Yesterday at PunditLeague, I argued that Michelle Bachmann’s “Tea Party Response” to the President’s State of Union address would not detract from Paul Ryan’s official Republican response. In practice, Bachmann’s response was actually better than Ryan’s – not because of content (Ryan did as well as he could have done), but because of style.
Despite Bachmann’s shortcomings as a speaker, her speech varied from typical State of the Union responses by including charts and images as visual aids. Ryan’s turn as a talking head was traditional, but less dynamic. As Brit Hume observed on Fox News last night, replying to the grandeur of the President’s address is difficult; it means sitting in a room with no audience, no applause, and no chance to speak in booming tones in front of an austere chamber. Bachmann did better in the empty room by simply filling it with something besides her. Granted, the charts could have looked better and could have included better visual representations of the consequences of the Administration’s fiscal policies, but the still looked better than Ryan’s charts (which, again, didn’t exist).
Future responses to the State of the Union might consider a more carefully crafted presentation that the Max Headroom-style talking heads that have become typical. The opposition’s annual reply is a rare chance to rebut the President before a national audience. Bachmann may have rankled Republican leaders with her rogue response – but she might be on to something.
UPDATE: Something I missed entirely in Bachmann’s presentation was the fact that she was apparently staring into space. I figured the video I saw (linked above, from PBS) simply had the camera positioned off to the side, and that Bachmann had another, main camera she was looking into. Unless this was filmed in the Congresswoman’s basement, I assumed SOMEONE would have told her to look into the camera; I guess that’s what happens when I assume.