Update (5/29/13): Early Wednesday morning, four-term congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced that she would not seek reelection in 2014. The decision, she claimed, had nothing to do with the multipronged investigation into allegations of campaign finance misconduct surrounding her 2012 presidential bid, which the FBI reportedly joined this month. (See our explainer of that here.) Bachmann’s presidential campaign hit its peak when the congresswoman won the Ames Straw Poll in August 2011, but she soon faltered and withdrew from the race after finishing a distant sixth in the Iowa caucuses. Bachmann suffered another defeat earlier this month when Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize gay marriage, a cause she has crusaded against for years.
What’s next for Bachmann? One thing is unlikely: a quiet retirement. Here are some alternate possibilities.
Editor’s note: MoJo‘s Tim Murphy compiled the list below as Bachmann began her presidential bid, after Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked her if she was a flake. Murphy traveled to Minnesota to investigate Bachmann’s rise through the ranks of conservative politics; read his profile of the congresswoman.
Sometime this month, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is expected to travel to Waterloo, Iowa, to officially announce her presidential candidacy. Her odds, while firmly in Hail Mary territory, are still better than you might think: With Republicans less than thrilled with the primary field, Bachmann stands at least a fighter’s chance in socially conservative states like Iowa and South Carolina.
Now in just her third term in Congress, Bachmann, the leader of the House tea party caucus, has earned a reputation as one of the lower chamber’s leading bomb-throwers, lobbing overheated rhetoric at Democrats and needling establishment Republicans. Her Minnesota colleague, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison once accused her of “psycho talk“; in an interview with Politico, a Pawlenty aide was just as blunt: “She’s a real pain in the ass.” Former state Sen. Dean Johnson, who was the Republican minority leader during Bachmann’s stint in St. Paul, has said, “I don’t think I ever served with anybody who I mistrusted more, from either side of the aisle.”
Ouch. Bachmann also has a tendency to stretch the truth, or simply sidestep it altogether. Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact, recently told Minnesota Public Radio that he has never researched a Bachmann quote and found it to be true (the only major politician for which that’s the case).
Here’s an incomplete guide to Bachmann’s greatest hits:
2001: In a letter she cowrote for the Minnesota-based Maple River Education Coalition, Bachmann warns that President Bush’s education policies are leading the nation down the path to communism: “Government is implementing policies that will lead to poverty, not prosperity, by adopting the failed ideas of a state-planned and managed economy similar to that of the former Soviet Union.”
2003: Bachmann, then a state senator, explains why she doesn’t agree with the theory of evolution: “Where do we say that a cell became a blade of grass, which became a starfish, which became a cat, which became a donkey, which became a human being? There’s a real lack of evidence from change from actual species to a different type of species. That’s where it’s difficult to prove.” Don’t even get her started on how a bill becomes a law.
2003: Bachmann sends out a Christmas Card advertising the availability of her youngest son, Lucas: “Chick magnate [sic] needs wife to put him through med school, clean house, pay bills and run his life. Must be willing to gamble against onslaught of socialized medicine diminishing return on investment.”
2004: With the country locked in a heated debate over gay marriage, Bachmann finds parallels in the Old Testament: “We’re in a state of crisis where our nation is literally ripping apart at the seams right now, and lawlessness is occurring from one ocean to the other. And we’re seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time, where every man doing that which is right in his own eyes—in other words, anarchy.”
2004: Songwriter Melissa Etheridge has breast cancer. That’s bad news. But there’s good news too, Bachmann tells the conservative education group EdWatch: maybe the cancer will give her time to reflect on her sinful lifestyle: “Unfortunately she is now suffering from breast cancer, so keep her in your prayers. This may be an opportunity for her now to be open to some spiritual things, now that she is suffering with that physical disease. She is a lesbian.” In the same speech, she alleges that “almost all, if not all, individuals who have gone into the lifestyle have been abused at one time in their life, either by a male or by a female.”
2005: Bachmann explains her opposition to the state’s minimum wage as a form of job creation: “Literally, if we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
2006: Campaigning for a seat in the House, Bachmann delivers a five-minute prayer for You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, an anti-gay heavy metal ministry that promotes the gospel to public school students: “I thank you for how you are going to advance them from 260 schools a year, Lord, to 2,600 schools a year. Lord, we ask by faith that you would expand this ministry beyond anything the originators of this ministry could begin to think or imagine.”
2007: In an interview with the St. Cloud Times, Bachmann drops a bombshell: Iran is planning on turning all of Northwest Iraq into a secret terrorist training camp: “Iran is the troublemaker trying to tip over apple carts all over Baghdad right now because they want America to pull out. And you know why? It’s because they’ve already decided, that they’re going to territory, they’re- they’re going to partition Iraq and half of Iraq, the western northern portion of Iraq is going to be called, the United, uh, the, the uh, -oh, I’m sorry, I can’t remember the actual name of it now, but it’s going to be called, um, uh, the, the, uh, uh the Iraq State of Islam, something like that.”
2008: Just two weeks before election day, Bachmann calls for an investigation into the anti-American ambitions of Barack Obama and congressional Democrats: “What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.”
2008: Redundant Redundancies, vol. I: “The big thing we are working on now is the global warming hoax. It’s all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.”
2009: Explaining her opposition to a bill that expands the scope of AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps’ domestic equivalent, Bachmann warned Minnesota’s KTLK that it could be the gateway to a mandatory brainwashing program: “I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.”
