Yesterday, I argued
that Rep. Michele Bachmann's "tea party rebuttal" to the State of the Union address could backfire on conservatives. Rep. Paul Ryan, who was scheduled to deliver the official GOP response, is, after all, a capable conservative communicator. Why dilute his message?
What's more, I reasoned, Bachmann might say something controversial, which would suck up the limited amount of media attention devoted to the opposition party. Thus, my argument against Bachmann's speech was simply tactical -- she risked "stepping on" Ryan's response and muddying the coherent message.
But there was also a strategic argument for Bachmann's speech helping conservatives. If it were more conservative than Ryan's, she could expand the "Overton window
," positioning Ryan's remarks as the moderate or centrist position between the extremes of Obama and Bachmann.
At the end of the day, none of it mattered. Bachmann's remarks were not terribly controversial
(my guess is she may have toned them down after realizing she was on thin ice simply by delivering the speech).
There were also some technical issues, which were probably not her fault, but they detracted from the message. The primary one was that the camera she looked into -- with the teleprompter -- was not the camera that broadcast her image. As a result, and unfortunately, she wasn't making eye contact with the American people.
Had Bachmann's speech wowed us by making Ryan's remarks look comparatively small, hers might have been a hit and thus become a tradition. Or had the speech been a train wreck, generating the wrong kind of media attention and diverting attention from Ryan, that still might have been better -- in terms of making this speech a tradition.
But my guess is it might be even harder for the Tea Party Express to get media coverage for a response next year. Ultimately, Bachmann committed the real unforgivable sin. She was . . . boring.