The quitters: The Bachmann and Palin pathology

By Peter Fenn – 05/30/13 09:44 AM ET

It is one thing to raise millions from grassroots activists or appear on record numbers of TV talk shows or give rhetorically charged speeches before adoring crowds – it is quite another to do the hard work of governing.

Both Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin were political lightweights who were full of sound and fury and accomplished very little. Both quit their posts like spoiled children, after meteoric rises that had precious little to do with actually getting anything done.

Both were bad examples of what public service should be all about and both exhibited a certain pathology steeped more in ego and appearance than serious legislating or governing. Just watch Bachmann’s rambling 8-and-a-half minute diatribe announcing she was quitting Congress.

I can’t resist comparing these two to Hillary Clinton, a serious and disciplined leader who was a senator of substance sponsoring legislation with nearly three dozen Republicans who voted for her husband’s impeachment. She was known in elective office and as secretary of State as a pragmatic, accomplished, focused public figure.

Palin and Bachmann were just the opposite. Flashy, outrageous, flippant, charismatic to be sure, but devoid of much left behind.

Bachmann’s sole real accomplishment was a bridge to somewhere – from Minnesota to Wisconsin; Palin’s may be the proposed bridge to nowhere in Alaska.

Both of them may point to the Tea Party rise – a weak brew and cold at that. Bachmann was known for non-attendance and paltry participation in her Republican Caucus and as a member with little interest in legislation. Palin seemed to enjoy her time in Wasilla more than in the governor’s office and, despite all the press conferences, left the governorship in the middle of her term.

These two set back efforts to put women in serious positions of power. Like their male colleagues of a similar ilk – Alan West, Jim DeMint, Joe Walsh, Herman Cain – they could move their mouths but couldn’t move legislation.

They left little to show except their time as show horses.

Palin cashed in and made millions off her fame; likely Bachmann will do the same.

The sad part is that what they have left behind is a Republican Party so very extreme and so ideologically straight-jacketed that they are unable to get much of anything done in government. Palin and Bachmann clearly prized rhetoric over results, media over what matters. Not exactly the examples our founding fathers set.

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