Last night during the Republican Presidential Debate in Iowa, we got a rare look at how Fox News reacts once they lose their ability to play the role of Republican candidate puppeteers. The first instance of this occurred after Chris Wallace asked Tim Pawlenty about whether he believed Michele Bachmann was unfit “to serve President because of her history of migraines.” Pawlenty quickly countered that it was Bachmann’s record, not her migraine problem that he had questioned. Never to back down from criticism, Bachmann quickly responded by equating Pawlenty’s policies as Minnesota Governor to those of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – Barack Obama – and a hush fell over the auditorium.
Chris Wallace, noticing that this dispute had left the bounds of reciprocal condemnation of Obama’s Presidency and into the realm of, gasp, intra-Republican demonization and debate, decided to ask Bachmann if she understood if she knew what she was doing:
Chris Wallace: …Congresswoman Bachmann, isn’t that about the worst thing you can say about a fellow Republican in this campaign that he reminds you of Barack Obama?
Bachmann quickly re-affirmed her position and doubled down by mentioning her pro-bulb stance:
Rep. Bachmann:The policies that the Governor advocated for were cap and trade. He praised and wanted to require Minnesotans to purchase the unconstitutional individual mandate in health care and he said the era of small government is over. I have a very consistent record of fighting very hard against Barack Obama and his unconstitutional measures in congress. I’m very proud of that record. That is what qualifies me, as a fighter and Representative of the people, to go to Washington, D.C. and the White House. People are looking for a champion. They want someone who has been fighting. When it came to healthcare, I brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington to fight the unconstitutional individual mandates, I didn’t praise it. When it came to cap and trade, I fought it with everything that was in me, I introduced the Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act so people could purchase the lightbulb of their choice. I also believe that big government is hurting the United States. We need to have small government.
When Republican candidates start comparing one another to Barack Obama, you know they are getting desperate and things are getting out of hand. What this also displays is how Fox News is losing their power to effectively choreograph their Republican Presidential Primary narrative. During their previous debate back in May, they steered clear of asking anything overly confrontational that would pit any of the candidates into an existential head-to-head; instead, they played it safe by asking irrelevant questions such as whether they agreed or disagreed with waterboarding. The takeaway message was that the candidates may have some disagreements, but at least they aren’t like Obama. Now, on the other hand, they are wading into the realm of asking questions that actually set the candidates against one another, and the results aren’t what they were expecting. I don’t think anybody was ready for the slur of “being like Obama” to be said.