Newsweek writer Andrew Romano was understandably worried when his editor assigned him to follow Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann around for a few days and live-tweet the experience. It was going to be, for reasons both political and journalistic, a potentially mind-breaking experience. But he went and did it, and found the experience to be enlightening, both in regard to Bachmann and himself:
When Bachmann asked "Why did the government bail out GM but not Ford?" at the first jobs forum in St. Cloud, I posted her question alongside my own know-it-all answer: "Well, because Ford didn't need — or want — A bailout." When she told local job-seekers in Monticello that there's "nothing like being armed with knowledge so we can make the best possible decisions," I attached a snarky hashtag: "#irony?" When she suggested a constitutional amendment that would require aspiring politicians to run a profitable business for three years before running for office, I asked whether her only previous job — "nabbing tax cheats 4 the IRS" — counted. And when she claimed that Obama planned to take over 74 percent of the U.S. economy, I linked to a fact check with a single syllable of commentary: "Um."
"I sounded, in other words, like a kneejerk Bachmann hater," Romano writes. "But that wasn't really the case; I hadn't spent enough time with her to decide if she was unserious, or crazy, or whatever. Instead, I was simply doing what Twitter demanded: being pithy and provocative." That's not exactly how Bachmann's team saw it — shortly before Romano was scheduled to sit down with her for a face-to-face interview, they canceled it and would not reschedule. "That says as much about Bachmann as anything I observed on the road," he writes. "Given her mastery of the provocative soundbite and her recent ranking as the most influential Twitterer in the House, I'd initially believed that Bachmann, love her or hate her, was emblematic of a new, niche-media breed of politician. But it turns out that she's just a louder-mouthed version of the old model." That is, happy to attack opponents from afar but unwilling to engage up close against anything but a vetted ally. "What Twitter revealed about Bachmann is that she's not democratic enough for Twitter," Romano concludes, "or the new era it embodies."
Tweet the Press [Newsweek]