What Do People See In Michele Bachmann?

Her supporters must not be following her trail of misstatements

It’s understandable why many voters are down on Barack Obama. The economy is a mess, and the country remains mired in two costly wars he promised to end. But it is hard to imagine what voters see in Michele Bachmann. The Minnesota congresswoman won the Iowa straw poll on Saturday and is already acting as if she is the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee.

Apologies to John McEnroe, but “you can’t be serious?” Fox News’ Chris Wallace may have been out of line when he asked Bachmann if she is a flake. But truth be told: She is flaky.

Bachmann has morphed from a liberal Jimmy Carter supporter to a Christian-conservative ideologue. Her views are more extreme than Sarah Palin’s. That’s before you factor in any of Bachmann’s “misstatements” and gaffes.

Before she began handpicking which reporters could ask her questions, Bachmann told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that Barack Obama held “anti-American views.” She later called the comment a misstatement. Bachmann told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the Founding Fathers worked “tirelessly” to end slavery.

More recently, she referred to Waterloo, Iowa as the home of John Wayne. But the late movie icon is from Winterset, Iowa. Waterloo is the home of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Bachmann chalked that comment up to another misstatement.

Fair enough. But what about her comment in 2009 during a swine-flu outbreak? She said the last time there was a similar outbreak “another Democratic president, Jimmy Carter,” was in the White House. She quickly added that she wasn’t blaming Obama for the current outbreak but was simply noting the “interesting coincidence.” Never mind that Gerald Ford was president during the 1970s swine-flu outbreak.

Facts don’t seem to get in Bachmann’s way.

In 2004 she said that being gay is “personal enslavement.” Bachmann has also said that evolution is a theory that has “never been proven.” She believes intelligent design should be taught in schools. Might as well teach flat-earth theory as well.

Bachmann played up her family’s deep Iowa roots while campaigning there before the straw poll. But her ancestors settled in Wisconsin in the 1850s and later moved west to the South Dakota territory. To be sure, Bachmann was born in Waterloo but moved to Minnesota in sixth grade. Close enough.

Bachmann went to Winona State University in Minnesota where she met her husband, Marcus, a psychologist who runs Christian counseling centers that, according to Bachmann, use “the medicine of the Gospel” to “heal people.” In college, she was influenced by evangelist Francis Schaeffer who argued for the overthrow of the government if Roe v. Wade isn’t reversed. Regardless of the differing views on abortion, that is nothing short of radical.

After college, Bachmann went to law school at Oral Roberts University, where the Bible shapes the curriculum and the Constitution comes second. So much for the separation of church and state.

On the campaign trail, Bachmann describes herself as a former “federal tax attorney.” Truth is she worked for the Internal Revenue Service for a few undistinguished years. In short, she contributed to the bureaucratic waste.

In the early 1990s, Bachmann co-founded a charter school but resigned six months later after questions arose about the use of tax dollars to support a curriculum that mixed in religion. Bachmann homeschooled her five children and took in 23 teenage girls as foster children.

She eventually ran for state senate in Minnesota, she says on a whim, and won. Bachmann joked that her campaign slogan was “We know nothing, and we can prove it.” Finally, the truth emerges.

In the state senate, she fought to ban same-sex marriage and for the public display of the Ten Commandments. Bachmann was elected to Congress in 2006, where her legislative record is thin.

She voted against the bank bailout in 2008, which no one was happy about but most economists credit with preventing the country from going into a depression. Bachmann also voted against raising the debt ceiling, a move that would have had even more serious financial consequences for the economy if it didn’t pass.

In these tough times it is easy to be against everything. But it’s hard to understand how anyone can be for Bachmann.

Paul Davies spent 25 years in the newspaper business, including stops at the Daily News, the Inquirer and the Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at [email protected]