The battle between Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has mostly been a one-sided affair thus far. As Bachmann has jumped to the top of the polls in Iowa and Pawlenty has plummeted, the former governor has stepped up his criticisms of Bachmann, arguing that she's never actually accomplished anything during her decade as a legislator. Bachmann has largely stayed mum, but now, perhaps spying a chance to drive a stake through an opponent who's polling at 2 percent nationally, she's gone on the attack. Here's what she emailed to supporters on Sunday:
Actions speak louder than words. When I was fighting against the unconstitutional individual mandate in healthcare, Governor Pawlenty was praising it. I have fought against irresponsible spending while Governor Pawlenty was leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota. I fought cap-and-trade. Governor Pawlenty backed cap-and-trade when he was Governor of Minnesota and put Minnesota into the multi-state Midwest Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord. While Governor Pawlenty was praising TARP—the $700 billion bailout in 2008—I worked tirelessly against it and voted against it.
Hey, this Pawlenty guy doesn't sound so bad! The cap-and-trade and TARP hits were a given—Pawlenty likes to refer to those positions as his "clunkers"—but the budget criticism is something new, and it's especially noteworthy because Pawlenty's claims of balancing budgets and cutting spending are his top talking points on the campaign trail. On this front, Bachmann is right. As I've reported, Pawlenty balanced Minnesota's budget through a series of tricky accounting maneuvers. He would defer payments or take out loans that didn't need to be paid off until after his term was over. Most glaringly, his push to cut taxes and spending at the state level forced local governments to pick up the slack, so real spending did not actually decline. A little bit of accounting wizardry is necessary sometimes; most governors do it. But it's not what comes to mind when you think of the "tough choices" Pawlenty has promised.
Up until now, though, fellow Republicans have been reluctant to call Pawlenty out on his budget bluster, likely because their own ideas are mathematically flawed to some degree. The Paul Ryan budget (which Bachmann supports) would require raising the debt ceiling (which Bachmann opposes). And in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, seen as Bachmann's top rival in Iowa should he jump in the race, recently employed more or less the Pawlenty method to balance the state's budget. As the AP described it, Texas relied on "accounting maneuvers, rewriting school funding laws, ignoring a growing population and delaying payments on bills coming due in 2013."
On Wednesday, Florida GOP Rep. Allen West dashed off an unhinged email rant to Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), in which he called her "vile" and "not a lady." That was kind of standard operating procedure for West, who has previously called President Obama a "low-level socialist agitator." And it reminded me of another Allen West email incident in June, in which the congressman trashed his local alt-weekly, the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, in his weekly constituent newsletter. The paper had, in good humor, chided West for violating a federal law—Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8, Subsection B of the United States Code—by bringing an American flag underwater on a diving expedition with military veterans.
It appears that my taking a U.S. flag down to a sunken wreck (artificial reef) for us all to take pictures and video just riled up some idiot Liberals looking for anything to criticize when it comes to me. Well, doggone sorry, perhaps next time I will put on a tie-dyed shirt and jeans, dance around singing anti-war, anti-American songs, and burn a flag. Perhaps that would endear me to the delusional dummies out there who are probably just jealous because they cannot dive to 80 ft into a hard current and proudly carry an American flag. What a bunch of losers!
Meanwhile, West hasn't backed down from his aggressive language, telling Fox News yesterday that "[T]here are certain ways we talk in the military. I guess I haven't learned the DC-insider talk."
Well, that was inevitable. Following previous attempts to "glitter-bomb" former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich for their opposition to gay marriage, a band of Minnesota LGBT activists descended on a Bachmann & Associates Christian counseling clinic on Thursday in an attempt to dump glitter on Rep. Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus. The clinic, which is co-owned by the GOP presidential candidate, has been under scrutiny in recent weeks over reports that it practices "reparative therapy," a potentially harmful procedure in which therapists attempt to cure homosexuality through prayer. (The practice is rejected by major psychiatric and psychological associations.)
Per Think Progress, protesters dressed up as barbarians—a nod to Marcus Bachmann's statement in a 2010 radio interview that gay children, like "barbarians," "need to be educated"—and shouted "You can't pray away the gay—baby, I was born this way!" Mr. Bachmann, the intended recipient, was not there.
