Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 25, 2011

DUELING SOTU RESPONSES, CONT'D.... Late last week, after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) turned them down, congressional Republican leaders announced House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would deliver the party's official response to President Obama's State of the Union address. It was a decision fraught with implications.

But immediately after the announcement, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made some news of her own: she, too, would deliver a response to the SOTU, and her speech would be broadcast and endorsed by the Tea Party Express.

Yesterday, the unhinged Minnesotan insisted she isn't trying to steal Paul Ryan's thunder.

[S]peaking to reporters Monday, she distanced herself from Beltway rumblings that she was challenging the GOP establishment by addressing the Tea Party Express. Rep. Paul Ryan is offering the official Republican response.

"I'm just reacting to what President Obama is saying, to the Tea Party Express group," Bachmann said at the State Capitol. "It's not meant to be in competition in any way. Paul Ryan is the official GOP response and he'll do a wonderful job."

But there's an important detail to keep in mind. Politico noted that Bachmann's "response will be streamed on the Tea Party Express's web site, while Ryan's will be carried by national networks."

As it turns out, that's no longer accurate. CNN announced late yesterday that it will broadcast all three speeches -- President Obama's national address, Ryan's response, and Bachmann's response -- on the air, in their entirety.

I'm really not sure what to make of this. In fact, I'm a little surprised CNN would agree to this, just as a matter of fairness -- viewers will hear one speech from a Democrat, followed by a speech by a far-right Republican, and then followed by another speech by a far-right Republican? If a liberal Dem announced this morning that he/she is delivering some remarks reflecting on the SOTU tonight, would that also be aired on CNN's national airwaves in its entirety?

For that matter, I can only hope that Paul Ryan isn't positioned as the "middle" -- literally and figuratively -- between the president and Bachmann. The Ayn Rand acolyte is, after all, a hard-core radical, intent on destroying Medicare and Social Security. Bachmann's wild-eyed craziness shouldn't make Ryan appear reasonable by comparison, but it might.

On the flip side, I suppose it's also possible that we'll see one popular national leader reveling in the pageantry of a national address to a joint session, followed by two right-wing members of an unpopular party, struggling to explain why Americans should embrace their vision of extremism. If President Obama comes out looking above the fray, the dueling GOP responses might backfire.

I guess we'll see soon enough.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (43)

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In fact, I'm a little surprised CNN would agree to this...Why? They really want to be Faux Nooze Lite...news f**k that shit we want ratings .

Posted by: John R on January 25, 2011 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Obama SOTU: Progress, health care, jobs, infrastructure, climate change, civility.

Ryan response: No.
Bachmann response: No.

Posted by: bignose on January 25, 2011 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Somebody on the left should push this envelope, and demand equal time to respond. I'm thinking Dean.

Let them refuse, then make hay.

Posted by: bignose on January 25, 2011 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Obama may win by default here but let's not overlook how the right gets two responses, which in effect mainstreams the slightly less nutty one. That would be, Paul Ryan, who is routinely anointed as "serious" by the villagers. Michele Bachmann, by contrast, is pure rodeo clown, entertaining the teabagging airheads while Ryan plays class nerd.

Posted by: walt on January 25, 2011 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

You know, I think I'm going to give my own SOTU response in my living room. CNN, I demand air time!

Posted by: Matt on January 25, 2011 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Dream come true for the White House. Dream come true. We should take to calling it Dumb and Dumber. Or may Cruel and Crueler.

Posted by: Mark on January 25, 2011 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

I can see why CNN has agreed to carry both responses. What I don't understand is why the Democrats are just letting it happen. They, and not the Whitehouse, should be pitching a fit. Once again the party has missed an opportunity to stand in opposition to the majority Republicans.

Oh, Democrats control one branch of congress and the Whitehouse so they aren't really the minority party. Has it been in the papers? You saw it on page 2? Who knew? My bad, never mind.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 25, 2011 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Fairness?!? Really?!?

It would be really cool though if CNN broadcast Bachman using streaming video over a dial up;>

Posted by: martin on January 25, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's speech: We need to invest in our future.

Ryan's reponse: It's all the fault of the Negro in the White House and his Liberal allies.

Bachmann's Teabagger response: America, snarl, spit, Kenyan Darky, GUNS! snarl, spit. Constitution!!!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 25, 2011 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

This shows the House Republicans do not have their act togeather. It is evident not just with this but also how to cut the budget.

Boehner is not a strong armed guy. This caucus in chaos. Oh for the days of Newt & the Hammer!

Posted by: BidRed on January 25, 2011 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

I'm glad CNN will show both. The difference between Ryan and Bachman is that one gives the "for public" version and Bachman gives the "for idiots only" version. It might give people a better idea of how ridiculous lies can be worded to sound like semi-civil arguments.

Posted by: Danp on January 25, 2011 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

What a shame that Ted Turner's dream for a 24-hour NEWS network never materialized.

