Last year, this blog produced groundbreaking political coverage of the race for South Carolina governor.
(Also breaking that day was the beer bottle I held when I fell while taking pictures of eventual winner Nikki Haley. I had wandered off from her Rock Hill rally into a nearby pizza place after she started getting all preachy and, three beers later, I fell to the ground not far from the candidate, but not before snapping the following award-winning photo.)
Now, the 2012 presidential election is looming, with the South Carolina primary destined to play a key role in picking which lunatic-fringe Republican will challenge President Obama. This citizen-journalist will again be taking to the campaign trail to cover GOP candidates as they traipse through our state.
Today’s first installment in this series reports on a visit last night by Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. The Tea Party favorite’s profile has risen sharply in recent days. Not only did she make a positive impression during the New Hampshire debate where she announced her candidacy, but she’s also drawing attention for her creative interpretations of objective reality.
Last November, she criticized Obama’s trip to India for costing “$200 million a day,” which was not even close. She said then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi ran up a “$100,000 bar tab … on the military jets she’s flying,” when Pelosi doesn’t even have a pilot’s license. In Iowa last week, she praised Waterloo native and iconic actor John Wayne when in fact it was mass murderer John Wayne Gacy who had lived there.
The night before her arrival in South Carolina, she told a local newspaper reporter “I’m genuine, I’m authentic, and I have a titanium spine.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website PolitiFact.com rated this statement as “pants-on-fire false,” reporting that her spine is actually made of pre-osteoporotic bone.
I had planned to cover Bachmann’s appearance at a Winthrop University dining hall. However, she proved so popular with local Republicans that the place was packed, and I was unable to get in. So, in the Bachmann spirit, I went to another dining establishment just across the street from Winthrop, and pretended that the speaker there was the arch-conservative evangelical.
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ROCK HILL, S.C. (June 28) — GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann said a bunch of stuff before a crowd of about 450 people Wednesday night, and the audience seemed pleased that she stood in front of a giant American flag, wore a yellow dress and waved her arms around a lot.
Meanwhile, in a nearby McDonald’s, a cashier behind the counter who looked a little like the Minnesota Republican if you squinted your eyes and imagined that Bachmann was an African-American teenager, offered her comments on the current state of the country and what we might do to address our super-sized problems.
“We’re not serving breakfast now,” Taquisha Adams announced to one of thepotential voters who could anoint a front-runner in the state’s first-in-the-South primary next February. “You can’t get an ‘egg-a-muffin’ after 10:30 in the morning.”
Analysts said Adams’ forceful commentary on what many see as an entitlement culture in the U.S. indicated she’d be willing to offer some unpleasant-but-necessary leadership direction.
“We don’t have Whoppers,” Adams informed the next audience member to step forward. “That’s Burger King. Can’t you read the menu behind me?”
Adams appeared to be suggesting that citizens may have to revise their expectations of the American dream in light of geopolitical realities that have sent many jobs overseas.
“The coffee won’t be ready for another five minutes,” Adams told the third voter to step forward. “You’ll have to wait.”
“I think this allegory is meant to warn people that it’s going to take time to turn the country in the right direction,” said Winthrop political science professor Wilfred Harper. “We’re talking about what many people consider a ‘sea change’ in how the government conducts its business and interacts with its citizens.”
The next citizen to step forward seemed more ready than most to challenge Adams’ command of the issues.
“I think this is a human finger that got deep-fried and put into my chicken nuggets,” said Arlan Marks, a 68-year-old retiree from nearby York, S.C. “I want my money back or a new batch of nuggets.”
“Ain’t no finger, man,” Adams said with an authority refined during her ten years of public education before she dropped out last year. “That’s just a big ol’ nugget.”
Marks began to press his assertion more forcefully, but Adams waved him aside with a brusque “Next!” that sent him scurrying.
Next in line was schoolteacher Missie Monroe. She wanted the number five combo.
“I’m on break now,” Adams countered, turning the woman away. This seemed to be an indication that Adams, despite her strong pro-business stance, was willing to concede that workers should retain certain key rights.
“She’s definitely got a quality that many of the other candidates in the race are lacking,” said local Republican Party official Ed Wilson. “She tells it like it is, while Romney and the rest of the pack seem to say only what they think people want to hear.”
When Adams returned from her smoke break, her manager directed her to clean up a spilled soft drink near the front of the dining room. She half-heartedly poked at the puddle of Sprite.
“This nation made the difficult transition from a manufacturing-based economy to more of a service-based one,” she said to no one in particular. “Now, our challenge is to move on to a knowledge-based economy. And I know for a fact I don’t want to clean up this mess.”
As her six-hour shift came to an end, Adams punched the timeclock and exited through the back of the store, avoiding questions from what more and more Republicans are referring to as the “lamestream media.”
Meanwhile, back over in the Winthrop University dining hall, Rep. Bachmann concluded her remarks with a call for something or other, and left for the overnight drive to Myrtle Beach, where she’ll be meeting with the Horry County Tea Party Thursday.