responses was unbalanced and unfair. In the end, though, the speech turned out to be a more passionate expression of Paul Ryan’s official GOP response:
Greg Sargent reported on the controversies yesterday surrounding Bachmann’s address:
CNN’s decision to air Bachmann’s speech, interestingly, is angering liberals and Republicans alike. Steve Benen notes this morning that Bachmann’s Tea Party brew could end up making Ryan’s speech look moderate and reasonable in comparison. Both Benen and Atrios also point out that it could create a fundamental imbalance — two Republicans responding to one speech from Obama — and that there’s no way CNN would allow a liberal Dem to offer a response from the left, as Bachmann is doing from the hard right.
But Republicans, too, have reason to be annoyed about this. Granting such a high profile to Bachmann’s Messianic Tea Party air won’t help the GOP manage the already difficult task of offering a response that has a chance of competing with Obama’s speech.
The President already has a big built-in advantage during State of the Union speeches, and the designated opponent already faces an uphill climb when trying to rise to his stature. Elevating Bachmann, of all people, will likely complicate this dynamic even further..
“The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party’s perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN’s viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight’s coverage.”
Dave Weigel connects a few dots, and finds a promo:
I’d just point out that the CNN has a longstanding romance with the Tea Party Express, the PAC that’s putting on the Bachmann speech. Later this year, the network and the PAC (and potentially other Tea Party groups) are co-sponsoring a presidential debate between Republican candidates. So, not shocking at all for the network to promote this and then claim a higher purpose.
Who knew that CNN, of all media outlets, would find the Tea Party lucrative? Paging Susan Roesgen … Susan Roesgen to the red courtesy phone, please …
As for the speech itself, I’d say that Bachmann did a good job in both emphasizing her role as a spokesperson for TPE rather than the GOP and sticking with economic and fiscal issues. She went a little further into a Perot-like presentation than I’ve seen her do in the past, but then Bachmann also used more thematic language, especially in this passage:
But, thanks to you, there’s reason to hope that real spending cuts are coming. Last November you went to the polls and voted out big-spending politicians and you put in their place men and women with a commitment to follow the Constitution and cut the size of government.
I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn.
Please know how important your calls, visits and letters are to the maintenance of our liberties. Because of you, Congress responded and we are starting to undo the damage that’s been done.
We believe in lower taxes, a limited view of government and the exceptionalism of America. And I believe America is the indispensible nation.
Just the creation of this nation was a miracle. Who’s to say that we can’t see a miracle again?
I’m inclined to believe that this was additive rather than detracting from Ryan’s response, emphasizing the Republican (and grassroots) desire to reduce regulation, spending, and federal government to power another generation-long expansion as was done in the 1980s. What do you think? Take the poll: