Michele Bachmann’s Bizzare and Dangerous Legacy

800px-Michele_Bachmann(by_G_Skidmore)_cropWhen you pay as much attention to politics as I do, you know that not a week goes by without some elected official, national candidate, or one of their staff members making some outlandish statement that shocks us, embarrasses us, or at least has us spewing coffee all over our keyboards.

It’s only gotten worse, or better, depending on your perspective, with the emergence of the Tea Party as a national political force, with affiliated, though nominally Republican, candidates who have actually gotten elected. For those of us keeping track, it seems like Congress, and the legislatures of several states, are increasingly being run by people who haven’t figured out how to live in a modern, civilized society. Many of them want to send us back in time at least 50 years, with all the attending social norms, and lack of scientific and cultural advances that have improved our way of living over time. Their pronouncements are alternately entertaining and horrifying. Some are roundly denounced, but more than a handful have made it into codified law.

Few lawmakers of this persuasion have garnered as much attention as Representative Michele Bachmann (R – Worldnetdaily). The Minnesota congresswoman has announced her impending retirement, denying that either an FBI ethics investigation or a strong Democratic challenger factored into her decision not to run in 2014. Bachmann hails from the Sarah Palin school of startling accusations, strange misstatements, and odd behavior, and has frequently been called a Tea Party “darling” for her outspokenness and her willingness to do things like deliver a Tea Party rebuttal to the State of the Union address. In a country desperately in need of more strong, female leadership figures, Bachmann’s high profile was particularly disheartening.

As she prepares to finish out her term, it’s worth looking at her legacy. It’s tempting for some of us to laugh at her more outrageous overreaches, and some of them are funny. However, in the past couple of years, it’s become clear that she’s not unique in her thinking, even if some of her statements are over the top.  It remains to be seen how much influence the Tea Party will still have in the 2014 elections, and whether Americans have at last grown weary of lawmakers who appear impervious to facts.

Here is just a sample of Bachmann’s bizzare and sometimes dangerous behavior:

Advocating for media McCarthyism: Following in Sarah Palin’s footsteps, Bachmann was originally harping on some of the youthful associations of President Obama. Remember that whole “pallin’ around with terrorists” bit?  But at the prompting of Hardball host Chris Matthews, Bachmann expanded her targets.  “What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?” Sadly, in the last decade or so, “anti-American” has been defined by any right-winger, as anyone to the left of them.

Receiving federal and state payments for her husband’s “Pray the gay away” counseling services: Marcus Bachmann has been the target of all sorts of jokes around this, so I don’t need to go any further.

Claiming that the HPV vaccine caused mental retardation: Bachmann later backtracked from this assertion, saying that she had heard it from a constituent who claimed it had happened to her daughter. So, for those keeping score; proven vaccine science is dangerous, but discredited and psychologically damaging Bible-based therapy? Perfectly okay.

Suggesting that eliminating the minimum wage would eliminate unemployment: Add Bachmann to the disturbingly long list of people making the erroneous assertion that deliberate wage suppression will improve the economy.

Accusing Huma Abedin of being linked to Muslim extremists: This one wasn’t off the top of her head either. She documented it in a letter to the State Department! Really? Even John McCain had the grace to be embarrassed about this one. Never mind the racism and xenophobia inherent in that accusation — Abedin worked for Hillary Clinton during her time as Secretary of State, and is married to Anthony Wiener. When would she have time for terrorists?

Placing the start of the American Revolution in New Hampshire: Concord is the capitol of New Hampshire, but Lexington and Concord, where the battles of the American Revolution began, are in Massachusetts. Now maybe I’m particularly sensitive to this one because I’m a New Englander, but I’ll bet most people in Waterloo, Iowa know where the Revolution began.

Confusing John Wayne the actor and human mythic figure with John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer:  “Well what I want them to know” Bachmann said, “is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That’s the kind of spirit that I have, too.” Actually, it was John Wayne Gacy who was born in Waterloo, as was Michele Bachmann. But if she does have Gacy’s kind of spirit, it would go a long way toward explaining those crazy-eyes she’s always giving the camera.

Getting herself appointed to the House Intelligence Committee. Enough said.

Of course, we likely haven’t seen the last of Congresswoman Bachmann. She has promised to continue to advance conservative constitutional principles in any way she can. No doubt she and her tin foil hat will soon take their rightful place in a regular FOX news segment, like many other outspoken former politicians.

I hear there’s some home studio equipment available in Wasilla.

