Since she first arrived on the national stage, Minnesota Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann has been prone to controversy. Her outspoken views on the Iraq War, on same-sex marriage, climate change and health care (among other hot-button issues) received a great deal of press and attention, as did her early and vocal affiliation with the Tea Party Movement.
But beyond the sometimes radical element of Bachmann's rhetoric, she's also received a lot of attention for the frequent gaffes, mistakes and outright falsehoods in her stump speeches and interviews. Most Republicans have called for cuts to government programs like the community service-oriented AmeriCorps. But it takes a special politician to come out and call it a "re-education camp." And it takes an even more special politician to gloss over the fact that her own son was working with Teach for America, which is part of the AmeriCorps program. (Perhaps he was looking to get re-educated after growing up with Michele Bachmann?)What follows is a list of Bachmann's most silly, bizarre, over-the-top or just befuddling misstatements, errors, gaffes and flubs. Am I missing any? Leave them in the comments below.
The Founding Fathers Ended Slavery
Back in January of 2011, Bachmann was speaking to a group called Iowans for Tax Relief. (I hear they have some kickass parties!) During her remarks, she said: "We also know the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States... Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."
Now, granted, the blanket term "Founding Fathers" referred to a great number of individuals, some of whom legitimately did oppose the practice of slavery in the Colonies. But it's beyond a stretch to claim that the founders, as a group, worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence AS WELL AS a book on how to effectively manage your slaves! (It includes charming passages like this one: "[A] woman who brings a child every two years is more profitable than the best man on the farm." What a tireless champion of the abolitionist cause!)Even more egregiously, Bachmann mentions John Quincy Adams by name as someone "who would not rest until slavery was extinguished." He did more than rest before slavery was extinguished... He died! In 1848! Before slavery was extinguished! I guess his ghost didn't rest until a few years later, but don't steal that idea because I'm going to write a screenplay about it at some point.
The Soviet Union is Rising
On August 18, 2011, Bachmann appeared as a guest on the radio show of attorney Jay Sekulow. Part of the conversation centered on the concerns Bachmann was hearing about from voters as she traveled around the country. Specifically, she discussed fears about America being in decline, and whether or not such a drop off in international power and influence was inevitable. Bachmann had this to contribute:
"What people recognize is that there’s a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward."Check that date again... August 18, 2011. Or just under 20 years since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This wasn't even, like, she said "Soviet Union" but meant "Saudi Arabia" or something. Bachmann didn't stop herself and issue a correction, or clarify whose rise concerns Americans. She just thinks we ought to be afraid of the bad guys from James Bond movies still. Hey, they all had henchmen, okay? You don't just ignore a threat like that because it's over 20 years out of date!
The Wrong John Wayne
Bachmann kicked off her campaign for the 2012 Republican nomination for President in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. As she sometimes does in stump speeches, she evoked the memory of beloved Western movie icon John Wayne at the event, even telling Fox News: "Well what I want them to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too."
The thing is... John Wayne wasn't actually FROM Waterloo, Iowa. His birthplace is nearly three hours away, in Winterset, Iowa. You'd think someone who was from Waterloo themselves would have known that.But maybe Bachmann just got confused, because there WAS a famous John Wayne who spent a lot of time in Iowa. That'd be notorious serial killer and clown make-up enthusiast John Wayne Gacy, who was executed in 1994 after being convicted on 33 counts of murder. Hopefully Bachmann doesn't have that same kind of spirit, or we could be in for a very strange, creepy four years.
Obama Emptied the Strategic Oil Reserve
Some quick background: The US Department of Energy keeps a Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) stored in four different locations near the Gulf Coast, in case there is a sudden global emergency and we're unable to get in the oil we need to run stuff. Not a bad plan, right? You can even check the current SPR level on the Department of Energy's website, if you're in to that sort of thing.
As a guest on CBS' "Face the Nation" in June of 2011, Bachmann said:
"It’s ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve because the president doesn’t have an energy policy."This was in response to the Obama administration's announcement that it would release 30 million barrels of oil from the reserve the previous week. And how many total barrels are in the Strategic Oil Reserve? Only 727 million barrels! Meaning the Obama administration actually released about 4% of the actual oil. Which is kind of different from releasing ALL the oil. By a factor of 25. I mean, if you want to be a stickler about it...