Playing her designated role as oracle of the nonconservative wing of the Republican Party, Meghan McCain joined the chorus of critics this week dismissing Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union. McCain's take wasn't as harsh as Esquire's assessment that Bachmann is a "howling loon," but it was right in line with freshman Rep. Joe Walsh's (R-Ill.) view that "Michele had no business making that speech."
But with all due respect to McCain, Bachmann isn't "the poor man's Sarah Palin." Palin is the impostor. Bachmann is the real "Sarah Palin."
Palin is a former sportscaster; Bachmann is a tax attorney. Palin just wrapped Season 1 of her lifestyle show on TLC; Bachmann just hosted a congressional seminar headlined by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
More important, Palin watched the State of the Union from the comfort of her own living room in Wasilla, Alaska. Bachmann, on the other hand, is a sitting three-term congresswoman and was, if only for a day, spokesperson of the Tea Party movement on one of the biggest days of the political calendar.
Palin got hers: best-selling books, a lucrative Fox News deal and time on the couch with Oprah. But don't overlook Bachmann. Love her or hate her, she isn't talking at you from Facebook; she's coming to you live from the halls of Congress. Palin quit in the middle of her only term as governor. Bachmann won't quit until the voters give her the hook. She doesn't have Palin's lock on the Bass Pro Shops demo, but this week, at least, she's the hardest-working woman in the House.
Yes, Twitter, she wears too much eye makeup. And yes, her chutzpah knows no bounds — she blames all the nation's economic woes on Obama without heed to two hot wars, the banking collapse and the enormous, unfunded Medicare Part D already waiting in Obama's inbox on the day he took office.
Clearly, Bachmann has an awkward relationship with facts. Just this week, the Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart busted her for remarking last week to the Iowans for Tax Relief that America's Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."
But if you don't understand Bachmann, you don't understand the Tea Party. If you want to know what the people who have been turning up at protests around the country for the last two years are thinking, listen to Bachmann's speech again. They don't just want to repeal "ObamaCare" — they want to repeal Obama's presidency. And she faithfully distilled their agenda on Tuesday night:
When she says, "We're just beginning to start to undo the damage that's been done the last few years," she means it. Her constituency sees Obama as the culprit for the country's biggest problems.
Bachmann's SOTU rebuttal was oversimplified, unoriginal and earned her a "barely true" rating from PolitiFact. But she laid out plainly — in a way Palin never has — the core Tea Party platform: lower taxes, less government and no Obama.
Meghan McCain should spend a little less time worrying about Bachmann and a little more time wondering why her dad, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), tapped Palin as his running mate to begin with. Palin was never going to be president, but she could have been a force in politics if she had run for the Senate and taken her pitch to Washington. But as I said two years ago, Palin went for the loot, "trading in the rigors of day-to-day governing for a 24-7-365 license to ill," and becoming the rich man's Joe the Plumber instead.
So don't underestimate Bachmann. There's a job open for Tea Party queen — and she has plans to fill it.
David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.
David Swerdlick is an associate editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.