Rep. Bachmann was herself the target of an attempted glittering at last month's RightOnline conference in Minneapolis.
By now you've read about Florida GOP Rep. Allen West's unhinged email rant, in which he told Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who represents his neighboring congressional district, that "you have proven repeatedly that you are not a lady." (He also called her "vile, unprofessional, and dispicable.") West has since either apologized or not apologized, depending on whom you talk to, but one thing is indisputable: He and his opponents are going to milk this baby for all its worth.
On Wednesday, West fired off a fundraising email to supporters, painting himself as the target of the Democratic attack machine; Democratic groups like EMILY's List did their best to capitalize on the moment as well.
West says stuff like this all the time though, which raises the question: Is his crazy talk a political asset, or a liability? As it happens, Case Western Reserve University political scientist Justin Buchler has released a study (PDF) that answers almost that exact question:
[T]his paper proposes a measure of infamy for Members of Congress based on the frequency with which their names are used as internet search terms paired with epithets attacking either their intelligence or their sanity. Using that measure, the paper examines the statistical predictors of internet infamy. Not surprisingly, the results suggest that ideological extremism increases the likelihood of a legislator attaining such infamy, as does a leadership position in Congress...
The results in this paper suggest that infamy is more electorally harmful than beneficial. While infamous legislators raise more money than their lower-profile colleagues, their infamy also provides a fundraising boon to their opponents, and in House elections, infamy appears to have a direct negative effect on vote shares, at least for Republicans. Most surprisingly, these results are robust even controlling for ideological extremism.
A while back we told you about Rep. Michele Bachmann's longtime friendship with Jan Markell, the host of a radio show devoted to interpreting current events through the lens of Biblical prophecy. Bachmann has been a regular on Markell's program, where she's discussed topics like "one-world currency," an issue that adherents of Biblical prophecy believe to be a catalyst for the Antichrist.
Bachmann also attended and wrote a testimonial for one of Markell's annual conferences, where she praised another speaker who explained that natural disasters are God's punishment for betraying Israel. (Bachmann herself has said that the US will be cursed if it turns away from Israel.) Despite all of this, Bachmann has denied any knowledge of Markell or her ministry. According to Markell, though, the two have known each other for 30 years.
Now, in an interview with the American Family Association's OneNewsNow, Markell offers a personal endorsement for Bachmann: "This woman is a wonderful Christian; she is as pro-Israel as they come. I cannot speak highly enough of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and her stand on all things righteous."
Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from the most recent newsletter from Markell's ministry. It's written by another minister, Heidi Swandler, but Markell includes a statement saying that she endorses Swandler's prose. It includes this passage:
"The New Age is upon us and we are witnessing the birth pangs of the new culture and the new civilization. This is now in progress. That which is old and undesirable must go . . . The spirit has gone out of the old faiths and the true spiritual light is transferring itself into a new form which will manifest on Earth eventually as the New World Religion." So said occultist Alice Bailey (1880-1949) while under the influence of her spirit guide, Djwal Khul. As I wrote in an article last March, Bailey and her demonic counterpart actually laid the foundation for the New World Order. The New World Religion piece of that coming global order is advancing successfully on at least three fronts.
The author goes on to pinpoint Oprah Winfrey as a leading advocate of the New World Order and a global religion. (That explains her new cable network!) Kooky as this might sound, it's a pretty common view. One of the first orders of the business for the Antichrist in the bestselling Left Behind novels is to create a new world religion. Not coincidentally, he also goes about converting the world—the "Global Village"—to a single, global currency. In that context, Oprah's support for New Age spirituality is seen as an existential threat, and helps to explain why some people think she's a harbinger of doom.
Anyways, given the prevalence of that line of thinking, it would be somewhat extraordinary if Bachmann was not aware of the loaded connotation of "one-world currency" when she went on Markell's Biblical prophecy radio show in 2009 and used that exact phrase. It would be all the more so considering Markell herself mentioned the Antichrist in their interview. Was it a dog-whistle, or reflective of the congresswoman's beliefs? So far Bachmann has dodged such questions, but with 17 months to go before Election Day, it's hard to see that lasting.