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Jun 11th, 2010

On Friday, June 4, the Washington Post published a mildly critical, though occasionally admiring, profile of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. The article is excerpted below with added content by way of sidebars.

Michele Bachmann is Cool to Mainstream Media, and an Increasingly Hot Property

Rep. Michele Bachmann at a "tea party" rally on tax day.
Rep. Michele Bachmann at a “tea party” rally on tax day.
(Photo credit: Bill O’Leary / The Washington Post)

By Michael Leahy
The Washington Post
June 4, 2010

Excerpts and Annotations

Her tone was bright. “Thank you for giving me this opportunity,” she said.

Michele Bachmann was on the phone. That alone was unusual. The Minnesota congresswoman generally does not speak to journalists doing stories about her, at least not to journalists from what she refers to as the “mainstream media.” She and her communications director had granted a brief interview on the condition there would be no questions about her reelection race. She began by spending a few minutes reflecting on what she regarded as her key accomplishments.

“What I hear from my people back home is, ‘Thank you for speaking up,’ ” she said.

Sidebar: Michele Bachmann ‘Lies in Christ’

Pants on Fire!

No other House member in recent memory has risen so swiftly on the basis of speaking up. Although only in her second term, the Republican Bachmann is already better known than many senators in her party, widely popular with conservatives and “tea party” supporters.

Sidebar: Bachmann Heads Teabaggers

Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke at a Tea Party at Lake George in St. Cloud after a town hall meeting, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009. (Jason Wachter / St. Cloud Times)

She has labeled the Obama administration a “gangster government” and expressed concerns that the president might harbor “un-American” views. At once revered and reviled, she is a talk-show producer’s dream, a fundraising juggernaut. …

Sidebar: Gangster Government

Now she voiced frustration with what she regarded as the “media’s focus” on her “language.” She listened to a question about comments she had made regarding a federal program designed to expand the national number of community volunteers, a measure authored by the late Massachusetts senator and liberal lion Edward Kennedy and signed into law by President Obama. She was asked about her charge that the program would lead to political “reeducation camps” for its young participants.

Sidebar: Bachmann Brainwashing Paranoia

Bachmann’s Brainwashing Paranoia (MSNBC “Hardball,” April 7, 2009) — Sideshow: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is warning that a new bill expanding the AmeriCorps community service agency could lead to the “brainwashing” of America’s youth. Hardball guest host David Shuster reports. (02:34)

Dead silence came over the telephone line.

After a while, it was time for the mainstream media’s next question. “Are you there, Congresswoman?”

The silence lengthened.

“Are you there, Congresswoman?”

The ‘Hardball’ moment

Bachmann’s … quotable highlights span the spectrum of her worries and suspicions. She has asserted that Obama has secret plans to force anyone making more than $65,000 to pay the highest tax rate. She has derided the U.S. census as part of a White House scheme intended to guarantee indefinite congressional control to Democrats — and suggested that census data could be utilized to “get” Americans. She has invoked World War II, telling the interested that the government “used the U.S. census information to round up the Japanese [Americans] and put them in the internment camps.” …

Sidebar: Bachmann’s Census Paranoia

Credit: Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

If there is a common thread to Bachmann’s pronouncements, it is that, other than when issuing a press release, she makes no major pronouncement to anyone outside a favored corps of conservative television and radio talk-show hosts. Access to her became limited in 2008, after her appearance on Chris Matthews’s MSNBC show, “Hardball.” Expressing worries to Matthews that then-candidate Obama might have “un-American” sentiments, she suffered a backlash that made her reelection race alarmingly tight. …

Sidebar: Bachmann Bears False Witness

Her home district

Bachmann’s 6th Congressional District … is about 96 percent white, leans Republican and includes a swath of eastern Minnesota bordering Wisconsin and stretching northwest to more working-class areas toward St. Cloud. “Salt-of-the-earth people” is how Bachmann describes her supporters. …

Sidebar: MN-06 Endorses Conspiracy Nut

False Witness! The Michele Bachmann Story

Bachmann’s national television appearances became frequent after she won election to the House in 2006. By early 2008, her opponents argued that Bachmann was more interested in developing a national profile than in the needs of her district.

Sidebar: Bachmann on the Media Circuit

Her only notable legislative triumph came in the adoption of a low-profile bill that has made technical changes to the obligations of merchants who deal with credit card and debit receipts. But Bachmann emphasizes that to focus on the passage of bills is to miss the whole point about her: She is in Washington, she says, to beat back government’s attempt to “eclipse freedom in people’s lives.” …

Sidebar: Bachmann: Bob Dole Represents ‘Non-Pro-Freedom’ Agenda

Bob Dole, off to war in 1945.
(The Russell Daily News)

At the national level, many analysts believe that Bachmann’s future within the Republican Party will turn on her willingness to temper what [Larry] Jacobs [a political science professor at the University of Minnesota], calls her “full-throated firebrand nature.” Some Republicans worry that her outsize profile might harm their ability to win elections in swing districts.

Sidebar: Bomb-Throwing Bachmann

With his radio show over on a Friday evening, [conservative talk show host] Jason Lewis meets his wife and friends for drinks and dinner. He is standing by the bar when a buddy, a 39-year-old man named Paul Hogenson, who makes his living in the mortgage business, says casually that he doesn’t like Bachmann.

“Well, that’s because you’re a lib and Michele is a conservative,” Lewis retorts.

“She’s a wing nut,” Hogenson says. “What Michele says is so far out in right field that I think she does it for political gain.” …

Sidebar: Bachmann Says “I’m Not a Kook”

‘Yes, I’m here’

During the brief telephone interview with her, in the wake of the question about her use of the term “reeducation camps,” a few more seconds of silence passed. Bachmann was asked again if she was there.

“Yes, I’m here,” she said finally.

She expressed uncertainty about whether she wished to continue with the interview, declining to answer the question. “I’m not interested in an interview . . . with false caricatures of who I am,” she said, adding that some questions were unfairly “pointing to extreme examples of who I am . . . extreme caricatures.” …

Sidebar: Bachmann Plays Victim … Again

View all comments that have been posted about this article.


Related report by Bill Prendergast

Hey! A “not bad” profile of Bachmann, by traditional media


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — June 11, 2009

Paranoid Personality Subtypes - Theodore Millon

Psychological Profile of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

One-year retrospective: One year ago today I presented my psychological evaluation of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with personality profile and threat assessment, conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics.

3 Responses to “Bachmann Between the Lines”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Michele Bachmann Up-Close Says:

    […] Bachmann Between the Lines (June 11, 2010) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Take Michele Bachmann Seriously Says:

    […] Bachmann Between the Lines […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Husband Marcus Bachmann Emerges from the Shadows Says:

    […] Michele and Marcus Bachmann’s “career in politics has always been about pursuing a social conservative agenda,” Larry Jacobs, a political scientist and longtime Bachmann watcher at the University of Minnesota, said of the couple. He said that Michele Bachmann’s initial race for the state Senate, in which she ousted a more moderate Republican, was “broadly over gay rights.” […]

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