Political Animal


August 12, 2011 8:45 AM Bachmann’s alternate universe

By Steve Benen

Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann is the quintessential model for the enduring question the left has about the right: are these folks liars or fools?

It’s tempting to hope for the former. When dealing with public officials in positions of authority, one wants to believe they’re competent and in touch with reality, and when they say ridiculous things, it’s just politics. They know the difference between fact and fiction, but they have voters to impress, elections to win, etc.

But Bachmann sure does seem to believe her own rhetoric. Here’s what she had to say in last night’s debate about raising the debt ceiling.

“[W]e should not have increased the debt ceiling. In the last two months, I was leading on the issue of not increasing the debt ceiling. That turned out to be the right answer.”

Fox News’ Bret Baier followed up, asking, “[W]hat do you say to the analysts who say that the markets would have fallen through the basement?” Bachmann replied:

“I think we just heard from Standard & Poor’s. When they dropped our credit rating, what they said is, we don’t have an ability to repay our debt. That’s what the final word was from them.”

This isn’t even close to reality. Bachmann has been working on this issue for months, and has touted her opposition to raising the debt limit in every campaign appearance she’s made, but she still has a child-like understanding of the basics, and seems to have manufactured her own alternative universe.

S&P did not, under circumstances, say that the United States lacks the ability to repay our debt. The voices in Bachmann’s head may say that, but S&P actually said the opposite: the nation has more than enough resources to repay our debts, but the rating agency is concerned our political process is so badly broken, we may lack the will to repay our debts.

In our reality, nothing contributed more to the downgrade than the approach adopted by Michele Bachmann and people who share her truly ridiculous worldview.

This morning, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, reflecting on Bachmann’s debate performance, said anyone who believes Bachmann has a legitimate shot at the presidency is “too stupid to prognosticate and too stupid to run Slurpee machines,” adding, “Michele Bachmann is a joke…. Her candidacy is a joke.” Scarborough then delivered a message to Iowa: “If you let her win, you prove your irrelevance once again.”

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Around the same time as Scarborough’s well-justified rant, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza told readers, “Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) faced her first major test as the Iowa frontrunner at Thursday’s debate, and with just two days to go before the Ames Straw Poll, she came out of it with some battle scars but still retaining her frontrunner status.”

Because in a Republican nominating contest, sanity is optional.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • just bill on August 12, 2011 8:54 AM:

    no, steve. in a republican nominating contest, sanity is prohibited.

  • Ron Byers on August 12, 2011 8:55 AM:

    Are any of these people running to win?

    My guess is every Republican candidate has concluded in his or her heart of hearts that Obama is going to be reelected. They are running anyway. Each of them has an agenda that does not include winning. That is the only reason none of them sound truly Presidential.

  • c u n d gulag on August 12, 2011 8:56 AM:

    "Because in a Republican nominating contest, sanity is optional."

    And intelligence, logic, and the ability to ration - an albatross.

    And good for Cup O' Schmoe - he broke 'Reagans 11th Commandment.'

    Let's see if he'll do the same for the rest of the Republican candidates.
    Methinks not...

  • John on August 12, 2011 8:59 AM:

    Sanity isn't an option in this race, it's a handicap.

  • Anonymous on August 12, 2011 8:59 AM:

    Not just wrong, but flat-out up is down, forwards is backwards, inside is outside, living in opposite-land. At least in Orwell's world, the leaders 'knew', in some sense, that they were lying and had an elaborate political theory to justify it.

    For what it's worth, I just wonder how this happened, how 'conservative' turned into 'systemically nuts'.

  • Holmes on August 12, 2011 9:05 AM:

    Halperin, Cilliza, and the rest of the feckless hacks in the Beltway are a big part of the reason we are where we are today. They're scared of telling the truth about the Republicans, and care more about their respective careers, so we get nonstop equivocation and obfuscation.

    The average news consumer doesn't really have a clue how crazy the Republican party has become, even by their own standards, because the media couches everything as 'both sides do it'.

  • Danny on August 12, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Razor-sharp, Steve. Blake and Cillizza should be hiding in shame.

  • Danny on August 12, 2011 9:11 AM:


    Exactly. When the rethugs have been successfully beaten down, the hacks who enabled them is gonna have a lot to answer for.

  • N B on August 12, 2011 9:11 AM:

    Poor naive morning Joe, he doesn't understand the difference between the stupidity per se of a candidate and her candidacy, versus whether the voters will act accordingly. Wake up and smell the coffee! (I wish more people would check out "The Coffee Party Movement", like on Facebook (currently in outage!), they're great folks. But I think the real threat is Perry, and yes Americans are dumb enough to vote for him too.

    BTW, Drudge is promoting this big attack on WI State Fair goers, gangs of mostly blacks attacking mostly whites. I happened a few days before recall elections (check), since that might stimulate some voters to protect perceived law and order Republicans against squishy n****r-loving Dems, I wonder if that was just a coincidence? A long shot, but still IMHO worth looking into.

  • Kathryn on August 12, 2011 9:13 AM:

    Michele Bachmann majored in "Alternate Universe". She's an admitted devotee of Francis Schaeffer, the right wing evangelical who started this nonsense years ago. She believes it, it's all she knows and learned through Schaeffer and right wing law school.

    Steve, maybe you should contact Frank Schaeffer, Francis's son who broke with father and has written books on subject of philosophy Bachmann represents. He's one intense guy and he knows that world backwards and forwards and has rejected it.

    If there are Texans who read this blog, tell me there is plenty of opposition research on Perry, he's the one who scares me. We all know about succession and the insane religious types he associates with, how about financial irregularities, holes in his jobs record. I know he's dumb as a box of rocks but so was George. Is there any way they can prop him up for a debate with Obama, bet they're inventing some catchy line right now, along the lines of Reagan's about not exploiting Mondale's youth.

