Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 25, 2009

WILL PUTS ON LEATHER JACKET, DONS SKIS, EYES SHARK.... When my friend Mustang Bobby emailed yesterday to tell me George Will had written an entire column praising Rep. Michele Bachmann, I thought he was kidding. Will may be conservative, but he considers himself something of an intellectual and serious thinker. Bachmann is a right-wing clown, practically a parody of herself, who doesn't even pretend to take policy matters seriously.

George Will may be getting increasingly lazy and cantankerous, but even he wouldn't put his reputation on the line with a laudatory Bachmann column.

I stand corrected.

Will notes early on that, last October, Bachmann told a national television audience that she wants a neo-McCarthyist witch hunt, calling for an investigation into the un-American views of members of Congress. Soon after, she lied about it. In his column, Will blamed Chris Matthews for the outburst.

Will seemed especially impressed with one of Bachmann's stunts in June.

Some of her supposed excesses are, however, not merely defensible, they are admirable. For example, her June 9 statement on the House floor in which she spoke of "gangster government" has been viewed on the Internet about 2 million times. She noted that, during the federal takeover of General Motors, a Democratic senator and one of her Democratic House colleagues each successfully intervened with GM to save a constituent's dealership from forced closure.

If editors took a closer look at Will's columns before they were published, they might have noticed that Bachmann's "gangster government" accusations were proven baseless within two days of her remarks. Will sees this as an example of Bachmann's "admirable" work, in which her allegations were proven "accurate." In Grown-Up Land, this was actually an example of Bachmann coming up with a strange conspiracy theory involving the Obama administration, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), and a Republican GM dealer -- who'd contributed thousands of dollars to Michele Bachmann.

And as for the fact that her remarks have been watched 2 million times online, M.B. reminds Will, "Hint: just because a video gets viewed 2 million times doesn't make it proof of intelligent discourse, and it's not always because they agree with her."

But in the bigger picture, that George Will feels compelled to devote a column in praise of Bachmann suggests Will is a truly hopeless case. She's the type of unhinged right-wing lawmaker Will should be condemning, not encouraging. We are, after all, talking about a lawmaker who thinks FDR passed "Hoot-Smalley" and caused the Depression. She thinks a bipartisan national service bill will lead to "re-education camps." She doesn't know what a global reserve currency is, so she keeps rating about "one-world currency." She thinks the U.S. Census may lead to "internment camps." She recently labeled school medical clinics as "sex clinics" (twice). She also recently urged her supporters to slit their wrists.

Michele Bachmann, in other words, is mad as a hatter. If George Will hasn't noticed this, he should probably get out of the political commentary business.

Steve Benen 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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In Other News, Balloon Boy challenges Rep. Bachmann's title of "most viewed internet video". . .

Posted by: DAY on October 25, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Loosen that bowtie, George - you're losing circulation

Posted by: krowe on October 25, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

It will be interesting to watch George Stephanopolis grill Will on the TeeVee this morning. . .

(crickets chirping)

Posted by: DAY on October 25, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

I can only imagine Will's response if one of his more liberal Op-Ed brethren -- Gene Robinson, say, or E. J. Dionne -- had written a similarly laudatory piece on Cynthia McKinney. I can just hear him sniffing airily, "Well!"

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on October 25, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

But in the bigger picture, that George Will feels compelled to devote a column in praise of Bachmann suggests Will is a truly hopeless case.

Let's keep one fact in clear view: George Will has been on TV and in the WashingtonPost so long it's easy to assume he's a rational and legitimate commentator. But that's really never been the case.

George Will has always been a right-wing ideologue. And I mean 'right-wing' and 'ideologue' in all the richest and strongest meanings of those words. Will's been pontificating long enough that it's easy to see him as respectable or authoritative.

But in the end, George Will is Michelle Bachman. They are not bird of a feather, they are the same thing.

