Bomb-throwing scribe Matt Taibbi, whose memorable and colorful gifts to the language include calling Goldman Sachs a "giant vampire squid," has a lengthy profile of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Coming off her strong debate performance last week, Bachmann is leading the entire GOP presidential field in the latest Zogby poll, and Taibbi sharply warns skeptics to take the Tea Party favorite seriously. Not that he's particularly nice about it. Here are six key takeaways from Taibbi's "vitriolic" profile:
1. Bachmann is paranoid and delusional
In Taibbi's telling, Bachmann is "a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions." But she's the "right kind of completely batshit crazy" to do well in modern U.S. politics — a kind of "grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy" that comes from "living completely inside... the vast sand castle she's built" in her mind. This renders her unable to meaningfully communicate with people "on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies."
2. Her religiosity is her biggest weapon
Bachmann "found Jesus at age 16," and conservative Christianity has been a big part of her public life ever since. Bachmann believes that God literally told her to run for president. "Snickering readers in New York or Los Angeles" think this makes her crazy and unelectable. But America is full of people with similar views on faith. This is really the crux of Taibbi's "anti-Christian screed," says Joe Newby at Examiner.com. He "hates Bachmann primarily because she is a Christian."
3. Her campaign isn't a joke
Bachmann may well be "the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics," Taibbi says, but we underestimate her at our own peril. "Every time you laugh at her, she gets stronger." When Bachmann says something ridiculous, the "contemptuous laughter" from the "overeducated cultural elite from both parties" just makes the millions of religious voters who buy into Bachmann's brand of conservatism more determined to vote for her — or rather, against us.
4. She's a skilled politician
Bachmann is much stronger, more focused, and politically brilliant than most people give her credit for. Look at her trajectory: A short 10 years "from small-town PTA maven to serious presidential contender." And it isn't too hard to imagine her winning the caucuses in socially-conservative Iowa, which could propel her to the GOP nomination, setting up a race between "Barack Obama and a soaring unemployment rate versus a white, God-fearing mother of 28 from the heartland." (Bachmann raised five of her own children, and 23 foster children.)
5. Bachmann isn't Sarah Palin
"Palin is clearly bored by the dreary, laborious aspects of campaigning," while Bachmann is a "ruthlessly goal-oriented... relentless worker" who stays fixedly on-message. She's also a better speaker, says Heather (Digby) Parton at Hullabaloo. Instead of Palin's "rambling nonsense," Bachmann's "bizarro world" pronouncements are quite precise, and have at least "a sort of ideological symmetry."
6. There are some un–Tea Party skeletons in her closet
A sign of her political acumen is that in 2009, "while other Republicans floundered in the wreckage of the post-Bush era," Bachmann "cannily positioned herself as the congressional champion of the Tea Party." But her "leadership role" in the anti-government, anti-tax movement seems at odds with her history as an IRS tax collector, support for the Patriot Act and other invasive laws, and her championing of using government to crush gay marriage and Islamic Sharia law. "Michele Bachmann is — what's the old-school term? — a poser," says Ohio Tea Party organizer Chris Littleton.