On at least three occasions Michele Bachmann has announced that she is in the running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. On the one hand, she seems to be a legitimate grass roots pundit and a superb activist, but on the other hand, she may be in well over her head in the real world of politicians and candidates for high office.
Bachmann, a third term House member from Minnesota, ran into more than she could handle when she agreed to be interviewed by FoxNews anchor Chris Wallace last Sunday. Bachman opened with a mantra, saying, “The people know about me, they know I say what I mean, I’m a fighter…,” all good, but some would say lacking in substance. She went on, “I’m very sincere in what I say. And I will fight, whether it means taking on Washington, even sometimes my own party.”
Wallace saw an opening, and didn’t hesitate, “By implication, are you suggesting that Mitt Romney [is] not sincere?” Romney is shown in many polls as tied with Rep. Bachmann for the Republican nomination.
Bachman even at this early point began to show some flustering. “What I’m talking about is, what I’m going to do as president of the United States. And in the course of this campaign, I look forward to getting to know more people and explaining more about our plan.”
Wallace said, “All right. We’re going to talk about the other candidates a little bit later. But let me ask you about yourself…” At that point in the interview, Chris Wallace made some remarks, accusations perhaps, about a clinic run by Bachmann’s husband, and about a dairy farm in Wisconsin in which the Bachmanns have some interest. Before we review those remarks and accusations, we should further examine the rift between Bachmann and Mitt Romney, and we might preface that discussion of the Romney rift with a few insights.
Michele Bachmann’s very inception into the political world was founded on her feelings toward abortion, and the right to life of the unborn child. While in college at the William and Mary School of Law, she met and later married Marcus Bachmann. Marcus now runs a clinic with a staff of counselors and clinicians and devotes his life to children and young people with problems running the gamut of anger management, problems of adjustment, and even eating disorders. The Bachmanns now have 23 or more young people, teenaged girls, living as foster children in their home in Stillwater, Minnesota. They have five children of their own. Their home is defined as a “treatment home”, and they receive a daily reimbursement rate per foster child from the state.
Upon meeting Marcus, Michele was inspired to join the pro-life movement, opposing abortion and abortion providers. The Bachmanns prayed outside of abortion clinics, and counseled those considering abortion on other options. At that time, Michele and Marcus were working with and supporting Jimmy Carter, who went on to become a Democratic president. The Bachmanns became disenchanted with Carter over his support for legalized abortion, and they went on to vote for and later work for President Ronald Reagan. Mrs. Bachman gained attention from the media in 1991, when the couple took part in a protest of the appropriation of $3 million for a new morgue at a local hospital that performed abortions. Michele Bachman at the time made statements to the Star Tribune which brought her some notoriety.
In view of her strong views regarding abortion and the sanctity of life, it isn’t surprising that Rep. Bachmann became somewhat entangled when the Chris Wallace interview took a turn in that direction. Wallace brought up the fact that earlier that week, Bachmann had called Mitt Romney to task for saying he, Romney, would not sign a pledge on abortion. Wallace quoted Bachmann: “This is not the time for the Republican Party to up a candidate who is weak on the pro-life issue or has a history of flip-flopping over it.”
Wallace asked, “Question: Mitt Romney is weak on pro-life?”
Bachmann: Well, President Romney — not “President Romney…”
Wallace: Governor Romney.
Bachmann: Governor Romney had a history of varying his position on this issue. I think, clearly, we need a candidate who is pro-life. That’s reflective of our party. It’s reflective of my position throughout my life.
Wallace: And Mitt Romney is not?
Bachmann: Mitt Romney; Mitt Romney has to say what he is. But I will say that if he is saying now that he is pro-life, this was a tremendous opportunity for him to demonstrate that by signing the Susan B. Anthony pledge. And I think it’s disappointing that he didn’t.
Chris Wallace didn’t hold back on disclosing concerns about the Bachmann Clinic. He was debating the Bachmann claim to being a “fiscal hawk.” In Wallace’s words, “The Los Angeles Times has a story out today that says for all your talk of being a fiscal hawk, that, in fact, you have gone after federal and government — excuse me, state government money over the years, both personally and professionally…A counseling clinic — excuse me, run by your husband got almost $30,000 in state federal funds. A farm, in which you are a partner, got almost $260,000 in federal subsidies. And over the years, you sought more than $60 million in the state earmarks and more than $3.7 million in federal earmarks. Question: that’s a fiscal hawk?”
Bachmann’s response was calm and well measured. “Well, let’s go through them. First of all, the money that went to the clinic was actually training money for employees. The clinic did not get the money. And my husband and I did not get the money either. That’s mental health training money that went to employees.”
The Issue of the farm might be the greater of the two issues. The farm in Waumandee, Wisconsin, is partly owned by the Bachmanns. Since the death of Marcus’ father in 2009, it has been rented out to a neighboring farmer who has a small herd of dairy cows. Michele is listed as a partner, and sources indicate she has received about $260,000 in federal subsidies. Michele told Chris Wallace, “…regarding the farm, the farm is my father-in-law’s farm. It’s not my husband and my farm. It’s my father-in-law’s farm. And my husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm.”
Regarding the earmarks, “I believe the right place to build projects is in the states and the states have to build roads and bridges. And I don’t apologize for building roads and bridges… during my first year , during my first term in Congress I signed a pledge that I will take no more earmarks and I’ve been faithful to that pledge.”
Also on June 26, Rep. Bachmann spoke on CBS’s Face the Nation. She is a Tea Party favorite, claims she wants to bring back the “old Constitution”, and she agrees with the Tea Party platform that smaller government with less oversight and regulation would place more dollars in the hands of the people. But she seems to take a less populist position when she concedes she would “stoke U.S. economic growth” by cutting taxes on corporate income and capital gains. Most alarming, she gives consideration to the elimination of the minimum wage.
She locked steps with the Republican party when she said, “President Barack Obama… doesn’t seem to have an understanding of how to do the job.”
In a speech to Iowa residents, Bachmann was eloquent, “We need more closeness, more families, more love for each other; more concern about each other,” she said, “It’s not too late. I want you to be encouraged.”