Look closely at Will's record. You'll find Will's MO consists of asserting things that are not true; cultivating and maintaining the party line, nay, an ideological line; and generally frolicking in some very, very far-out territory.

His method is based on the understanding that if Will says something often enough, with enough rectitude imbuing his diction, why then people will begin to believe it and lazily accept it as having any sort of credibility at all.

After all, George Will said it. And no one contradicted him.

Which tells you a lot about the Sunday news shows.

Look closer: a lot of what George Will says is outrageous, wholly without merit, plainly dishonest, and pretty much indefensible. He's way, way out there, and it's only his familiary and substitution of diction and grammar for intellect and moral stature that keep him afloat.

Posted by: johnsturgeon on October 25, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, I needed that. I was tempted to click on the column, just to see how stupid it was, then common sense prevailed.

There isn't s single conservative columnist worth reading nowadays.

Posted by: worcestergirl on October 25, 2009 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Either he's decided to go all Ann (who?) Coulter or he's got a serious schoolboy crush on Mrs Deranged M.

Posted by: Former Dan on October 25, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Will is seeing Rich Lowry's starbursts.


Posted by: spork_incident on October 25, 2009 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

"If editors took a closer look at Will's columns before they were published, they might have noticed that Bachmann's "gangster government" accusations were proven baseless within two days of her remarks."

If editors took a closer look at Will's columns before they were published he would be out of a job. And since he's one of the Kool Kids, that just can't happen. And since he knows that, he'll feel free to continue repeating right wing lies that are easily disproven.

It's the political pundit version of "too big to fail"

Posted by: Racer X on October 25, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if this is a big step towards the GOP Establishment going full-bore loony-tunes. Will is well-connected with the 'real' Republican party, and I think he's very aware of prevailing winds.

Posted by: MattF on October 25, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Michele Bachmann, in other words, is mad as a hatter. If George Will hasn't noticed this, he should probably get out of the political commentary business.

No, he writes for the Washington Post. They've clearly decided that right-wing insanity needs to be published (and lies corrected, if ever, only after long argument and loud demand), whereas having been right instead of wrong on one nationally important issue after another is a disqualifier.

Will is in the right business for the Post, and they'll keep right on publishing his nonsense until he dies.

And probably re-run him like Peanuts afterwards.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on October 25, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Re: johnsturgeon: Exactly!

Now that WaPo is moving further and further right, Will's feeling the urge to let it all hang out. Those who've been praising him for decades as a deep thinker have been deluding themselves and are going to be forced to face up to what a crank he really is.

BTW: If you're wondering where Bachmann gets her looney ideas, they're mainstream chapter & verse from the "Patriot" canon. Nothing new here if you take a spin through patriot cyberspace. A phrase like "gangster government" is a standard crowd favorite.

Posted by: jimmy on October 25, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

George Will is not an intellectual. Period. His knowledge base of actual fact lies only within his acute knowledge of Baseball. He quotes baseball statistical facts with accuracy and challenges anyone to prove them wrong. This same strategy is not employed by him in any other "field" he pretends to enjoin. Nauseating...

Posted by: stevio on October 25, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Will just doesn't care any more. He's made his nut and is ready to retire.

Every once in awhile he lets his true views out. He once said that he'd be happy to turn the clock back to the Coolidge administration. Later he corrected himself and said the McKinley Administration, because Teddy Roosevelt fucked things up. And he was "joking" when he said these things, but he really meant it. And putting two and two together from his various columns, I'm sure that he would be happy either with a poll tax or a property qualification for voting.

Trivia: Will, of all people, has a sex scandal in his past. With the sister-in-law of one of the Talking Heads, who is the mother of the present publisher of a once-famous newspaper. And he was competing with a famous ultra-leftist. (Naming no names).

Yeah, yeah, we're all gentlemen here and don't say things like that.

Posted by: John Emerson on October 25, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Will: "Bachmann, an authentic representative of the Republican base..."

