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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Michele Bachmann


michele-bachmann
    • House of Representatives, R-MN (2007-2014)
    • House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus: Founder

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Michele Bachmann, a three-term member of House of Representatives from Minnesota, is closely associated with the Tea Party movement and right-wing social activism. She founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House, and her most fervent supporters tend to be right-wing conservatives. In May 2013, she announced her decision to retire from Congress and did not seek reelection in the 2014 midterm elections.[1]

Bachmann stoked controversy in the summer of 2012 when she and four House Republican colleagues sent letters to various federal agencies alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood may have "penetrated" the U.S. government. Citing allegations first leveled by Frank Gaffney and the hard-line neoconservative Center for Security Policy, the authors demanded that the agencies "conduct an investigation of the extent to which [Muslim Brotherhood] influence operations may have contributed to a fundamental misunderstanding of the Muslim Brotherhood by U.S. intelligence" and made the intelligence community "susceptib[le] to subversion."[2] Echoing another Gaffney charge, Bachmann specifically accused Huma Abedin, a Muslim American aide to Secretary State Hilary Clinton, of having familial links "to Muslim Brotherhood operatives and/or organizations."[3]

In much of Washington, Bachmann's allegations were roundly dismissed and condemned, including by several prominent Republicans. In a floor statement, Sen. John McCain declared that Bachmann's "attacks on Huma have no logic, no basis and no merit. And they need to stop now."[4] Several of Bachmann's fellow House Intelligence Committee members also distanced themselves from the allegations, including the Republican chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan.[5] Even Republican Speaker John Boehner called the remarks "pretty dangerous."[6]

Some leading Republicans figures, however, defended Bachmann, although they were reticent to endorse the substance of her claims. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, for example, hedged that Bachmann was simply concerned "about the security of the country."[7] Others, like Mitt Romney surrogate John Bolton and failed Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, suggestively painted the matter as one of simple oversight. "What is wrong with raising the question?" asked Bolton. "Why is even asking whether we are living up to our standards a legitimate area of congressional oversight, why has that generated this criticism? I'm just mystified by it."[8] Gingrich added, "what is it they're afraid of learning?"[9]

The accusations led to relatively small but boisterous protests in Egypt against Secretary Clinton, whose motorcade during a visit in July 2012 was pelted with fruit and debris. The New York Times reported that the protesters—many of them citing the claims of Bachmann and other conservative U.S. figures—apparently believed that the United States had helped elect the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.[10] The U.S. embassy strenuously denied the claims, however, and one Muslim Brotherhood operative quipped that the "Muslim Brotherhood can't even penetrate the Egyptian government," let alone the U.S. government.[11]

During the 2014 "Values Voter" Summit in Washington D.C., Bachmann again sparked outrage when she called for a war on Islam, claiming that it was the root cause behind the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) militant group. Echoing the views of some hardline neoconservatives like Frank Gaffney and Daniel Pipes, who criticized President Obama for saying that ISIS was "not Islamic," Bachmann opined during the conservative conference: "Yes, Mr. President, it is about Islam! And I believe if you have an evil of an order of this magnitude, you take it seriously. You declare war on it, you don't dance around it. Just like the Islamic State has declared war on the United States of America."[12]

2012 Presidential Campaign

In July 2011, during a visit to her childhood home in Waterloo, Iowa, Bachmann formally announced her candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, saying: "I seek the presidency not for vanity, but because America is at a crucial moment. I believe that we must make a bold choice if we are to secure the promise of our future."[13] In early January 2012, after a largely anemic campaign frequently marred by Bachmann's habit of getting historical facts wrong, she announced that she was suspending her candidacy

A key aspect of Bachmann's campaign was foreign policy. Her campaign website read like a laundry list of classic conservative talking points on foreign policy: a shot at Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize and his alleged betrayal of close U.S. allies; promoting war with Iran; shrill warnings about the "war on terror"; and religiously based support for Israel. The website stated, "We have a President who tells our true friend, Israel, that it must surrender its right to defensible borders to appease forces that have never recognized that nation's right to exist."

Bachmann frequently weighed in on Middle East issues during the campaign. She charged that Iran "fail[s] to respect the U.S. and our presence" in the Middle East, and pledged that she would "take everything at our disposal to make sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon."