Melissa Tingley is a writer, instructional designer, and ten-year veteran of her local school board. A history and political junkie, she showcases the stories behind heirloom objects at her new blog Artifactual.

Image via Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons License/Gage Skidmore

  • Amy McVay Abbott

    F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American life; well, I believe he is wrong. We’ve just seen the kickoff of the Michelle Bachmann era. Next, I predict Fox News, and a very lucrative speaking career.

    While I am a progressive Democrat, I do have to say that I think the Open Mouth Insert Foot era isn’t just limited to Republicans. One tradition from fifty years ago I would like to see continue is DISCRETION. Many politicians seem to have verbal diarrhea all the time, no matter what party.

  • Beverly Uhlmer

    While media outlets and liberal pundits are rejoicing after Rep. Michele Bachmann announced she would not seek a fifth term for office in 2014, women are stopping to say, “Thank you for paving the way for political greatness.”

    The Minnesota Republican’s announcement was released in a video to her supporters last week in which she said, “My good friends, after a great deal of thought and deliberation I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth congressional term to represent the wonderful people of the 6th District of Minnesota. After serious consideration I am confident this is the right decision.”

    It is not easy to run for political office — much less for president — but Mrs. Bachmann taught women that we can do it with poise and success. Remember, it was not long ago that conservative women had no national platform or political standing. Now, thanks to Mrs. Bachmann, we watched a woman win the Iowa straw poll and make a legitimate run for the White House. Whether you agree with her politics or not, one has to acknowledge that Mrs. Bachmann successfully wedged the door open a little further for women, jamming her high heel into the political landscape and showing the “good old boys” she was able to hold her own, even on the presidential debate platform.

    According to a reporter friend of mine, he was at home watching the first 2012 GOP presidential debate in Iowa with his young daughter who turned to him and declared, “Dad, I want to be the president when I grow up. I want to be just like that lady.” Don’t we all?

    Mrs. Bachmann shined during the presidential debates. Those of us who know her were not surprised, but the American public for the first time got a glimpse of her passion and grasp of policy by the way she elucidated her strong conservative principles. She came across with a great deal of clarity and intelligence. As commentators noted, she tended to outperform her much-more-experienced male counterparts in the debates. Daily Beast columnist Howard Kurtz admitted she shouldn’t be underestimated, saying, “Bachmann is relatively new to the national stage, but as anyone who has watched her in action understands, she knows how to play this game.”

    However, the rhetoric became particularly foul and demeaning once the rest of the national press realized Mrs. Bachmann’s overwhelming appeal to voters. The worst display of prejudice came in August 2011 when the liberal Newsweek magazine published an unflattering picture of the GOP presidential candidate. They purposefully turned an otherwise attractive conservative woman into someone who looks crazy and smeared her with the headline “Queen of Rage.” Even the abortion-loving, man-hating National Organization for Women couldn’t ignore the blatant discrimination and joined Concerned Women for America in defense of the candidate’s dignity. This was all the more infuriating when contrasted with the lovingly airbrushed pictures of Michelle Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Most recently, an opinion column written by Gail Collins bid a mocking farewell to Mrs. Bachmann, comparing her and Sarah Palin’s appearances to their popularity. Ms. Collins wrote, “You have to wonder if the secret is that, by political standards, they both look extremely hot. And if it’s their appearance that made them such stars, is that for the benefit of the Tea Party men or the Tea Party women?”

    What message are we sending women — especially conservative women — if nobody objects to a New York Times columnist essentially say they are nothing but a pretty face? It’s no secret that conservative women are subject to more scrutiny than their male or liberal counterparts. Did anyone ever care what suit and tie combo the men wore during the debates? Of course not, but every media outlet critiqued how “presidential-looking” Mrs. Bachmann was. Forget the content of her speech — how did she look? Those who knew her weren’t surprised to see Mrs. Bachmann neglect the usual gender-baiting and derogatory name-calling to which many hurt egos in Washington resort. Never once did she retaliate in slinging back insults, though there was plenty of ammunition. Voters and onlookers grew to respect her for being mature and focusing on the issues that mattered to her and the American people.

    America needs more women in politics, and Mrs. Bachmann showed that conservative, pro-life, pro-family, fiscally responsible, intelligent women have a place at the table. Women like her have proven resilient and thick-skinned. In the end, it’s never about being liked but fighting for the principles in which you believe. This is the legacy Michele Bachmann leaves behind, and conservative women are exceptionally grateful. We look forward to seeing what’s next and, as my mother once told me, “Start to worry when they stop talking.”

    Penny Young Nance is CEO and president of Concerned Women for America.

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