Posted by: Buffalo Harold on January 25, 2011 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'm reasonably sure that Bachmann isn't smart enough to plan this out, but it certainly does seem like CNN is trying to pull the Overton window further to the right by making Ryan seem moderate and sensible in comparison to the head of the Tea Party caucus.

Posted by: Kris on January 25, 2011 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

buffalo harold:
the problem with any 24-hour news network is that there's so rarely 24 hours worth of news.

Posted by: mellowjohn on January 25, 2011 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

What a wonderful false equivalency precedent for our corporate media. The President speaks and then we can listen to two complete crazies, both over-hyped by the media. First, Paul Ryan who wants to turn Medicare into a voucher system, the value of the vouchers being steadily outrun by inflation until the program is destroyed; his second brilliant idea being to take Social Security, which shuld be off-budget because it has its own income stream, and throw it into the stock market. Would any sane person trade in their current Medicare coverage for a voucher that is not adjusted for inflation? Medical costs rise 7-8% a year, every year. Or how about putting Social Security Trust Fund money into the stock market which has crashed three times in 15 years? And then we hear from Bachmann, the laughingstock of even CNN. You could have a more meaningful conversation with a pigeon on a window ledge then Bachmann. This is is a new low. If we are going to have a media circus then unfortunately we do need a fourth commentator from the left.

Posted by: max on January 25, 2011 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

For sheer entertainment I will not be watching either Ryan or Bachmann- instead I'll check out:


(For you political junkies, it is the Lingerie Football League- the "games" begin on Friday. Is this a great country, or what!)

Posted by: DAY on January 25, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

I nominate Al Franken for the rebuttal rebuttal.

Posted by: beejeez on January 25, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, I wonder if $arah will give her own response.

On Facebook.

And then reported as "news" by Fox.

Posted by: puravida on January 25, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

CNN sucks.

Posted by: kc on January 25, 2011 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

who cares? hardly anyone is going to watch the SOTU, even less will watch the Republican rebuttal, and no one will watch Teabagger uber-rebuttal.

hasn't it been pretty clearly demonstrated that political speeches like the SOTU have almost no effect on voters. if that's the case, then it seems logical that the rebuttals have even less impact.

Posted by: mercurino on January 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus, CNN. Are you sure you don't want to canvas the GOP to find out if there are any more Republicans who want airtime after the SOU? We wouldn't want to be unfair.

Posted by: beejeez on January 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

There is a mark considered the end of reasonable debate . That used to be when the leader of the thousand year Reich was brought up .
Today we consider underwear , tomorrow the World .

Posted by: FRP on January 25, 2011 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe CNN would offer Hon. Sen. Sanders or Hon Rep. Kucinich to give the non milquetoast Dem re-response (rebuttal)?

Posted by: jhm on January 25, 2011 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

CNN has always excelled at a cheap showbiz version of news--following the white Bronco, giving shows to worthless figures like Lou Dobbs and Karry King. they've been rudderless for years and alternating between being serious and following Fox. the best thing anyone can do is simply not watch, while mocking the proceedings. the idea that anyone should take CNN seriously has long been comically to me.

Posted by: Rich on January 25, 2011 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

But CNN and Fox are just mirror images of each other. /wingnut

Posted by: kth on January 25, 2011 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

The Fairness Clause was abandoned years ago.

Dems need their own network.

Posted by: bakho on January 25, 2011 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Dems HAD their own network.

It bombed.

Posted by: JEA on January 25, 2011 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

The media wants to play up the split between establishment Repubs and "grassroots" (ha ha) Tea Partiers. To the extent that this makes the Right look like it's splitting into factions and turning on each other, I say more power to them. The Left needs to watch out for kabuki and encourage genuine power struggles on the Right.

Posted by: Cyan on January 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I can't imagine why you are "surprised CNN would agree to this".

CNN has been pimping the fake, phony, corporate-sponsored, Madison Avenue-scripted, talk-radio-programmed astroturf cult-for-hire known as the "Tea Party" for a while.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 25, 2011 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

This is a long standing problem that Republicans get much more press coverage. See


The press appears to be overcompensating for the constant accusations of liberal bias. What they do not seem to understand is that that accusation will continue regardless of what they do. Even with a heavy slant toward Republicans and conservative pundits, the press is still attacked by the right. The lie of liberal bias is just repeated until it becomes accepted regardless of the facts.

Posted by: Greg on January 25, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

The Left needs to...encourage genuine power struggles on the Right.

I agree, but if those struggles are between crazy and crazier, some form of craziness eventually wins, and the rest of us ultimately end up losing. If we really want to move the country to the left we will have to move the Republican Party to the left, too. Therefore we should be looking for sane Republicans (and they are out there, believe me) and encouraging them to challenge the crooks and loony tunes in their own party. I've said before that I'd give money to any moderate Republican who is willing to primary a Peter King or a Michelle Bachmann from the left, and that offer still stands.

