Though Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and her supporters insisted that her speech responding to the State of the Union Tuesday night was not intended to compete with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s official GOP response, the two speeches struck different tones, and such protestations have been unable to deter the perception that her speech represented a dissenting viewpoint within the Republican Party.
Bachmann’s speech hit all the bullet points of the Tea Party’s beliefs. She pulled out charts to show unemployment figures and the growing national debt and ended with a somewhat inexplicable reference to a painting of soldiers at Iwo Jima. She was very much the schoolteacher, slapping Obama on the wrist for not solving these problems, and speaking as if the difference of opinion was the result of a lack of awareness of the reality of the situation.
“We wondered whether the president would cut spending, reduce the deficit and implement real job-creating policies,” she chided. “Unfortunately, the president’s strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money.”
While Ryan spoke about accountability for both parties, striking a chord of shared responsibility, Bachmann went on the attack. She went after Obama, primarily, though she did mention President George W. Bush’s high deficits.
“Deficits were unacceptably high under President Bush,” she said, “but they exploded under President Obama’s direction, growing the national debt by an astounding $3.1 trillion-dollars.”
Though many Republicans, including Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, spoke out throughout the day Tuesday to defend Bachmann’s right to give the speech, they seemed to shy away from the media designation that it was the “Tea Party’s official response.”
“It’s not anything that’s been vetted by the Tea Party Caucus,” Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, a member of that caucus, told The Daily Caller. “I mean, it’s going to be her view.”
“I guess I could give a response and call it official,” he said. “I could give the official Sixth District response, or the official senior Texas response.”
But Amy Kremer, chair of Tea Party Express, the group that organized Bachmann’s speech, was adamant that Bachmann’s speech was distinct from the two-party system, and that it was not competing with Ryan’s.
“It’s not an alternate response,” she told TheDC, insisting: “We are not a wing of the Republican Party.”
Sal Russo, co-founder and chief strategist for Tea Party Express, however, did not have a problem with the movement finding a home within the establishment.
“I’m less into the symbolism than I am into the results,” he said.