True enough. And that is why the Republicans are done for on a national basis. When the base goes crazy, they elect people like Bachmann, and the folks in the middle have a fairly easy choice: Vote for Democrats or vote for the crazy people.

The unfortunate side effect is that the Democrats will in some cases become complacent and corrupt, thus setting the stage for a Republican president (at least) who will parlay America's famous amnesia into another bait-and-switch presidency.

Maybe that's what Will is up to.

Posted by: Racer X on October 25, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

The funniest part about Will's op-ed was the line, "Michael Barone, respected political analyst." This to show that if Michael Barone said "gangster" then gangster it truly is!

Posted by: John Casey on October 25, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

Usually, when Will writes a column that is wholly devoid of sense it's not all that hard to find out who's ass he's trying to kiss. When he wrote his infamous twenty questions column for Colin Powell, it was easy: his wife was an adviser to Bob Dole. The point being, whenever he takes a "holy shit, how can he be so stupid" stance, it's not hard to see what his larger purpose is. Hell, the global warming crap was all about politics--if he writes the truth, the Republican party is doomed for eternity. It's not admirable but there's usually a reason for the bullshit and it usually has something to do with manipulating villager opinion in favor of his beloved party.

But this is different. What on earth prompted a man who never typed a sentence without a specific purpose in mind, never mind that said purpose was bad for the country if not the globe, to write a column in praise of a woman who is, quite frankly, batshit insane?

Posted by: cl on October 25, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

George Will's column in support of Bachmann felt like a gut punch to me because I still have the letter that Will wrote to me when I was a college newspaper editor back in 1978 before the Reagan Revolution made conservatism a fighting ideology -- the rhetoric of power -- instead of a constructive intellectual critique from a too little appreciated conservative perspective of America's liberal culture and politics.

In that letter Will praised my writing for its "moderate tone." And that is always how I have seen George Will -- as a spokesman for a moderate and distinctly AMERICAN conservatism. It is "conservative" because it recognizes it must make its peace with the dominent liberalism of American history and culture. And it is American because it is unwilling to declare war against liberal America as today's Radical Right has done in its revolutionary campaign to capture the levers of power in order to change the culture in fundamental ways.

An Edmund Burke -- whose ideas about organic nature of societies and the danger of political ideologies in reshaping those societies according to utopian blueprints -- would look at today's AMerican conservative movement and declare it to be radical and revolutionary in nature, not conservative at all, since it is unwilling to accommodate itself to the society's prevailing liberal institutions and traditions.

It is hard to think of George Will in the company of the Far Right, but after seeing him defend the indefensible in his mystifying tribute to the radical Bachmann I am afraid that is where he now belongs.

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 25, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

George Will, Chris Matthews, Scmuck Tood, David Broder, A.B. Stoddard. are all particpants in the Washington beltway media circle-jerk. They're always patting each other on the back telling one another how smart and serious they are. Then they breathlessly bestow fabulousness on hacks like Gingrich, Palin, and Gaffney.

Matthews in particular is always telling sone how smart they are right after they say something stoopid.

Posted by: Winkandanod on October 25, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes when I am bored , with a heavy and lethargic mien , I may say things of a provocative nature . Frolic of an innocent to the innocents , and of course to make the children laugh .
Sometimes , when I am confronted by the children (who are such darlings) they express their very own cutsie sweet objections to my excursions from the common to the uncommon . It is with great regret then , that I must then assume that the formerly provocative content I have graciously bestowed upon the thirsty minds of little ones , is not in fact fatuous . These are amongst those times that try our souls , and wrinkle my stately brow .
Now pull my finger ...

Posted by: FRP on October 25, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

There are sometimes few differences between our political parties, but one of the most profound for me is that one party will call their out their crazies and the other party will support them and pretend they are sane out of some misguided fealty to "Reagan's 11th Commandment."

