Monday, June 27, 2011

Michele Bachmann's No Flake, Unfortunately

With merely 16 months to go before the general election in 2012, the field of Republican presidential candidates is coalescing into a smorgasbord of eight or nine hopefuls who will achieve outsized media attention for the next six months before six or seven of them will drop out of the race. One of the strongest candidates, at least according to a poll in Iowa, is Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann. But despite the recent media praise and favorable poll numbers, Chris Wallace of Fox News asked her on his Sunday show if she was "a flake". The prelude to this question was that Bachmann had a well-known reputation for, let's say, stretching the truth into a fact-free porridge of inventive talking points. But my main issue is with the definition of the term "flake", and why an insane-yet-committed Republican would be thought of as a flake.

Bachmann took immediate issue with Chris Wallace's question, calling it "insulting" and later stating how serious she was. And, for once, I have no reason to mistrust Bachmann. The Republican Party has been splitting for the last two years between moderate conservatives and the more right-wing Tea Party conservatives. With the ascendance of the Tea Party, the power center of the Republican Party as a whole has continued to veer right. Ten years ago, someone who was known for speculation that the dollar would be replaced by a multinational currency, who speculated that the Carter administration may have been responsible for a swine flu outbreak, who spread paranoia about the U.S. census, and who was responsible for some of the most egregious lies about the health care system may not have been able to speak for the Republican Party. But the times, they are a-changin'.

But this is all beside the point. Isn't a "flake" someone who sometimes doesn't show up to events they are expected to be at? Given a choice between candidate A who is spending her first official day on the campaign trail in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and made appearances on two national Sunday talk shows the day before her announcement; or candidate B, who is going to skip out on the Iowa caucuses and took a pass on the first real Republican debate: wouldn't candidate B look like the huge flake? How about candidate C who, despite being the assumed front-runner and who was the wealthiest candidate in 2008, will skip the Iowa straw poll in August because it is "an expensive proposition"?

But then, maybe I'm wrong in my interpretation of the term "flake". I was listening to NPR at lunch, and on Here and Now, Jay Newton-Small, congressional correspondant for Time Magazine, stated that Michele Bachmann was going to try to "get away from that bomb-throwing, that flakey type of reputation that she has." Wait, since when does bomb-throwing have anything to do with being a flake? The only connection that comes to my mind was H. Ross Perot in 1992, a bomb-thrower who later went on to quit his campaign despite pretty good poll numbers for a third-party candidate. And unfortunately, I think Michele Bachmann has more staying power than H. Ross Perot.

So now I'm confused. What does "flake" mean again? It's time I turned to that most esteemed and venerated source of terminology: Urban Dictionary. Aha! A flake is "an unreliable person; someone who agrees to do something, but never follows through." I thought so!

Chris Wallace later went on to apologize for his "flake" question for being too insulting. He did not, however, apologize for misinterpreting what a flake is. I'm still waiting, Mr. Wallace.


Christy said...

Is it possible he was referring to a more colloquial meaning for "flake"? I know in high school, "flake" was also synonymous with being fake; untruthful; made to appear attractive on the exterior, but lacking substance within. Indeed, "unreliable" in all things, not just in making or not making a meeting? By this definition, I would say that Ms. Bachmann, as well as Ms. Palin, are overqualified.

Steve said...

I think it's entirely likely that Chris Wallace used this definition of "flake", because it really doesn't make sense any other way. I'm just not hip to this lingo that these kids on Fox News be using these days.