Michele Bachmann’s recent assaults against the Muslims and again suggesting that President Obama is sympathetic to Islamic extremism reminds me of the desperation of Senator Joseph McCarthy in his declining months.
Like McCarthy, Bachmann was once at the center of the new Republican Right with her attacks on the President’s loyalty and questioning his commitment to standing up against the “enemy.” Both McCarthy and Bachmann were able to define their Presidential targets as “sympathizers” and “appeasers”.
And, like McCarthy, she has found herself in decline and outside her party’s power structure.
The early Iowa primary campaign was her high water mark. While lashing out against the patriotism of Obama, she was proclaiming the virtues of her Iowa upbringing and pledging her undying loyalty to our neighbors south of us.
But more recently, she was relegated to a minor role outside the Republican National Convention in Tampa and her pronouncements are now carried closer to the obituary section of the newspaper than page one.
What has happened to Bachmann is common with the McCarthy types – they rise quickly as they step loudly and carelessly on the reputations of innocent people and they fall just as rapidly in accordance with the public’s insistence on truth and decency. Rising Republican criticism has clearly hastened her downturn.
But the Bachman story deserves to be more than a brief historical footnote. For over a decade, she has attempted to define patriotism and conservatism while cloaking it under her interpretation of the Bible. Clearly, she has maintained that a Higher Power supports her actions.
First of all, on the religious front, Jesus preached love, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness and humility; not self-interest, war, suspicion, and self-righteousness. Religious chest thumping has no place in American politics.
As to her conservatism, she sat on the Minnesota Senate Tax Committee as well as on the Subcommittee overseeing property taxes from 2001-2002 and later served as Assistant Minority Leader. During her stint, we started to see the sharp increases in property taxes as the state began its course of massive borrowings of one-time monies, accounting shifts, reducing local government aids and generally moving more of the financial burden from state to local governments. The results were astounding: during Bachmann’s six years in the legislature, property taxes rose by over $1.7 billion. For the purpose of comparison, they rose some $514 million for the prior six years. That is more than a tripling in the increase.
Further, the state commenced lurching from deficit to deficit.
In June of 2003, Moody’s downgraded Minnesota’s credit rating citing such risky financial practices as “fund draw downs, transfers, and tax and payment shifts.” Sadly, this is what happens when short-term politics replaces courage and substance.
As a member of Congress, she rolled up a stunning record of absences. For instance, from July 2011 to October 2011, she missed more than 50 percent of the recorded votes in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the following quarter, from October 2011 to January 2012, her absenteeism hit over 90 percent.
Yet, she collected full pay and full benefits including federal healthcare which she condemns as socialism when made available to all Americans.
As leader of the Tea Party caucus in the House, she has continuously railed against out-of-control federal spending. One would think Bachmann would lead the battle against excess spending such as the Congressional franking privilege. This allows members of Congress to send beautiful multi-color brochures to all their constituents letting them know about the magnificence of their performance. This costs taxpayers untold millions but is a marvelous campaign tool since these expenditures are not treated as campaign related. It is truly a frightening example of waste, fraud, and abuse. Sadly, Bachmann has been a user and not a conservative reformer.
It is not surprising that this daughter of Iowa and absentee Representative is in decline and now operates outside the sphere of this new Republican power structure. She is regarded as an embarrassment and in politics that is an unforgiveable liability.