September 4, 2012
Michele Bachmann and the LeftBy Jeff Lipkes
I told my apolitical daughter I'd interviewed Michele Bachman the day before and asked if she knew who Bachmann is. My daughter thought for a second and said, "Yeah, that crazy lady."
With the exception of Sarah Palin, no one has been demonized by the media as much as the congresswoman from Minnesota. The notorious Newsweek cover picture, headlined "The Queen of Rage," epitomized scores of hit pieces by the boys and girls of the MSM. But when open-minded writers actually spoke with her, it was a different story. According to Bachmann, reporters for three major publications -- she wouldn't name them -- after extensive interviews with her, submitted stories that were not only fair and balanced, but sympathetic. These were spiked by editors looking for yet another slash-and-burn article. The writers were unhappy, and they let Bachmann know.
But apart from revealing this information, even when pressed, Bachmann would not criticize the MSM. "When I entered the race," she said, "I made a decision that I would not whine about my treatment by the media. All that negative media coverage does is force you to be better." She attributes the failure of her campaign to the lure of new "flavors of the month" rather than to media attacks.
Doesn't sound much like a "queen of rage."
Like Ronald Reagan and a great many others, Michele Bachmann is a convert to conservatism. Hubert Humphrey's Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party dominated politics in Minnesota, and Bachmann's family always voted Democrat. With her college boyfriend Marcus, later her husband, she worked hard for Jimmy Carter. To the bright-eyed, idealistic twenty-year-old, the peanut farmer seemed like a decent, humble, pro-family, pro-American guy. Bachmann's first trip to D.C. was to attend Jimmy's inaugural ball.
Bachmann describes her revelation on the road to Damascus with the eye of a novelist. She was on a train from Minneapolis to Winona, reading Gore Vidal's Burr. She began to resent his savage mockery of the Founding Fathers. Bachmann gazed out the window and thought, "I don't think I'm a Democrat. I think I'm a Republican." She was wearing a striped shirt and trench coat. "I even look like a Republican," she thought. Of course, Carter helped her see the light. The economy was in shambles, and his foreign policy was a disaster. Even then, his anti-Israeli predilections were evident to the young woman who had spent a summer on a kibbutz.
Bachmann never looked back. But it's a long a step from changing your registration to running for office. The second turning point didn't come for almost twenty years. Bachmann went to law school, became a tax lawyer, and assisted her husband in the counseling firm he founded, while raising and home-schooling five kids. The Bachmanns also took into their home over the years 23 foster children, mostly girls with eating disorders. However, she was not permitted by the state to home-school the foster kids, nor to send them to private schools.
It was the girls' experiences in the public schools that launched Bachmann on the road to Congress. The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was when one of the girls returned home with a poster to color for the next day. This would have been fine if she'd been a second-grader, but the assignment had been given in an 11th-grade math class. Bachmann was appalled.
A younger, less experienced mom might have made appointments to speak with the teacher and the principal. But Bachmann recognized that this was not the case of one lazy or flaky math teacher. The problem was with the system. Minnesota's public schools, which had given Bachmann an excellent education, had been taken over by the federal government. Standards had been imposed that dumbed down the curriculum and injected politically correct ideology into the classroom.
On her own time, Bachmann researched federal mandates and protocols. She put together a two-hour presentation on how they impacted teaching in local schools. She then took her show on the road, touring the state, speaking before groups of parents. People were incensed. Over a five-year period she built a bipartisan coalition that succeeded in rolling back the federal takeover of the state's schools.
After the campaign to take back education in Minnesota, Bachmann attended a nominating convention for her state senator. She was supposed to have gone to a wedding with her husband, but she begged off. The guy was a long-serving RINO, and she and some friends had decided that he should be questioned closely before he was endorsed yet again. She rushed out of the house, she says, in jeans and a torn sweatshirt, no make-up, hair uncombed. She had no intention of challenging the senator herself.
But at the meeting, friends and acquaintances urged her to step forward. She was told to give her name to the clerk, then go up on stage and speak for five minutes. She talked about freedom, she recalls. A super-majority was required, and after an agonizingly long vote count, over 60% of the delegates endorsed Bachmann. The upset was front-page news in the Twin Cities papers.
