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Sep 12th, 2009

A journalist I hold in high esteem, Albert Eisele, editor-at-large of The Hill, was in the gallery at President Obama’s address on health care reform before a Joint Session of Congress Wednesday night, where he made astute first-hand observations of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s behavior with the trained eye of an accomplished journalist.

Eisele, who served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army and pitched for the Cleveland Indians, was Washington correspondent for the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press and Knight-Ridder before becoming press secretary to Vice President Walter Mondale.

He has been a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and is the author of a dual biography of former vice president Hubert Humphrey and former Sen. Eugene McCarthy.

Eisele is a Minnesota native and graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

Note: Most visitors to this page arrive here searching for information on Michele Bachmann’s height. Bachman herself claims to be 5 feet, 2 inches:

“I may be 5 foot 2 … but I am one tough lady.”

My personal observation is that Bachmann is no shorter than 5 feet when not in high heels. However, Bachmann’s “vital statistics” are less important than her public statements, which are catalogued and documented here (Nov. 2008-April 2010) and here (April 2010-present).


Watching Bachmann During Obama’s Address

Rep. Michele Bachmann (Photo credit: MSNBC / MinnPost)
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann
(Photo credit: MSNBC / MinnPost)

By Al Eisele
September 11, 2009


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two of the most conspicuous figures in the audience at Wednesday night’s Joint Session of Congress were women with almost identical first names but little else in common.

One, of course, was Michelle Obama, who received a standing ovation when she arrived in the House visitors’ gallery minutes before her husband exhorted lawmakers to help him overhaul the nation’s healthcare system — and perhaps regain the political momentum he lost during an August dominated by angry outbursts from critics of his far-reaching plan. …

The other was Rep. Michele Bachmann, not as tall but equally elegant in a black dress that matched her mood, who was conspicuous for a different reason. Sitting directly in front of the president six rows back on the GOP side of the packed chamber, the outspoken — often outrageously so — socially conservative Minnesota Republican made it clear she wasn’t there to lend a helping hand to Obama, as she did while planting a prolonged kiss on President George W. Bush at his 2007 State of the Union speech.

In fact, Bachmann could barely bring herself to acknowledge Obama’s presence. Demonstrating what must be the weakest effort at applause ever, she slowly brought her hands together when Obama arrived. But that was even more effort than she could muster during most of the 44 times – I counted them — when Obama’s speech was greeted by applause.

On a number of those times, when Obama received standing ovations even from Republicans, she was the only member who remained sitting. And on many occasions, when her colleagues applauded Obama, she feebly patty-caked the back of one hand with another instead of bringing her palms together.

Disdainful attitude

I was sitting in the press gallery, above Obama, whom I couldn’t see, and in front of Bachmann, whom I could. As I watched her, I became fascinated with her demeanor. I’ve watched every president from Lyndon Johnson to Obama address joint sessions of Congress, including every State of the Union speech since 1966, and I’ve never seen anyone display the disdainful attitude toward a president as Bachmann did. …

As I watched Bachmann, who frequently chatted with an equally disinterested colleague — I think it was Florida’s Ginny Brown-Waite, but I’m not sure — I began to record her reactions as members, sometimes mostly Democrat but often many Republicans as well, rose to give Obama standing ovations: Here are some of them:

  • Obama cites two “heart-breaking” examples of people betrayed by insurance companies and declares, “No one should be treated that way in the United States of America.” (Bachman remains sitting, patty-cake applause.)
  • Obama declares that under his plan, “it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of pre-existing condition.” (Bachmann rises belatedly, weak applause.)
  • Obama promises to place a limit on out-of-pocket expenses “because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.” (Bachmann remains sitting, weak applause.)
  • Obama says: “It’s time to give every American the same opportunity that we’ve given ourselves” as members of Congress. (Bachmann remains sitting, no applause.)
  • Obama calls GOP Sen. John McCain’s proposal during the 2008 presidential campaign to create an insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance at competitive prices “a good idea” then and “a good idea now, and we should embrace it.” (Bachman remains sitting, no applause.)
  • Obama: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.” (Bachmann, sitting but applauding.)

About the only times Bachmann was able to shake off her lethargy was when she jumped to her feet to join Republicans as they waved copies of the GOP healthcare proposal when Obama said that “we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have,” and when he indicated he would not insist on a public option provision as part of his plan. …

But don’t expect her to keep a low profile. She is, after all, Minnesota’s second most Googled politician — she currently has 1.04 million hits on the Internet search engine, second only to new Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s 3.98 million — and may regain her high visibility by repeating her charge that Obama’s health care plan includes “death panels” that will pull the plug on aging seniors.

Or maybe she’ll just call again, as she did in 2008, for the media to investigate Obama and other members of Congress for anti-American bias, or insist that carbon dioxide is a harmless gas that doesn’t cause global warming and declare, as she did last March, that she wants Minnesotans “armed and dangerous” to fight Obama’s proposed cap and trade tax policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Or perhaps she’ll just argue that evolution is a theory that has never been proven.

And maybe she’ll even make it really interesting and reveal that God wants her to run for president.

[Note: Links to reports on this site added.]


