Dueling SOTU Responses, Cont’d

DUELING SOTU RESPONSES, CONT’D…. Late last week, after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) turned them down, congressional Republican leaders announced House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would deliver the party’s official response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. It was a decision fraught with implications.

But immediately after the announcement, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made some news of her own: she, too, would deliver a response to the SOTU, and her speech would be broadcast and endorsed by the Tea Party Express.

Yesterday, the unhinged Minnesotan insisted she isn’t trying to steal Paul Ryan’s thunder.

[S]peaking to reporters Monday, she distanced herself from Beltway rumblings that she was challenging the GOP establishment by addressing the Tea Party Express. Rep. Paul Ryan is offering the official Republican response.

“I’m just reacting to what President Obama is saying, to the Tea Party Express group,” Bachmann said at the State Capitol. “It’s not meant to be in competition in any way. Paul Ryan is the official GOP response and he’ll do a wonderful job.”

But there’s an important detail to keep in mind. Politico noted that Bachmann’s “response will be streamed on the Tea Party Express’s web site, while Ryan’s will be carried by national networks.”

As it turns out, that’s no longer accurate. CNN announced late yesterday that it will broadcast all three speeches — President Obama’s national address, Ryan’s response, and Bachmann’s response — on the air, in their entirety.

I’m really not sure what to make of this. In fact, I’m a little surprised CNN would agree to this, just as a matter of fairness — viewers will hear one speech from a Democrat, followed by a speech by a far-right Republican, and then followed by another speech by a far-right Republican? If a liberal Dem announced this morning that he/she is delivering some remarks reflecting on the SOTU tonight, would that also be aired on CNN’s national airwaves in its entirety?

For that matter, I can only hope that Paul Ryan isn’t positioned as the “middle” — literally and figuratively — between the president and Bachmann. The Ayn Rand acolyte is, after all, a hard-core radical, intent on destroying Medicare and Social Security. Bachmann’s wild-eyed craziness shouldn’t make Ryan appear reasonable by comparison, but it might.

On the flip side, I suppose it’s also possible that we’ll see one popular national leader reveling in the pageantry of a national address to a joint session, followed by two right-wing members of an unpopular party, struggling to explain why Americans should embrace their vision of extremism. If President Obama comes out looking above the fray, the dueling GOP responses might backfire.

I guess we’ll see soon enough.