Still in a state of shock, she called her husband with the news. It was April 1, and he didn't believe her. Bachmann had had no experience running a campaign, but she bought the PO box, yard signs, etc.; defeated the senator in the primary by the same margin; and went on to win the general election. Six years later, she became the first Republican woman to represent Minnesota in the U.S. House.
Why did she decide to run for president?
The short answer, she says, is ObamaCare. It was Bachmann who is credited with giving the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act its nickname. "We have one shot at getting rid of socialized medicine," she felt. "I didn't trust anyone else to stand up against the tide. I knew I had the backbone to fight it, to make sure we repealed it."
And she believes that the most significant impact of her failed campaign is to bring that issue forward. She forced all the other candidates, she says, "to embrace without reservation the wholesale repeal of ObamaCare."
Apart from its immediate impact on our lives, a healthy economy is essential for America's security. "You cannot be a military superpower," Bachmann says, "without being an economic superpower." And ObamaCare, she believes, will cripple the economy. "We're at the edge of the cliff," she says.
Security questions have been front and center for the congresswoman since she became a member of the House's Committee on Intelligence. Naturally, she's not at liberty to discuss classified information, but she's deeply concerned about the commander-in-chief. "Obama is the most dangerous president we've ever had on national security and the issue of intelligence," she says. One sign of this is the shift in attitude toward the Muslim Brotherhood on the part of the administration. Has top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin influenced this 180-degree turn? Merely for writing letters to the inspectors general of five departments asking that they investigate individuals with ties to the Brotherhood, Bachmann and four other House members have been vilified, including by the usual suspects among Republican "moderates." (On this question, check out Andrew McCarthy's in-depth examination and compare it to the rabid frothings on any MSM/leftist website.)
Where, then, is Bachmann situated on the conservative spectrum?
National security is supposed to be the bailiwick of the "neo-cons." But they are a small group of generals with no soldiers, and they hardly count as a faction within the GOP.
Bachmann is usually associated with the "social conservatives." Her questioning Rick Perry's mandatory Gardasil vaccination program, which drew down upon her the wrath of the media, would seem to put her in this camp, together with her longstanding pro-family, pro-life positions. Her foray into activism began, after all, when she was unable to home-school or place in Christian schools her foster children.
Does she stand with Rick Santorum at one end of a continuum that terminates on the other side with Ron Paul and Gary Johnson?
At the convention, I happened to ask the head of the Republican Liberty Caucus whom he would not have been able to support. Santorum? No way. Bachmann? He paused. She's an interesting and complex woman, he said. She's actually very pro-free market.
In fact, asked to define herself politically, Bachmann says she is a "constitutionalist, first and foremost." While she's not ashamed of being pro-family, she said, "at heart I'm an extremely strong fiscal conservative." She attributes this partly to her background as a tax lawyer and partly to having worked her way out of poverty, but mostly "because of the intellectual arguments for fiscal conservatism."
When Bachmann stepped off that train in Winona thirty-six years ago, disillusioned with Jimmy Carter, she began an ambitious course of reading. She wanted to educate herself about the convictions of the heretics whose side she'd just joined. So, Bachmann said, she delved into Locke, Montesquieu, and Burke. On the current situation, the writer she found most helpful was Thomas Sowell. Above all, she was captivated by Ludwig von Mises. She read Socialism, Bureaucracy, and then Human Action.
Clearly, Bachmann is not easily classifiable. In Congress, she's been interested in a wide range of issues, from education and fiscal policy to immigration and climate change.
Because of the prominence she gained last year, she now faces a tough fight in her own district. The founder of the Tea Party Caucus is used to being in the cross-hairs of the left, but now, along with the abuse that's always rained down on her, big checks are fluttering to the PACs dedicated to defeating her. She currently leads her opponent, a multi-millionaire hotel owner, by only 5 percentage points. (Donations to re-elect Rep. Bachmann may be made here.)
If nothing else, the anger she inspires on the left reveals the value of this fearless woman. In the Soviet Union, critics of the government were labeled "schizophrenics" and sent to psychiatric wards. Here they are accused of "hatred" and "rage." Leftism is faith-based politics, and the fundamentalists in the MSM and blogosphere cannot tolerate dissent. There is no dissenter in Congress they would like to silence more than Michele Bachmann.
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