When President Obama endorsed the use of Israel's 1967 borders as the basis for a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement—a stance that has been U.S. policy for decades—Bachmann released an ad claiming Obama "betrayed Israel" and that it "is yet another example of his policy of blaming Israel first."[14] The acerbic anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller called Bachmann's ad "The greatest speech by an American leader on Israel."[15]

Bachmann's devout support for Israel is derived from her conservative Christian worldview. As reported by the Minnesota Independent, at a February 2010 Republican Jewish Coalition event in Los Angeles, Bachmann grounded her support for Israel in the Bible: "I am convinced in my heart and in my mind that if the United States fails to stand with Israel, that is the end of the United States. … [W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play. And my husband and I are both Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis [Genesis 12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful principle."[16]

Hawkish "pro-Israel" journalist Jeffrey Goldberg wrote, "Bachmann has built her foreign-policy platform on the nuance-free defense of Israel. She does this not because Israel is a strategic ally, or because it's a democracy, but because the Bible states that God will curse those who betray it."[17]

Like her former GOP rival Herman Cain, Bachmann was criticized during the campaign for having an insufficient grasp of a number of policy issues and current events. "Voters … frequently say they are drawn to support Bachmann's presidential campaign by the litany of statistics and facts that stud her speeches," said a Los Angeles Times analysis. "Yet what she says is often inaccurate, misleading or wildly untrue."[18] In November 2010, for example, Bachmann erroneously claimed Iran was a nuclear power, saying, "We know that they have nuclear capability" and that the country is "a danger to every nation in the world."[19]

Despite her hawkish tendencies, Bachmann opposed the Obama administration's intervention in Libya, calling it in April 2011 "foolish" and adding, "The only reports that we have say that there are elements of al Qaeda in North Africa and Hezbollah in the opposition forces."[20] On May 1 she made an egregious error, telling Fox News Chris Wallace, "He [Obama] said he wanted to go in for humanitarian purposes and overnight we are hearing that potentially 10 to 30,000 people could have been killed in the strike."[21] She was in fact referring to U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz's assertion that 10,000-30,000 Libyans had been killed in the fighting between anti-Qaddafi rebels and Libyan forces.

Trajectory

Bachmann first gained national notoriety during the 2008 presidential race. On Hardball she infamously told Chris Matthews that there was an active anti-American wing of Congress, and that Barack Obama himself held an anti-American worldview. When prodded by Matthews to name an "anti-American" congressperson, Bachmann said, "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." Referring to Obama's past associations with the Revered Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, Bachmann took aim at what she claimed were Obama's view of the country: "That's not the way that most Americans feel about our country. Most Americans are wild about America and they are very concerned to have a president who doesn't share those values."[22]

Bachmann rode the Tea Party's momentum to stardom during the 2010 electoral cycle, and infamously gave the "Tea Party Response"[23] to President Obama's 2011 State of the Union Address.

Prior to serving in the House, Bachmann was a member of the Minnesota Senate. She was a tax lawyer before entering public life.

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Sources

[1] Brian Bakst, "Rep. Michelle Bachmann Says She Won't Run for Re-Election," ABC, May 29, 2013, http://6abc.com/archive/9119569/.

[2] Eli Clifton, "Bachmann: Muslim Brotherhood Has 'Penetrated' The U.S. Government," Think Progress, June 22, 2012,http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/06/22/504937/bachmann-muslim-brotherhood-penetration/.

[3] Robert Dreyfuss, "Michele Bachmann's McCarthyite Witch Hunt Against Muslims, 'Sharia Law,'" The Nation, July 23, 2012, http://www.thenation.com/blog/169001/michele-bachmanns-mccarthyite-witchhunt-against-muslims-sharia-law#.

[4] Robert Dreyfuss, "Michele Bachmann's McCarthyite Witch Hunt Against Muslims, 'Sharia Law,'" The Nation, July 23, 2012, http://www.thenation.com/blog/169001/michele-bachmanns-mccarthyite-witchhunt-against-muslims-sharia-law#.

[5] Ben Armbruster, "House Intel Committee Members Speak Out Against Bachmann's Anti-Muslim Allegations," Think Progress, July 25, 2012,http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/07/25/583201/house-intel-committee-bachmann/.

