Progressives’ favorite punching-bag Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has kept her name in the news for the last few weeks. CNN reported last month that she’s made formal moves toward the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, and a quick scan shows that she’s the de-facto tea party spokesperson on the ballot, with powerful friends like Muslim witch-hunter Rep. Steve King. And in recent days, Bachmann’s emerged as a primary cheerleader for the tea party caucus’ intransigence on budget negotiations, digging in her heels on defunding Planned Parenthood and arriving well-armed with the heady rhetoric that she knows her base wants. Andy Birkey at the Minnesota Independent reports on her speech hosted by anti-abortion rights group the Susan B. Anthony List, in which she said why she was advocating for government shutdown:
“For me personally, there were a few of us who voted ‘no’ on the continuing resolution… because it did not defund implementing ‘Obamacare’ because, as you know, ‘Obamacare’ will allow for taxpayer-funded abortions for the first time in history of the nation.” The Affordable Care Act – or, as Bachmann puts it, “Obamacare” – will not allow taxpayer funding for abortion services. Numerous nonpartisan fact-checkers have called that assertion false, including FactCheck.org and Politifact. “The next time we vote on the continuing resolution we have to insist on defunding ‘Obamacare’ and defunding Planned Parenthood,” she said. “My opinion is there is a point where you draw the line in the sand and you have a hill where you die on. I think this is our issue.”
As Colorlines’ Shani O. Hilton points out, the Hyde Amendment, which has gotten renewed yearly and has gotten no opposition from Obama, forbids federal money from going to abortion services in the first place. But it’s beside the point–Bachmann’s been allowed to shape the rules of the debate around her own strengths, and facts or no, she’s used her tea party heft to publicly push House Speaker John Boehner into shutting the government down, over an issue that can fuel her career for years.
Bachmann’s propensity for George W. Bush-esque gaffes creates plenty of opportunities for her opponents to take the bait and call her dumb–which, of course, her base perceives as pointy-headed liberals exposing their own sexism. Meanwhile, Dave Weigel at Slate points out that her popularity among Republicans can’t be underestimated, and that at the least, she’ll be a candidate in the tradition of Tancredo, pulling the intra-party debate over to her pet issues and positions.
And with Bachmann pulling the strings? That means the candidates will be answering questions on whole-cloth lies about billions of dollars that Obama secretly hid in Medicare, and about whether Obama is a Christian or a citizen (or neither!), and about exactly how scary it is that her fellow Minnesota representative Keith Ellison is a scary, scary Muslim. And all the candidates will know that the Tea Party will watch their answers very closely.