When it was announced last week that Wisconsin budget wonk Paul Ryan would be delivering the GOP’s response to the State of the Union, I missed the additional tidbit that Michele Bachmann will be delivering an a response of her own, streamed over the Tea Party Express’s website.
As Andrew Romano points out on the Daily Beast, Bachmann is an accomplished self-promoter (with a startling talent for factual inaccuracies), so it’s not especially surprising that she’s doing this. But GOP leaders have to be beside themselves. They wanted to present a fresh and earnest face (Ryan) in their first prime time appearance since taking over the House. They’re unwillingly getting a bonus face. [ Read Michele Bachmann: Why the Tea Party is Good for the GOP.]
...having Bachmann deliver some sort of “shadow” conservative response to Obama will achieve one of two things. Either it’ll be redundant by duplicating most of the same points that Ryan makes or, if she says something incendiary that the media ends up slobbering over the next day, it’ll overshadow his speech entirely. Or, actually, I suppose there’s a third option — that this will be as much a response to Ryan as it is to Obama, emphasizing that his plan to cut $60 billion this year (and maybe his vote for TARP?) simply isn’t good enough. She’s handing the media a post-SOTU “GOP divided!” narrative on a silver platter...
And this underscores a larger problem for House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants. They want to present the GOP as being an adult party, but the fact is that—especially in a media environment where a speech can be streamed live on a group’s website—they simply don’t control the message. The White House can speak with a far greater level of unity while the House GOP has to contend with free agents like Bachmann. And as Allahpundit points out, between a mature, governing message, and an incendiary loony-tunes rhetoric bomb, it’s the bomb-thrower who’s going to get the publicity. [ See editorial cartoons about the GOP.]