[6] Igor Volsky, "Boehner Blasts Bachmann, Says Her Unfounded Accusations Are 'Pretty Dangerous,'" Think Progress, July 19, 2012,http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/07/19/548671/boehner-blasts-bachmann-says-her-unfounded-accusations-are-pretty-dangerous/.

[7] Ali Gharib, "House GOP Leader Defends Bachmann's Witch Hunt: 'Her Concern Was About The Security Of The Country,'" Think Progress, July 27, 2012, http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/07/27/594621/cantor-bachmann-concern-security/

[8] Ben Armbruster, "Romney Adviser Bolton Backs Bachmann's Anti-Muslim Witch Hunt," Think Progress, July 24, 2012,http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/07/24/579621/bolton-bachmann-muslim-brotherhood/.

[9] Igor Volsky, "Gingrich Defends Bachmann's Attack On Top Clinton Aide," Think Progress, July 24, 2012,http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/07/24/572601/gingrich-defends-bachmanns-attack-on-top-clinton-aide/.

[10] Robert Mackey, "Behind Jeers for Clinton in Egypt, a Conspiracy Theory With U.S. Rootsm" New York Times, July 16, 2012,http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/egyptians-who-jeered-clinton-cite-american-conservatives-to-argue-u-s-secretly-supports-islamists/.

[11] Zach Beauchamp, "Muslim Brotherhood Leader: We 'Can't Even Penetrate The Egyptian Government,'" July 23, 2012, http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/07/23/568531/bachmann-muslim-brotherhood-egypt/

[12] Jane C. Timm, "Amid call for religious freedom, Values Voter speakers slam Islam," MSNBC, September 26, 2014, http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/amid-call-religious-freedom-values-voter-speakers-slam-islam.

[13] Jeff Zeleny, "Bachmann Is In, Officially," New York Times "The Caucus," June 27, 2011,http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/bachmann-is-in-officially/.

[14] MicheleBachmann.com, "Tell Obama: You've Betrayed Israel," http://www.michelebachmann.com/israel/.

[15] Pamela Geller, "Michele Bachmann on Israel," Atlas Shrugs, June 23, 2011, http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/06/michele-bachmann-on-israel.html.

[16] Andy Birkey, "Bachmann: America 'cursed' by God 'if we reject Israel,'" The Minnesota Independent, February 8, 2010,http://minnesotaindependent.com/55061/bachmann-america-cursed-by-god-if-we-reject-israel.

[17] Jeffrey Goldberg, "Michele Bachmann's Hazardous Love for Israel," Bloomberg News, July 18, 2011, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-07-18/michele-bachmann-s-hazardous-love-for-israel-jeffrey-goldberg.html.

[18] Seema Mehta, "Michele Bachmann's misstatements may be catching up to her," Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2011,http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-bachmann-20111024,0,847441.story.

[19] Andy Birkey, "Bachmann on Iran: U.S. needs to do more than talk," The Minnesota Independent, November 18, 2010,http://minnesotaindependent.com/74387/bachmann-on-iran-u-s-needs-to-do-more-than-talk.

[20] Peter Hamby, "Bachmann assails Obama over Libya," CNN Political Tracker, April 16, 2011, http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/04/16/bachmann-assails-obama-over-libya/.

[21] David Edwards, "Bachmann claims NATO killed 30,000 civilians in Libya," The Raw Story, May 1, 2011,http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/05/01/bachmann-claims-nato-killed-30000-civilians-in-libya/.

[22] Sam Stein, "Michele Bachmann Channels McCarthy: Obama 'Very Anti-American,' Congressional Witch Hunt Needed," Huffington Post, October 17, 2008, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/17/gop-rep-channels-mccarthy_n_135735.html.

[23] Washington Post, "Michele Bachmann offers Tea Party response to President Obama's State of the Union Address," January 26, 2011,http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/26/AR2011012603412.html.

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Michele Bachmann Résumé

    Affiliations

    • House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus: Founder

    Government

    • House of Representatives: Member (2007-2014)

    Business

    • Bachmann and Associates: Co-owner

    Education

    • Winona State University: B.A.
    • Oral Roberts University: J.D.
    • William & Mary Law School: LL.M.

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