Bachmann at CPAC: How America is Like Saudi Arabia
If you needed another sign that David Koch, heir and executive of Koch Industries, owns the conservative movement, you only need to look at the opening roster of the Conservative Political Action Conference, which kicked off Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who leads the House delegation of the great Midwestern province of Kochistan. Chosen to represent Kochistan's Senate delegation was Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., who defeated Sen. Russ Feingold with oodles of help -- including some dirty tricks -- from Koch's astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity.
Both Bachmann -- who has headlined countless events sponsored by Americans for Prosperity -- and Johnson took pains to carry water for Koch's primary issue: the deregulation of business -- especially as pertains to the energy sector, where Koch Industries' core business lies -- and environmentalism.
Opening with a bit of self-deprecating humor, Bachmann said, "Someone told me I had to find the right camera" -- a reference to the videotaped version of her response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, in which she was poorly lit and seemed to be looking away from the lens.
But then she got down to business, lauding Republican victories in the Senate, as well as in governors' mansions and state legislatures across the nation. Appearing before this audience of political activists, Bachmann made a point of mentioning the role of Republican victories in the congressional redistricting process, which is undertaken at the state level. "We flipped 680 seats" in state legislatures, Bachmann boasted. "All this work paid off in this redistricting cycle," she said.
She continued with the usual attack on Obama, whom she said "ushered in socialism" during the two years of his administration, "Obamacare" being the "crown jewel," Bachmann of the president's ostensibly socialistic agenda.
The primary goal of Bachmann's speech appeared to be a plea to the various constituencies of the conservative coalition -- the religious right, fiscal conservatives, and foreign policy hawks -- to hang together in order to win the Senate and the White House next year. "We cannot shun each other in 2012," Bachmann said.
But she didn't get to that punchline until she delivered her Koch-sponsored attack on the Obama administration's energy policy, especially as administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is poised to introduce new regulations affecting carbon emissions. Bachmann also complained about regulations barring drilling and natural gas extraction in protected areas.
"We are the Saudi Arabia of energy right here," Bachmann said. "We just can't access it."
Bachmann, a tax attorney, also launched a barrage of questionable arithmetic, especially targeted at the many college students among CPAC's estimated 11,000 attendees, telling them that by the time they are at the peak of their earning power, they could be paying as much as 75 percent of their incomes in taxes -- unless, of course, they do all they can to bring conservatives to power.
Bachmann, who is hosting a reception later today, invited all attendees from the podium. Calling for victory in 2012, she shouted, "Let's party!"
With that, the charismatic Minnesotan left the stage to be followed by Johnson, her not-so-charismatic, north-country, Koch-sponsored colleague from Wisconsin.
No surprise that Johnson's themes were carbon (cough) copies of Bachmann's. "The EPA…is out of control," Johnson said, going on to complain that the agency seeks to regulate waste and spillage from the dairy industry, which he described as spilled milk.
What is surprising is that this guy, who never before ran for elected office, could get elected to anything. He's just that awful at the podium. At one point, he lost his place in his speech, and instead of riffing from the heart, he made his audience wait while he found his place in his script, which was delivered from paper, what with the self-imposed teleprompter ban in vogue at conservative gatherings these days.
In fact, I'd venture to say, that there's no way this guy would have won office without the help of Americans For Prosperity, whose activists backed him over more authentic Tea Party candidates, and then involved itself in a voter-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and college students in Milwaukee.
Johnson falsely accused the Obama administration for launching an attack on doctors, and then went on to tell the story of the valiant doctors who saved his daughter's life when she was an infant. This is a classic feature of conservative narrative creation: make a false assertion about the other side, and then use a true story to refute it.
The Wisconsin senator lamented that when he was a child, "we were taught to look up to doctors and other successful people." He continued, "Now some are demonizing success."
Doctors, he said, are "producers." This is a paean to the right's old song of producerism, which Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons describe, in their book Right-Wing Populism, as "a doctrine that champions the so-called producers in society against both 'unproductive' elites and subordinate groups defined as lazy or immoral."
Johnson is a millionaire who, until his election to Senate, ran Pacur, the plastics manufacturing business he co-founded. A producer, for sure.
AlterNet will be reporting from CPAC throughout the conference.