Posted by: Ridnik Chrome on January 25, 2011 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

I've watched CNN for years and until recently, trusted the network more than Fox or MSNBC. I prefer my news balanced and unbiased. It seems like NPR is about the only trustworthy news source. I'm honestly sad that I find CNN unwatchable anymore. Andersen Cooper still has integrity, IMHO, but the rest of the network has drifted rightward so much that Broderistic "centrist" David Gergen often plays the liberal.

Even if having two wackos represent the GOP is an electoral advantage, the decision stinks because it is giving so much attention to right-wing framing and tilting the discussion rightward yet again. The diversity of views on the left NEVER gets this type of attention. Airing both speeches in their entirety is so demonstrably biased and tilted to the GOP that I can't think of a reasonable justification for the decision.

Perhaps the network has a future as Fox-Lite with celebrity interviews (Piers Morgan, WTF?), but they can do so without this viewer.

Posted by: danimal on January 25, 2011 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

I still wonder why Sarah Palin hasn't announced her rebuttal....I'm guessing she'll come out with one tomorrow after the dust has settled. With Bachmann the only question isn't why she is going to be presented on national cable TV, but is it possible, at all, that she can put a presentation together that does not make her look like the stark-raving mad nut that she certainly is. It will be interesting.

Posted by: T2 on January 25, 2011 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

If a liberal Dem announced this morning that he/she is delivering some remarks reflecting on the SOTU tonight, would that also be aired on CNN's national airwaves in its entirety?

Let's ask Bernie Sanders to give a speech and find out. I think we all know what CNN's response will be: "Well, that's all the time we have, we'll just have to leave it there! Er, no, a little more to the right, let's leave it there. Woops, just a smidge more to the right, yes that's it, we'll have to leave it THERE."

I just love the liberal media.

Posted by: Southern Beale on January 25, 2011 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"...Or how about putting Social Security Trust Fund money into the stock market which has crashed three times in 15 years? And then we hear from Bachmann, the laughingstock of even CNN. You could have a more meaningful conversation with a pigeon on a window ledge than Bachmann."

Loved it, max - LOVED it. I guess I hadn't considered that Bachmann's disturbed droolings might have the effect of making Ryan look reasonable, but I'm not a political strategist. I disagree that nobody will watch Bachmann's rebuttal; in fact, since crazy sells like sex, it'll probably be one of the high points. If Dems were smart, they'd concentrate on Bachmann's outrageous ramblings over the next week or so, and Ryan's less crazy parry will likely be forgotten in its entirety.

Posted by: Mark on January 25, 2011 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

This is good. Obama will be the adult in the room. The Republicans will look like they are in disarray (because they are, and they can't even keep it private). If the Dems added another response it would just look like the Prez is coming under fire from his own party.

Best to maintain order and stick by the Prez, with his bully pulpit, most especially when he is being officially presidential (again, playing the adult in the room) and there is no more officially presidential occasion than the SOTU.

Posted by: Betsy on January 25, 2011 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

And then we hear from Bachmann, the laughingstock of even CNN.

Hey gang I got preview of Bachmann's speech. Here you go:

"FREEDOM garble bargle LIBERTY garble bargle FOUNDING FATHERS garble bargle LIBERTY garble bargle DEATH PANELS garble bargle FEMA CAMPS garble bargle LIBERTY garble bargle FREEDOM ...."

Posted by: Southern Beale on January 25, 2011 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Loved, loved, loved @bignose's response.

I still can't believe in this day and age, not only is a politician's career not over when they associate themselves with the racist Tea Party (yes, I'm not "pooh-poohing" the cheers and applause that greeted Tom Tancredo's remarks at the first teabagger convention - amidst many other instances of bigotry), but that it thrives. Bachmann may be excited abou this, but it just may turn into her "Sarah Palin/blood libel" moment.

Posted by: June on January 25, 2011 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Hint: playing Bachmann Nutjob Overload and reacting to it is really cheap TV.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc on January 25, 2011 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

You're "surprised CNN agreed to this"? Why? They're the video equivalent of a right-wing blog, and the only people who think they're "the most trusted name in news" are in their advertising department.

Posted by: kathleen on January 25, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I have never understood these rebuttals, whether they are made by Republicans or Democrats. First the President of the United States speaks in the most august setting in all of American pageantry, surrounded by Senators, Congressmen, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members, diplomats, the whole regalia. Even if you hate every word said, the scene is extraordinarily impressive. And the live audience in the House chamber responds in various ways.

Then a few minutes later, some guy comes on the screen looking as if he is speaking from a clothes closet and delivers a laundry list of talking points and cliches everyone has heard a hundred times, with no reaction because no one else is there.

I know most politicians will go to a fart competition if they're given a chance to speak. But this one seems like a huge mismatch.

Posted by: tamiasmin on January 25, 2011 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Example #723 of why the GOP is better than the
Democrats at politics. As sure as the sun rises in the East, the Dems won't shit about this, and just allow themselves to get kicked in the ass once again.

Posted by: Urban Negro on January 25, 2011 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Bachmann, aside from everything else, is an attention hog.

Posted by: JEA on January 25, 2011 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK
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