Saturday, June 5, 2010

Michele Bachmann, Lightning Rod For Whom?

 Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. For me, Michele Bachmann is neither. As I wrote in a column posted last week, she is who she is and is the sole responsibility of voters in her Sixth Congressional District in Minnesota.

Bachmann is one of those political gadflies who is constantly in the news as a mouthpiece of ratings for Fox News and darling of ridicule, primarily by Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews on MSNBC.

So it came as a surprise to me and a shocker for the Washington Post that she agreed to talk to what she calls the main stream media for an interview. She granted the telephone interview on one condition, no questions about her reelection campaign.

Fair enough. First question:

What did she mean by referring to a law authored by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and signed by President Obama that would expand the national number of community volunteers, as political "reeducation camps" for its young participants?

Answer: Silence. The Post picks it up from here after minutes of silence on the other end of the phone.

"I'm not interested in an interview . . . with false caricatures of who I am," she said, adding that some questions were unfairly "pointing to extreme examples of who I am . . . extreme caricatures."
After a moment, however, she pressed on, eventually observing that "people have the sense of the bias of mainstream media." She indicated she had gone outside that mainstream to find new kinds of media outlets to even the political playing field. She lauded the "democratization of media," which, she said, included the Internet.
One such media outlet for Bachmann, the Post tells us, is Jason Lewis, the recently nationally syndicated radio voice from Minneapolis's KTLK-FM, who has known the woman for 20 years and helped her win her earlier political battles as a charter school board member pushing Christian values in the school curriculum and early failed and successful races for local, state senate and U.S. Congress.

The Post:

She sounds liberated in Lewis's world. Recently, she meandered into a discussion of 2012 Republican presidential politics, taking veiled swipes both at former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney ("What happened in Massachusetts is not a good thing for the state," she said in reference to the Massachusetts health-care plan approved by Romney) and John McCain ("We need to get a presidential candidate who is a constitutional conservative with guts. No substitutes this time"). 

Lewis told the Post Bachmann is brave speaking out in sometimes harsh terms and avoiding the main stream media which he says has lost its political clout.

Bachmann and her team leaders developed that approach after the backlash that nearly cost her last election when she said on Matthews' Hardball show the media should independently investigate members of Congress for their patriotism and concern that President Obama was "un-American."

Other soundbites the Post article offered were Obama's secret plan to impose the highest tax rate on persons earning $65,000 annually and more; derided the U.S. Census as a White House scheme to guarantee Democrats indefinite control of Congress as well as using data to "get" Americans as the Roosevelt administration rounded up all the Japanese to internment camps in early 1942; and her time in Washington, she says, is to beat back government's attempt to "eclipse freedom in people's lives."

For most folks outside the Tea Party and rocked-ribbed Republican conservatism, that's a full platter of crazy things to say.

"She doesn't need mainstream media any longer," says Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota and a longtime Bachmann watcher. "She has whatever cable show she wants to do, talk radio, the Internet, Fox TV. . . . This is likely the new way for many conservative politicians, many outsiders."

The Post in summarizing the Bachmann phenomena:

At the national level, many analysts believe that Bachmann's future within the Republican Party will turn on her willingness to temper what Jacobs calls her "full-throated firebrand nature." Some Republicans worry that her outsize profile might harm their ability to win elections in swing districts.  

The lady can draw crowds (that agree with her) and raise campaign funds (from loyalists) in much the same mystic fashion as her new-found friend in politics, Sarah Palin.

My thirst for knowledge about Mrs. Bachmann was not satisfied from reading the Post story. On a lark, I downloaded Wikipedia"s profile, with the caveat it's not the most accurate or objective vehicle but at least gives one a glimpse on what the woman has actually done in public life.

Michele, 54, and husband Marcus Bachmann have five children and over the years 23 foster children, which I think is admirable. An eye opener, if true, based on Michele's limited government pronouncements, is that from 1995 through 2006, the Bachmann family farm received $251,973 in federal subsidies, chiefly for dairy and corn price supports.

In the Minnesota state senate from 2000-2006, Bachmann waged an unsuccessful campaign to put a same-sex marriage ban referendum on the state ballot.

In the House, Bachmann voted against a Pell grant bill signed by President George W. Bush that increased
student loan grants to college students from $4,310 to $5,200 and reduced loan premiums from 6.8% to 3.4% beginning in 2011.

Said Bachmann:  "It fails students and taxpayers with gimmicks, hidden costs and poorly targeted aid. It contains no serious reform of existing programs, and it favors the costly, government-run direct lending program over nonprofit and commercial lenders."

Bachmann introduced in the House the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, claiming compact fluorescent light bulbs adopted in another House bill approved by Democrats would pollute more mercury content. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association testified reduced energy consumption of fluorescent bulbs would result in significant reduction of mercury emissions as well as greenhouse gases.

Bachmann is credited for co-authoring with Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Florida, the Credit and Debit Card Receipt Clarification Act signed into law June 3, 2008, that ended alleged frivolous lawsuits aimed at small 

During the summer of 2008 when gasoline prices topped $4 per gallon Bachmann joined a group of nine other Republicans pledging to increase oil drilling in Alaska's wildlife preserve and off the continental shelf. She was a leader among the vocal Republicans chanting "Drill, Baby, Drill" at the party's national convention.

On the House floor on Earth Day, April 22, 2009, Bachmann said climate change was a hoax and she opposed the House's bill  promoting cap and trade carbon tax.

"Carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural; it is not harmful.... We're being told we have to reduce this natural substance to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the earth."

Bachmann voted against all bailout provisions for Wall Street financial institutions and for the two U.S. automakers which received $85 billion in bailout loans and equity. She advocated a Republican proposal to suspend mark-to-market accounting rules, breaking up home mortgage lending giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, suspending capital gains and barring executives from bailed out firms from receiving excessive compensation or golden parachutes upon retiring. 


By her own admission, Michele Bachmann does not see herself in Congress as a legislator but beat back government's attempt to "eclipse freedom in people's lives." I'm a bright guy but unclear what she means by such a remark in specific terms. The one bill she did author and was signed into law, I give her credit where credit is due. I was a small business operator myself, and threats of frivolous law suits were a pain. But everything else she does and says in Congress and on the campaign trail and public speaking circuit is hot air. In short, she is a lightening rod for the far right and nothing else. My opinion of Bachmann remains unchanged although after writing this I fee a little closer to understanding her motives and the new role in party politics carving out a platform designed solely to excite and agitate its base.. But the thought that keeps gnawing at my brain is if she is opposed to the bailouts why did she and her husband readily accept a half million bucks in federal subsidies?

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