Michele Bachmann is out, and Elvis did her in.
She whipped a South Carolina crowd into a frenzy last summer with her big smile, her even bigger campaign bus, and this unfortunate shout-out: “Let’s all say happy birthday to Elvis Presley today!”
But the King was born in January. The day she made that speech was the anniversary of his death.
Was that the decisive moment in Bachmann’s campaign? No. But it didn’t help.
Neither did another misstep, when she told voters in Waterloo, Iowa, that she had the same spirit as their hometown boy, the legendary actor John Wayne. But he never lived there. John Wayne Gacy did.
He was a serial killer who dressed up like a clown.
I have mixed emotions about us media types skewering politicians for every twisted pop culture reference. Frankly, I don’t think the Leader of the Free World should be keeping up with the Kardashians, the King or the Real Housewives. I tend to agree with critics who think that our political process has become too much of a game of “Gotcha!”
We pepper candidates endlessly with detailed questions about what they know, who they know, why they know them and when did all of this happen anyway? We ask them to be instant experts on everything from the economy, international affairs and farm policy to education, housing and alligator wrestling. Then, when they stumble, we pop open the trap door and drop them, like contestants on a game show, into the footnotes of history.
It’s not fair. These folks want to be the president of the United States, not a Jeopardy champion.
But ... and this is a big caveat ... it is worth noting that candidates are rarely torpedoed by a single gaffe. Or even two or three. What does them in is a pattern of mistakes that suggests a certain overall sloppiness of thought, inattention to detail, or a shaky grasp of facts. Bachmann, while certainly an intelligent, talented politician, had a few too many of those moments. And she won’t be the last to do so.
Maybe they were honest mistakes, blown out of proportion. But in the end, they — and Elvis — took her out. And I wonder if she’s lonesome tonight.
– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”
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