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Commentary: What makes Michele run?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 25, 2011 - If there's one thing I hate, it's a mystery. In the movies, mysteries involve glamorous women, colorful villains and nefarious plots that are ultimately unraveled by clever detectives with catchy names.

In real life, investigations usually entail long hours, venality, foible, tedium and lame prevarication by people with poor personal hygiene. In fact, if you enjoy fables, detective work is clearly your calling. As an old salt on the Bureau of Investigation desk used to remark, "The trouble with murder is that it leads to lying."

Of course, people also investigate mysteries that have nothing to do with crime. An investigation is essentially a journey into ignorance with an uncertain destination: You may solve the riddle or you may not. Luck often plays a critical role but, as Louis Pasteur observed, "Chance favors the well prepared." To paraphrase the adage, the harder you work, the luckier you tend to get.

Being no particular fan of honest labor and trying to figure out the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, I called on Raymond Chandler's master sleuth, Philip Marlowe. He sent the following report:

The Bachmann dame got under my skin the first time I saw her. There was something about her -- some shadowed secret that I sensed but couldn't quite put my finger on -- that gnawed at the edge of consciousness by day and haunted my dreams at night.

And then there were the eyes. Oh God, what eyes ... A man could lose himself gazing into those depthless orbs, and there was no telling what might next emerge from the intellectual Disneyworld that lurked behind them.

Take, for instance, the John Quincy Adams caper. After she conveniently moved the start of the American Revolution from its native Massachusetts to New Hampshire to accommodate next year's first primary election, Bachmann cited the nation's sixth  president as an example of a "founding father" who "wouldn't rest until slavery was abolished."

Unfortunately, there were a couple of holes in her story. For one thing, the Adams in question was 8 years old on July 4, 1776. At the time, he was a little young to have fathered anything, much less a nation. And he'd died in February 1848, while the 13th Amendment wasn't ratified until late in 1865. That means he'd been resting rather soundly for more than 17 years before slavery was finally outlawed.

Never one to be tied down by pesky details, she also blamed FDR for the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs passed during the Hoover administration, criticized Jimmy Carter for the swine flu vaccine distributed by Gerald Ford, cited gay marriage as the gravest issue currently confronting the nation and encouraged bewildered onlookers to sing happy birthday to Elvis on the anniversary of his death.

I was tempted to dismiss her as bat shit crazy and adjourn to the nearest saloon, but I couldn't shake that feeling in my gut that there was more to her story than innocent lunacy. Duke Wayne furnished the first clue as to what that dark secret may be.

Bachmann had famously traveled to Waterloo, Iowa, where she proclaimed the hamlet to be the birthplace of John Wayne. Turns out Wayne had been born a couple of hundred miles away and had moved to California as a child. Waterloo's best known former citizen was John Wayne Gacy, a fact the local Chamber of Commerce probably doesn't go out of its way to publicize.

Naturally, lame-stream media sorts made a big deal out of the flub -- as though none of them had ever confused the gravel-voiced macho icon with a pedophiliac serial killer in a clown suit.

But it was her puzzling rendition of the battle for Iwo Jima that finally gave Bachmann away. She described the campaign as a "victory of young GI's over the incursion against the Japanese." I poured myself a double jigger of Jack before trying to decipher that one.

Her "young GIs" would be better described as "U.S. Marines" and they recorded no victory whatsoever over the incursion against the Japanese -- they were the incursion against the Japanese. The enemy garrison was already there; we invaded them.

By now it was becoming rather obvious that our presidential hopeful wasted little of her youth in the American history section of the library. But hadn't she ever seen "The Sands of Iwo Jima"? Hell, the movie was televised about once a week back in the day. Who could forget John Wayne as Sgt. Stryker leading his men off the landing craft to combat the entrenched Japanese?

Where do Republicans find these women? Last time, the party's vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, hadn't heard about the Korean War. Come to think of it, Palin and Bachmann kind of look alike. As a matter of fact, they both resemble Katherine Harris. It's almost as though the GOP has a secret factory where they produce socially conservative, politically ambitious, right-wing android females to run for office.

I sat back with my heels propped on the edge of my desktop and lit a cigar. Staring through the bluish gray haze of smoke, I watched two robins on the lawn outside my window fight over a fat worm. Pretty birds; ugly prize.

"Well, I'll be damned," I thought, "so that's what happened to the Stepford Wives..."

M.W. Guzy is a retired St. Louis cop who currently works for the city Sheriff's Department. His column appears weekly in the Beacon.

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