Posted by: Art Eclectic on October 25, 2009 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, PULEEEZE, if you don't believe that Will has been taken to the woodshed by some of his recent more rational comments that COULD be spun as anti-conservative or pro-progressive by the numbnuts, you are crazy too! Believe me his paycheck means more to him than his perception as an "intellectual"...something that needs to be more carefully defined.

Posted by: Dancer on October 25, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

The discussion of George Will reminded me of another point I wanted to make about the debate the Obama administration provoked over the nature of FOX News.

We should not underestimate how cunning the Obama White House is.

Consider: FOX News is gloating that the mainstream press is mostly on its side in its disagreement with the White House. And the reason is the First Amendment most of all. Yet, if by saying FOX News is not a legitimate news organization and should not be treated as such, the Obama White House has created a situation in which the "liberal mainstream press" has rushed to the aid of "a sister network" that the press thinks is under assault then hasn't the Obama White House provided its point-- hasn't it shown that FOX isn't like the rest of the mainstream press. Imagine FOX doing the same thing if a conservative president started attacking MSNBC. Chances are that FOX would provide the talking points.

Tune in FOX any hour of the day and you will hear an assault on the mainstreasm press. How many times has O'Reilly called the New York Times "far left?" By attacking FOX, the Obama administration has shown the nation that the rest of the press are more concerned with protecting the rights of reporters to cover the news, and the news gathering process, than they are in undermining a commercial or ideological rival -- unlike FOX, which works 24/7 to undermine the credibility of its rivals in the "liberal biased media."

The Obama administration is not waging a crusade against FOX, they have merely provoked a national debate on the nature of FOX and the news. Like the good law professor that he is, President Obama has merely posed a few provocative questions for the nation and the media to consider: "Is FOX a real news organization, and if not, why not?" "What is the nature of news? Of opinion? Of propaganda."

Obama isn't tapping the phones of FOX reporters and commendators as Nixon may have done. He is merely asking us to consider what FOX does.

This is not unlike the questions that the Obama White House posed last spring, much to the right wing's outrage: "Is Rush Limbaugh the head of the Republican Party, and if so what does it say about the evolution of American conservatism over the past 30 years from prudent realism to inflamatory radicalism." Obama didn't threaten to shut down Limbaugh's radio network, he only asked us to consider whether his influence in the Republican Party identifies the GOP as Right WIng instead of conservative.

Perhaps this is the way Obama hopes to change the tone of politics in Washington and the nation -- by turning the nation into a giant college seminar where we can then lead a national discussion about the nature of the political movements and parties competing for power.

Posted by: Ted Frier on October 25, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I look forward to next week, when Will writes a comment commending the 'Drunkest Guy Ever', who by then will certainly have plenty more YouTube viewings.

Posted by: biggerbox on October 25, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Will should be made to partner up with Beck. Now, THERE is a conservative news show I would watch. Can you imagine the wagering on whether or not Will would kill Beck before he killed himself?

Posted by: Michael7843853 on October 25, 2009 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

George Will has never been and never will be an intellectual. When he(only word I can think of to describe whatever species he is) writes a column he goes directly to the dictionary and looks up 15 or 20 three syllable words to throw in so he can claim some sort of education. Usually nothing he writes relates to reality but once again throw in some nice words and the dupes will beleive he must be saying something important.

Posted by: Gqandalf on October 25, 2009 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Will was merely making a clumsy attempt at what he thought was connecting with the RightWing base, the same way that Michael Steele actually thinks he's connecting with the black community when he says "Fo Shizzle" and other ridiculousness.

The truly sad part is that they don't even know that they don't know that they don't know.

Posted by: Joe Friday on October 25, 2009 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"She doesn't know what a global reserve currency is, so she keeps rating about 'one-world currency.' "

I think maybe you meant "ranting"?

"She also recently urged her supporters to slit their wrists."

And your problem with this is... ?

