CNN justifies airing Bachmann's SOTU speech [UPDATE]

The tempest in a tea pot is now the perfect storm.

Michele Bachmann's little State of the Union speech scheduled for an online-only audience tonight is now being put on a par with Barack Obama's address to Congress, and the official Republican response from Rep. Paul Ryan. CNN will carry it live.

The announcement has produced so much heat on the left and right that CNN has been forced to justify itself.

"The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party's perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN's viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight's coverage."

The left is angry at CNN for double-teaming a Democratic president in a way that never would have happened to Republican George W. Bush. (Wait. Maybe this makes it a fair fight?)

Republicans, famous for their party discipline and Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment, say that CNN is inventing a conflict that "doesn't really exist." Speaker John Boehner describes Bachmann's speech as nothing more than all the other responses that members of Congress would offer.

Nobody's buying that. Bachmann formed the Tea Party Caucus and made herself its leader. She famously reminded everyone after Election Day that her crowd put the speaker's gavel in Boehner's hands. She led the charge for repealing health care reform. The media flock to her like moths to light (pick your preferred metaphor here).

She's different. And she wants to be president.

"I think the real question is who's really running the Republican Party?" Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said Tuesday. "I mean the fact is, we may find out tonight it's the Tea Party."

Update: Signs of discord? The Republican Capitol Hill Club "has bounced Rep. Michele Bachmann from its premises, forcing her to find another place to deliver her State of the Union address reply on behalf of Tea Party activists."

Tonight, Bachmann will get a national audience unlike any she's ever had before. No Sean Hannity feeding her softballs and campaign contributions. No Chris Matthews mocking her for being in a trance.

She'll look straight into the camera, out into America's living rooms, and just start talking.

Brace yourselves.


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