Impressed by Rep. Michele Bachmann's performance in the CNN debate last night, MSNBC's Martin Bashir today twice cheekily declared her the "thinking person's Sarah Palin."
"She really gave a stellar performance last night. Do you think she's now the thinking person's Sarah Palin?" Bashir asked conservative MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan, who responded that Bachmann is "a highly intelligent woman who's very crisp" and who came off "stunningly well."
Nearly a half-hour later, Bashir discussed the debate with conservative columnist and author S.E. Cupp, posing the same question.
Here's the relevant exchange (emphases mine):
MARTIN BASHIR, anchor: S.E., you've got to admit, that was a stellar performance by her, wasn't it?
S.E. CUPP: And I love to admit it. I love Michele Bachmann and I've been championing her for years now, and easily. It has not been difficult despite that montage of missteps as you characterize them.
She's a woman to admire, unequivocally. Whether that's her personal backstory. The fact that she was a well-respected tax attorney, she's got ten years in public office. I was not surprised, but I was happy for her last night.
BASHIR: But she was sober last night. She didn't say anything outrageous. She didn't get her history wrong, she didn't get her geography wrong as she has quite recently.
CUPP: Well, look, I mean, if you've spent that much time in the public sector and in the limelight, whether you're Joe Biden who can't spell "jobs" or remember when the television was invented or you're the president who can't pronounce corpsman or remember how many states there are, I mean, you're going to sort of misstep here and there. The bottom line is Michele Bachmann is a capable leader and I think she's a compelling candidate as everyone got to see last night.
BASHIR: Do you think she's now the thinking person's Sarah Palin? She's charismatic--
CUPP: You know-- [sighs]
BASHIR: shes' representative of the Tea Party, she's very firmly on that family values bandwagon.
CUPP: Sure, but so is someone like Rick Santorum. I mean, I hate these comparisons to Sarah Palin just because they both have a uterus. I mean, I understand they're both women--
BASHIR: No, no, I was suggesting the comparison politically.
CUPP: But there's so many differences between them.
BASHIR: But don't you think she is that now?
CUPP: I think she's smart, if that's what you mean. I think Sarah Palin's also smart. But I think Michele Bachmann has different gifts to offer. Whereas Sarah Palin had executive experience and sort of that rugged individualism of Alaska. Michele Bachmann has ten years in Congress.
BASHIR: Exactly, she's held office.
Before that exchange, Bashir had contrasted Bachmann's polished debate performance with her history of being a "wild card best known for her questionable pronouncements on everything from climate change to the U.S. Census."
But the montage that Bashir set up began with a soundbite from 2009 in which Bachmann noted, correctly, that census data was used to aid U.S. government officials in the FDR administration to round up Japanese-Americans.
As the Scientific American website reported in March 2007 (emphasis mine):
Despite decades of denials, government records confirm that the U.S. Census Bureau provided the U.S. Secret Service with names and addresses of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The Census Bureau surveys the population every decade with detailed questionnaires but is barred by law from revealing data that could be linked to specific individuals. The Second War Powers Act of 1942 temporarily repealed that protection to assist in the roundup of Japanese-Americans for imprisonment in internment camps in California and six other states during the war. The Bureau previously has acknowledged that it provided neighborhood information on Japanese-Americans for that purpose, but it has maintained that it never provided "microdata," meaning names and specific information about them, to other agencies.
A new study of U.S. Department of Commerce documents now shows that the Census Bureau complied with an August 4, 1943, request by Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau for the names and locations of all people of Japanese ancestry in the Washington, D.C., area, according to historian Margo Anderson of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and statistician William Seltzer of Fordham University in New York City. The records, however, do not indicate that the Bureau was asked for or divulged such information for Japanese-Americans in other parts of the country.
Anderson and Seltzer discovered in 2000 that the Census Bureau released block-by-block data during WW II that alerted officials to neighborhoods in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Arkansas where Japanese-Americans were living. "We had suggestive but not very conclusive evidence that they had also provided microdata for surveillance," Anderson says.
"The [new] evidence is convincing," says Kenneth Prewitt, Census Bureau director from 1998 to 2000 and now a professor of public policy at Columbia University, who issued a public apology in 2000 for the Bureau's release of neighborhood data during the war. "At the time, available evidence (and Bureau lore) held that there had been no … release of microdata," he says. "That can no longer be said."