2009: Picking up on Sarah Palin’s debunked warning abut “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act, Bachmann declares: “If you are a grandmother with Parkinson’s or a child with cerebral palsy, watch out.”
2009: Bachmann goes on Glenn Beck’s Fox program to discuss the specter of “One World currency” and delivers what historians may later dub her “I am not a kook!” speech. “Glenn, I have experienced that throughout my political career being labeled a kook. It just happened again in a big story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But all we have to do is point to the treasury secretary on tape, on camera. This is not Michele Bachmann being a kook. This is our treasury secretary on tape and on camera.” A visibly confused Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had told Bachmann he was not aware of any plan to replace the dollar.
2009: As the nation (aided, perhaps, by Vice President Joe Biden) freaks out over Swine Flu, Bachmann implies—while stressing that she isn’t—that this whole thing might have been Obama’s doing: “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. And I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”
2009: Bachmann warns the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. health care reform) would include a loophole permitting grade-schoolers to go on abortion field trips: “Does that mean that someone’s 13-year old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back, and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser. They don’t know any different.”
2009: Bachmann frets that Democrats’ cap-and-trade legislation, which proposed using the powers of the free market to create carbon exchanges, posed an existential threat to all Americans: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people—we the people—are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.”
2009: With health care reform coming ever closer to becoming a reality, Bachmann sounds the Horn of Gondor: “What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.”
2009: In an interview on Fox News, Bachmann warns that the Obama administration could potentially use Census data to round up Americans and put them in camps: “Between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that’s how the Japanese were rounded up and put into internment camps. I’m not saying that that’s what the administration is planning to do. But I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against them to round them up in violation of their constitutional rights.”
2009: Bachmann argues that abnormally large emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide can’t be regulated because if we did, birds would lose their natural habitat—air: “Life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that—that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth.”
2010: After former President Bill Clinton tells reporters Bachmann’s “armed and dangerous” remarks could send the wrong message to fringe groups, Bachmann accuses Clinton of celebrating the Oklahoma City Bombings—by speaking at an event honoring those who died in the attack. “He gave a speech, and he called me out in his speech, and he was talking about the anniversary—now, only Democrats would do this. The anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing by Tim McVeigh. I mean, we don’t celebrate these things. This is not what we celebrate.”
2010: Bachmann warns that critics of the Affordable Care Act will be denied coverage, based on their political beliefs. As evidence, she cites a conversation with a Japanese man who told her that in Japan, health care reform opponents are afraid to speak up: “‘Well why is that,’ I asked. [He said], ‘Because they know that would get on a list and they wouldn’t get health care. They wouldn’t get in. They wouldn’t get seen. And so people are afraid. They’re afraid to speak back to government. They’re afraid to say anything.’ Is that what we want for our future? That takes us to gangster government at that point!”
2010: After House Democrats propose using a relatively standard parliamentary procedures to pass the Affordable Care Act, Bachmann calls for an investigation: “Well, yeah, and the other thing is treason media. Where is the mainstream media in all of this not telling this story? This is a compelling story. That the speaker of the House would even consider having us pass a bill that no one votes on. That should laugh her out of the House and there should be people that are calling for impeachment off of something like this.”
2010: Ever vigilant of bureaucratic waste, Bachmann alleges that President Obama’s trip to India will be more expensive than the entire war in Afghanistan: “The president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.” An exasperated White House spokesman later said the charges, which stemmed from an anonymous official in the west Indian state of Maharashtra, had “no basis in reality.”
2010: Remember that whole bit about Obama being “anti-American” back in 2008? Yeah, forget that. Bachmann tells Bill O’Reilly: “Candidate Obama was a very reasonable fellow.”
2010: Redundant Redundancies, vol. II: “That’s what the Bill of Rights is all about—to secure our individual liberties from an overweening huge bureaucratic large big government.”
2011: In a speech to New Hampshire tea partiers, Bachmann crafts an alternative history of the American Revolution: “What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty. You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord.”
2011: As the House GOP prepares to vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government, Bachmann urges her colleagues to hold the line: “This is our mice or men moment. We need to show whether we are mice or men.” The bill passes; we’re mice, apparently.
2011: Bachmann suggests an unlikely fix to the nation’s long-term deficit: “I think if we give Glenn Beck the numbers, he can solve this.”
2011: On Twitter, Bachmann says the President’s proposal to make government-subsidized lunches more nutritional violates the will of the Founders: “Where in the #Constitution does it say the fed. government should regulate potatoes in school lunches? It doesn’t.” Which is true. Technically.
2011: In an address to the group Iowans for Tax Relief, Bachmann praises the Founding Fathers for their commitment to…diversity: “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status, it didn’t matter whether they descended from known royalty or whether they were of a higher class or a lower class, it made no difference. Once you got here [to the United States] you were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable?”
In the same interview, she praises the Founders for working so hard to abolish slavery: “We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”
2011: Seizing on an administration directive to promote energy-efficient light bulbs, Bachmann accuses the administration of banning light bulbs altogether: “I think Thomas Edison did a pretty patriotic thing for this country by inventing the light bulb and I think darn well you New Hampshirites, if you want to want to buy Thomas Edison’s wonderful invention you should be able to!”
2011: Michele Obama promotes breast-feeding as a means of reducing child obesity. Bachmann senses more sinister motives: “This is very consistent with where the hard left is coming from. For them, government is the answer to every problem. I’ve given birth to five babies and I breast fed every single one of these babies. To think that government has to go out and buy my breast pump for my babies? You wanna talk about the nanny state, I think you just got a new definition.”