Related report on this site

Is Michele Bachmann a Flake? (May 17, 2011)


Related report

Bachmann Brooded, Cantor Thumbed PDA During Obama Address

Rep. Eric Cantor (Photo credit: Politico / Minnesota Independent)
U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor
(Photo credit: Politico)

By Chris Steller
The Minnesota Independent
September 11, 2009


Besides U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson bellowing “You lie!” Wednesday, two leading House Republicans were paying President Obama no mind — or respect — during his Wednesday address to a joint session of Congress.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who had promised Republicans would be “very attentive,” instead was seen fingering his Blackberry. And a veteran journalist says Rep. Michele Bachmann displayed the most disdain toward a president he’s seen in more than 40 years of observing such events. …

Bachmann’s behavior caught the eye of Albert Eisele, who writes at MinnPost that he couldn’t see Obama from the press gallery but saw Bachmann “in a black dress that matched her mood … [s]itting directly in front of the president six rows back on the GOP side.”

Bachmann described Obama’s speech afterwards using words like “fabrications” and “falsehoods,” but her body language during the event was even more expressive, according to Eisele:

On a number of those times, when Obama received standing ovations even from Republicans, she was the only member who remained sitting. And on many occasions, when her colleagues applauded Obama, she feebly patty-caked the back of one hand with another instead of bringing her palms together. … I’ve watched every president from Lyndon Johnson to Obama address joint sessions of Congress, including every State of the Union speech since 1966, and I’ve never seen anyone display the disdainful attitude toward a president as Bachmann did.

Cantor and Bachmann may have been playing to the cameras and gallery observers with their bad behavior, hoping to reap rewards from the right. …


4/18/11 Update

Bachmann Criticizes Obama in South Carolina Stop

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., hugs U.S. Rep. Joe [“You lie!”] Wilson, R-S.C., on Saturday, April 16, 2011 in Bluffton, S.C. (Photo credit: The Associated Press)

The Associated Press via St. Cloud Times
April 17, 2011

BLUFFTON, S.C. — U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told a packed tea party gathering she doesn’t think President Barack Obama is “on our side anymore” as she blamed him for a “foolish” war in Libya and high gasoline prices.

Bachmann got a rock-star reception in a standing-room-only crowd at the Bluffton tea party, entering as about 350 people sang: “Can you hear us now, sounding the alarm. … Can you hear us now, we the people.” …

Bachmann said a tea party movement that pundits say is waning is actually winning, citing polls showing Obama’s approval rating flagging.

“We’re winning. We’re winning. 2012 is entirely possible for us to send a change-of-address form to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Bachmann said. “If the election were held today, Barack Obama would go down in flames, metaphorically speaking.”

Obama “has so much to answer for,” Bachmann said. When Bachmann said Obama was responsible for Wall Street bailouts, a man in the crowd stood and asked her where they began. She conceded they started with President George W. Bush, but Obama supported them.

Gas prices

Bachmann noted gasoline prices averaged $1.83 a gallon when Obama took office and the national average is now more than $3.79.

Gas prices in January, when presidents are inaugurated, are generally lower than in warmer months when more Americans travel. Anything from political turmoil in the Middle East to hurricanes can cause prices to fluctuate. The average price of gas in the second week of April during Bush’s last year in office was $3.44 a gallon.


Bachmann railed against U.S. intervention in Libya, saying it came without establishing the United States’ interest, a threat, knowing what the mission would be and who would gain influence if the rebels won.

“The only reports that we have say that there are elements of al-Qaida in North Africa and Hezbollah in the opposition forces,” Bachmann said. “What possible benefit is there to the United States by lifting up and creating a toe-hold for al-Qaida in North Africa to take over Libya?” Bachmann said.

While Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is a dictator controlling oil revenue, Bachmann said al-Qaida stands to gain “a permanent source of funding to finance global terror worldwide. Do you see how foolish this decision was that our president made?”

She didn’t mention Gadhafi’s own decades-long rap sheet on terrorism.

In the 1970s, he supplied weapons, training and safe haven to terrorists, including Italy’s Red Brigades and the Irish Republican Army. His regime was implicated in the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco that killed two U.S. soldiers, as well as the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270. In 2009, secret cables have shown Gadhafi offered to help U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa. …

Full story


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — September 12, 2008

After the Primary Election: Day 3

One year ago today, on the third day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I reported that the the death of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan on September 11 brought the year’s death toll to 112, surpassing the 2007 record toll of 111 and making 2008 the deadliest for American forces in Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded the country in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (Ultimately, 151 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in 2008 and in 2009 the 112 mark was surpassed in July.)

I also reported that Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, “I’m not convinced we are winning in Afghanistan. I am convinced we can.”


One year later, those reports have proven ominously prescient, as borne out by recent headlines from Afghanistan:

Obama War Strategy Setback (Aug. 29, 2009)

Afghan Bombing One of Largest (Aug. 26, 2009)

Afghan War: Obama’s Hard Choices (Aug. 23, 2009)

Afghan War ‘Not Worth Fighting’ (Aug. 20, 2009)

NATO HQ in Afghanistan Attacked (Aug. 15, 2009)

Taliban Counteroffensive (July 25, 2009)

Deadly Day for U.S. in Afghanistan (July 7, 2009)

Bagram Air Base Attacked (June 21, 2009)

4 Responses to “Al Eisele Pans Michele Bachmann”
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