Amy Myers, the 16-year-old girl challenging Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Mn) to a debate on the Constitution and American history, was on MSNBC's The Last Word Friday night, telling host Lawrence O'Donnell that "Politicians are supposed to know the standards of history, basic civics, and the Constitution, most importantly," subjects where she thinks Rep. Bachmann could use some remedial education.
So far, Rep. Bachmann hasn't taken Ms. Myers up on her offer, made April 29th. That doesn't surprise Ms. Myers, who was just elected Junior Class President.
"I know she won't debate me, but I think it's really important to follow through on this for women everywhere," she told me.
Ms. Myers has said previously that she thinks Rep. Bachmann, together with Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell, have displayed a dismaying lack of understanding about basic civics, history, and the Constitution that reflects badly on women.
But if Rep. Bachmann does accept, she's guaranteed plenty of coverage; Mr. O'Donnell offered to moderate any debate on MSNBC, together with a moderator of her choice.
Rep. Bachmann calls herself a Constitutional expert, but that hasn't stopped her from saying things approaching sedition, saying among other things that Americans should be "armed and dangerous" -- code for the so-called "Second Amendment remedy" -- about government programs they don't like.
The Constitution says "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."
Rep. Bachmann is notorious for making baseless claims about the Constitution and American history -- enough so that there's an entire website devoted to them. They include asserting that the American Revolution began in New Hampshire, and that the Founders "... worked tirelessly to end slavery..." though many owned slaves and insisted on the notorious "three-fifths rule" that counted slaves as three-fifths of a human being. It was that last, says Ms. Myers, that made her throw down the gauntlet.
Rep. Bachmann said this past Thursday that she's planning a major announcement next month in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, and Friday said she "Feels a calling" to run for president. Rep. Bachmann makes no bones about her strong Tea Party backing.
What Ms. Myers didn't tell Mr. O'Donnell in her few minutes on the air is that while she and her father have gotten a lot of online praise since she offered to debate Rep. Bachmann, they've both also gotten plenty of mean-spirited, jeering comments from Rep. Bachmann's defenders, as well as comments that sound like thuggish threats. She told me that she's not going to let them scare her off, though.
Not even skeptics would call the abuse heaped in Ms. Myers and her father as anything but repulsive. Here's a sample:
• "Another Liberal @#S% want to be, maybe she needs to be gangbanged at her local ghetto, I bet that will make her parents proud, especially if she gets pregnant with a mulatto baby."
• "Amy Myers is a Jew vermin from NJ who hates America and loves Obama....Bachmann unlike Jew vermin from NJ Loves America and sees Obama as an Evil Communist." (For the record, Amy Myers is a Methodist whose DAR family has been in this country for over 400 years.)
• "This disrespectful little twit needs a good spanking. She lacks intelligence, wit, respect and common sense. On second thought she needs a good beating."
Those comments were some of over 5,000 made to one blog posting alone, on Yahoo. Other blogs, especially Tea Party-related blogs, attracted similar comments, many merely insulting. Rep. Bachmann's office didn't respond to an invitation to repudiate them.
Those worms-out-from-the-woodwork attacks produced a flood of media reports about them that apparently prompted blogs to be more cautious about their comments pages.
But that merely shifted the attacks from Amy to her father, Wayne. After attacking his politics, his character, and claiming his daughter was only fronting for him, they even published the name of his employer -- possibly so people could begin attacking that company for employing him.
The Wyblog, for instance, began by demanding proof the gross threats against Amy had been made at all. To its credit, the blog repudiated them when someone posted said proof -- on the comments page.
But the story attacking Amy and her father that prompted that repudiation was never corrected, leaving the impression the blog stood by it. And the blogger defended publishing the employer's name.
"So you're cheesed because somebody looked up Wayne Myers' political donations" he wrote in an email. "You do know that's public information, right? ... Complaining about people finding that info online is kinda like complaining about the weather."
No legitimate journalist would take an apparently vindictive step like that. But then, the blogger himself says he's "just a blogger with a day job... " and not a journalist -- something few journalists would dispute.
The real problem isn't so much that Amy Myers, or her father, came under fire from the right when she issued her challenge: It was that the people attacking them thought what they did was perfectly all right -- even though the right wing itself routinely denounces what they call personal, ad hominem attacks leveled at them.
"A lot of the Right Wing rhetoric assumes the people they don't like are not worthy of ordinary human respect," says Levana Layendecker, communications director of Democracy for America, a political action committee founded by Howard Dean. "I've seen it a lot of times."
The flood of comments about the subject gives some idea of where the country's politics and sense of decency lie. For instance, the vast majority of the 5,000-plus comments made to the Yahoo posting were overwhelmingly supportive of her, and comments from the right wing attacking Ms Myers were a fraction of the total. The really egregious attacks were a mere handful; but right wing attacks almost as bad were commonplace.
Democracy for America is launching an e-mail campaign next week promoting Ms. Myer's challenge to Rep. Bachmann, after it asked its members if they'd support one. Ms. Layendecker says 98 percent of the respondents said they were interested, and that 99 percent thought Ms. Myers would win. Like Mr. O'Donnell, it's offered to sponsor any debate between Rep. Bachmann and Amy Myers.
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