Liberal news site Talking Points Memo manages to almost (but not quite) turn being a foster parent to 23 at-risk teens into a negative campaign issue with a wee bit of burying the lede legerdemain and by squarely playing into their reader’s built-in bias. It’s worthwhile for conservative and independent voters to take note of the arguments in this article on Congresswoman and presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann because TPM has a lot of influence on left-leaning media and this is their lead story this morning. You’re sure to start hearing some of these arguments from pundits and even the mainstream press, so get used to them now.
As the article notes, Bachmann’s personal narrative of raising five children of her own in addition to her foster kids is fairly well known amongst Republicans but many on the left really don’t know much about it at all. That’s because the general mode of communication about Bachmann from left-leaning sources like MSNBC and The Huffington Post is invective and bile — from Chris Matthews’s constant attacks on her using terms like “balloon head” to HuffPo’s consistent habit of using the worst possible photo of Bachmann, preferably with her mouth hanging open. Hearing that Bachmann and her husband have taken in nearly 2 dozen teens might actually humanize her, which would be a no-no.
To their credit, Talking Points Memo does include the following paragraphs in their story:
Bachmann is a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, a bipartisan nonprofit that includes a number of other active lawmakers and raises awareness about adoption and foster care issues. Executive director Kathleen Strottman told TPM that Bachmann has been a “tireless advocate” for the group.
“She’s been very helpful in speaking about what drew her to become a foster parent and using that for state and local recruiting efforts,” she said. “A lot of what we hear from our programs is that it’s a sheer numbers issue.”
Indeed, child welfare experts interviewed by TPM universally praised Bachmann for her own sacrifices and the example they set for others.
But of course that comes about seven paragraphs into the article, after a couple of set up paragraphs and then some criticism from Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) that Bachmann hasn’t done enough on the issue. After a bit of rhetoric from McDermott, TPM reveals that Bachmann isn’t on the Ways and Means committee that would deal with the issue – but whatever.
It’s also worth noting that the article describes legislation Bachmann introduced get foster children into private or homeschools as “a hot-button partisan issue.” Offering more educational choice for foster kids shouldn’t be either partisan or even mildly lukewarm in terms of controversy were it not for the stranglehold that the teachers union has on the Democratic Party.
The article concludes by quoting a few sources who say that Bachmann’s commitment to children should be questioned because she is Republican. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but not much. TPM readers are spoon-fed the idea that Bachmann isn’t really all that in favor of helping kids because she’s in favor of things like a balanced budget and reasonable limits on unemployment benefits.
One expert is quoted as saying in regard to Paul Ryan’s budget plan, “We don’t know yet what these cuts will do to child welfare programs directly, but it’s hard to think you can divorce child welfare from the ability of children to have nutritious food.” So this expert isn’t exactly sure that cutting the budget means cutting programs for children but apparently they are worried since the only way for children to get nutritious food apparently is via food stamps.
The not-so-subtle implication of much of the article is that publicly funded programs are the true test of whether you support children or not, no matter how many children you have privately supported. As the article says,
“Of course, the fact that she’s a foster care parent herself is very commendable,” Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition for Human needs, said. “But it’s not the same as having a systemic view of what’s needed.”
This is the underlying message of the article’s arguments – public is good, private is meh.
More than just a policy position, this provides a valuable psychological service for the TPM reader; they get to actually abdicate their own personal responsibility while feeling smug moral superiority because they favor policy positions that other unseen people will supposedly take care of. They don’t have to do the hard work of raising 23 or even one foster kid. They are in favor the Democratic Party and gosh darn it, that’s enough.