Michele Bachmann: Covers Vs. Coverage

The right is apparently up in arms over this photo of Michele Bachmann that appears on the cover of this week’s Newsweek:

If someone wants to say this is an unflattering picture, fine.

But Bachmann’s supporters are unlikely to find much in Lois Romano’s article to complain about. On the campaign trail, Bachmann’s “simple, black-and-white distillations of complex problems are cheered as refreshing and tough.” A campaign speech is a “folksy assault on a bloated federal government.”

Explaining Bachmann’s apparent surge, Romano writes:

Just months ago, Bachmann was the butt of jokes on late-night TV for her flawed grasp of U.S. history. But all that changed one night this spring when she took the stage at the first major GOP presidential debate with the middle-aged, drab men running for the nomination, and set herself apart with poise and precision. When others meandered or waffled, she shot back with answers that reduced Washington’s dysfunctional gridlock to understandable soundbites.

I’m not sure comedians have stopped writing jokes about her– or that her “grasp” of U.S. history has changed much since the spring. So much of the corporate media’s enthusiasm for Bachmann comes down to cheering her performance at that one debate. People who watched it, or read the transcript afterwards, might have a hard time reconciling the upbeat characterizations of Bachmann’s performance with the actual words she spoke from the stage.

As we pointed out, her answer on jobs, the biggest political question of the moment, was a call to close down the Environmental Protection Agency, which she said should be called the “Job-Killing Organization of America.” Was that “poise and precision?”

But it’s not just Newsweek. In the Washington Post, former Bush adviser Nicolle Wallace wrote that at the debate, “Bachmann’s answers were crisp, strategic and smoothly delivered.”

The press have set the bar for Bachmann somewhere near the floor–which means she’ll almost always be exceeding expectations. This is one of the defining features of the coverage of her presidential campaign.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.