Posted by: smartalek on October 25, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Last week a NY Times writer began a profile of Bachman by stating that people either loved or hated her. I e-mailed in response to say that was incorrect, and that a great many people simply considered Bachman to be a loon.

George Will has lost his marbles. Honestly, if I were his boss I'd force him on sabbatical. A long sabbatical.

Posted by: JW on October 25, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's quite obvious that Will is trying to suck up to the only intact wing of the republican party . . . the tinfoil hat wing. The tinfoil hat crowd as a queen and her name is Michelle Bachmann.

Posted by: DK on October 25, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Previewing your Comment
All I know is that we have quit watching ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos "because of George Will and often Peggy Noonan. It's one thing to be of a different opinion but another to be so entrenched in your own point of view that you cannot acknowledge any truth in other positions. Neither of these two pundits are willing to see anything good about a Presidency that isn't right wing.
It's good news for CBS's "Sunday Morning" though...it's a great show and since the "family values" group have made us question our Church attendance we are at home more on Sunday mornings.

Posted by: maggie on October 25, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

It's interesting watching the Republican party crack up. It'd make a great Marx brothers movie.

Posted by: Glen on October 25, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Last week a NY Times writer began a profile of Bachman by stating that people either loved or hated her.

Personally, I have more contempt for the people who vote for candidates like her.

Posted by: qwerty on October 25, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

The great Mike Royko was fond of calling him "The sissy George Will."

Posted by: buddy66 on October 25, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Lots of us older libs (I'm 64) have cut poor George some slack because he was the first GOP-leaning commentator who called for Nixon to leave.

But that was more than 35 years ago. Sorry, Georgie, all is definitely not forgiven.

You have turned into Rush, but with preppier clothes and a better vocabulary.

That you are a fixture on what used to be the nation's greatest newspaper and one of the best Sunday news shows says much more about them, and how far they have fallen, than it says about you.

Posted by: efgoldman on October 25, 2009 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

What is it with aging male columnists and MILFs like Palin and Bachman?

Posted by: Russell Aboard M/V Sunshine on October 25, 2009 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

MYLFs with the Y meaning "you," although not necessarily Russell, but those described.

Posted by: Hazy on October 25, 2009 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I was shocked. Bachmann's only value in life is making Palin look a rocket scientist.

Posted by: Charles Lemos on October 25, 2009 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

to distract from his latest "global cooling" column?

Posted by: daphnechyprious on October 25, 2009 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

What's even more pathetic about Will's fawning column on Michele Bachmann is that the Cinderella story he relates about Bachmann showing up at the Republican convention in jeans and sweatshirt and going home unexpectedly as the Senate candidate nominee is just that--a story. Or, as Gary Laidig, the Republican that Bachmann opposed at the convention says, it's "absolute bullshit."


This isn't the first time Bachmann has spun this fantasy. She's a known liar to those who have watched her political career. Like her claim to oppose federal farm subsidies while at the same time collecting them on her family's farm:


Or her "tax litigator" moniker. She didn't work for the "little people" against the big, bad government. She worked for the IRS prosecuting people who didn't pay taxes--people like Marvin Manypenny, an American Indian student who worked for a nonprofit and made less than $10,000. Here's the case:


Docket No. 7159-91, May 6, 1992


As for Bachmann's current attorney status, it should be noted that she isn't even authorized to practice law anymore.

Will clearly didn't do due diligence on this charlatan.

Posted by: Karl on October 26, 2009 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats should slaver with delighted anticipation at the thought of Michele Bachmann gaining political escape velocity. After all, a huge proportion of the voting public has to have their nose rubbed in the evidence day after day before the lesson begins to take. By that measure, the crazier Republicans appear in the public eye, the less chance voters will forget it. You can almost smell the crazy on Michele Bachmann - she makes Sarah Palin look deliberate and reasonable.

Posted by: Mark on October 26, 2009 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

Using archaic multi-syllabic words does not make one an intellectual.

Posted by: Vicente Fox on October 26, 2009 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK



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