It’s starting to look like even though America is the greatest country in the world, Michele Bachmann is not going to be president of it. While Perry, Romney, Newt Gingrich and even Herman Goddamn Cain take turns surging in the polls, Bachman continues to be popular only with evangelicals, Tea Partiers who have been on vacation since early August and your mother’s boyfriend. It just isn’t fair, since Bachmann has been working her ass off to do the one thing that guarantees success in any political contest: making stuff up. Monday, she told an audience in Cedar Rapids (Iowa, natch) that eighties-throwback Lebanese terror group Hezbollah might be building missile sites in Cuba. Terrifying, right? No, because by now you’ve noticed that Michele Bachmann reports a suspiciously large number of threats to America that no one else seems to know about.
In this case, Bachmann got her news from the Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, which alleged that Hezbollah was creating a base in Cuba to target Israelis in Latin America. The original article is in that crazy moon-man language they talk in Italy, but it was widely circulated on conservative blogs with the usual scrupulous attention to detail. Stories about what a terrorist organization is planning to do are hard to confirm, but the original story suggested that Hezbollah wanted the bases for intelligence gathering and “identification forgery.” Run that through the Bachmannizer and here’s what you get:
There’s reports that have come out that Cuba has been working with another terrorist organization called Hezbollah. And Hezbollah is potentially looking at wanting to be part of missile sites in Iran and, of course, when you’re 90 miles offshore from Florida, you don’t want to entertain the prospect of hosting bases or sites where Hezbollah could have training camps or perhaps have missile sites or weapons sites in Cuba. This would be foolish.
Where to begin? First of all, I only trust reports that have “come out,” too. Second, the news that Hezbollah is “potentially looking at wanting” to build missile sites in Iran makes me consider entertaining the prospect of trying not to be scared. But such words are the styrofoam packing peanuts that accompany any idea shipped to us in Bachmann’s mouth-box. The deliverable is that Hezbollah likes missiles, and maybe Cuba likes Hezbollah; ergo, Hezbollah is building missile installations in Cuba.
This rumor based on psychological association with another rumor about the vague plans of a semi-secret organization Bachmann reported as fact. As usual with quantum mechanics, the inside of Bachmann’s head and other branches of speculative science, we run up against the unanswerable question of why. Conventional wisdom is that she’s trying to establish her foreign policy bona fides—which, if true, is maybe too depressing to think about. It’s like watching a double feature of Herbie the Love Bug and Christine and then going down to Jiffy Lube to casually mention that a talking car is coming to kill everybody. It’s true that Bachmann talks about everything as if she were an expert and became an expert on everything by talking about it, but even she must not believe that Hezbollahnese missiles in Cuba are going to become the defining issue of the Republican campaign.
It also seems unlikely that she’s trying to scare us. As fearmongering goes, a Cuban missile crisis with terrorists instead of Russians is no death panels. One of the few ways in which the 2012 campaign is refreshing in comparison with 2008 and 2004 is its focus on domestic issues, so maybe Mmm-Bach saw a niche in which to ensconce herself. If she’s going for war on/of terror, though, she sure picked all the off-brand actors: Hezbollah instead of Al-Qaeda, Cubans instead of Iran, missiles instead of bombs. That’s an object lesson in why Rudy Giuliani wouldn’t have worked in 1985, right there.
The more one thinks about these remarks, the more one feels like maybe she just came up with them on the spot. Perhaps, as Ron Carey speculated a few weeks ago, Bachmann happened to read that Corriere story and watch the Cuban missile crisis episode of Mad Men the day before and, you know, just threw it out there. That’s an explanation frustrating in its arbitrariness, the way Einstein didn’t want to believe in probabilistic quantum mechanics. I hate to say it, you guys, but Bachmann Studies is descending into a frightening nihilism. It’s almost like the woman herself doesn’t know what’s going on in there, and the inside of Michele Bachmann’s head is difficult to discern for the same reason that 16th-century astronomers had a hard time finding the aether. Maybe it’s just not there.