  • T2 on August 12, 2011 9:14 AM:

    Holmes has it.

  • T2 on August 12, 2011 9:21 AM:

    Kathryn, Perry is a career politician. His entire adult life after mid-twenties has been at the public trough. He started at the bottom rungs and worked himself up to the longest serving governor Texas has had. All the while collecting a paycheck from taxpayers. .Yet he rails against "gov'mint". Oh, and he started his career as a Democrat.
    He screams "get the gov'mint out of our lives" then passes a bill forcing, yes forcing, women to have an ultrasound before they can get an abortion, and at their own expense. He prays for rain, and heeds God's calling to the White House while ordering more executions than any state. Oh, there's plenty of opposition research to dig.
    One other item.....he's never lost an election.

  • Kane on August 12, 2011 9:31 AM:

    As Bachmann said, she took the position to oppose raising the debt ceiling months ago. So no matter what S&P said, she was going to spin it to favor her position. She is obviously betting that voters haven't read the S&P report.

  • Bo on August 12, 2011 9:33 AM:

    I tuned in to FoxSnooze last night. What was that . . . a new reality show?

    "So You Think You Can Govern"?

    "America's Got Morons"?

    What a rag-tag collection of losers.

  • berttheclock on August 12, 2011 9:33 AM:

    @Kathryn, this is very much akin to listening to the rants of the late Dr Carl McIntyre in the '60s. Schaeffer learned from McIntyre and the very conservative pastors who broke away from the mainstream Presbyterian church. Yes, Frank Schaeffer has changed his views, but, do not forget he was the one who talked his father, Francis, into using politics to push anti-abortion agendas. Prior to that Frank wanted to stay away from using politics. In the '60s, McIntyre railed against the Pope and the Fairness Doctrine, while, Phyllis Schaffley railed against the ERA. Little has changed with this ilk, except they have gained enormous power in the press.

  • Texas Aggie on August 12, 2011 9:33 AM:


    There is a whole lot of opposition research on Goodhair. To find it, go to texasobserver.org and click on their Perry button in the upper left hand corner of the home page.

    Financial irregularities: Lobbyists buying his patronage. E.g., Simmons' waste disposal is putting a radioactive waste dump in West Texas that will ship in waste from all over the US. The scientists on the approval committee were unanimous in that the waste would get into drinking water, but Goodhair overruled them and they quit en masse. Simmons is one of Goodhair's most prolific donors.

    He tried to push a requirement for every schoolgirl to be vaccinated with Merck's Gardasil against papilloma virus because Merck had given him a bunch of money.

    Job record: The famous "Texas Miracle" produced almost no decent jobs with the majority of them being minimum wage or below. We lead the nation in low paying jobs and our median hourly wage is over a dollar below the national median for both women and men. And our unemployment has been increasing while most other states are seeing a drop. He balanced the last budget by cutting support to education by almost 10% leading to massive teacher layoffs. He also did some VERY creative bookkeeping that just punts the problem into the next budget.

    His "faults" in the view of the masses is that he was once a Democrat. Also, some of the Tea Party aren't happy with his penchant for using government to control people. For a long time he tried to require that criminal records and financial records of everyone be held in the governor's office rather than the police.

    Don't count on a debate. He has a long, strong record of avoiding them.

  • Perspecticus on August 12, 2011 9:36 AM:

    I'm thinking Scarborough said this because either a) he's on vacation for the next two weeks and does not expect to be anywhere near the Tea Party lunatcis that will be filling his voice mail, e-mail, twitter feed and every other goddamned conveyance, or b) he's slowly ratchting up his reasonableness and moderation quotients for a presidential run in 2016 (my choice).

  • NHCt on August 12, 2011 9:54 AM:

    Looking at that screenshot, I get the impression Halperin assigned his grades based on poll numbers. Probably slept through the whole thing. If so, best analysis he's ever given.

  • windshouter on August 12, 2011 10:10 AM:

    Since the debt ceiling needs to rise in 2013, early in Mrs. Bachmann's first year in office, her pledge not to raise the debt ceiling is in fact a pledge to balance the federal budget in 2013 without tax increases using inherent Presidential powers to cut spending without regard to the current appropriations law. I'm down with this, but we really should get a clear answer on what spending will be cut. You can prioritize all you want, but there isn't enough money for everything and the voters deserve to know what will be cut especially since she alone would decide the cuts.

  • jcricket on August 12, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Bachmann isn't crazy; she's stupid.

    She isn't even smart enough to think she's fooling anyone.

  • Diane Rodriguez on August 12, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Fashionable civility aside, Cilliza is a lisping fool. When he appears on cable you can see the excruciating obsession to be liked. His sweaty palms are palpable. He is the perfect patsy for the equal blame crowd.

  • Anonymous on August 12, 2011 10:53 AM:

    Every once in awhile Scarborough gets it right. It was interesting that Scar is ranting about Bachmann in a split screen with Halperin. This is after Halperin gives her a B+ and provided a totally tepid analysis of the debate. He looked like the kid that attempted to give the teacher what he thought was a smart answer and realizes that he missed the idea entirely.

    If the grading wasn't done on a curve no one deserved above a C-.

    Seemed to me that Ron Paul sounded loonier then usual. I haven't read a transcript yet but listening to him it sounded like a Palinesque word salad of his usual talking points but in sentences that weren't coherent.

  • beep52 on August 12, 2011 11:24 AM:

    "... the enduring question the left has about the right: are these folks liars or fools?"

    Meaningless question. All anyone needs to know is that they're factually (and often, morally) wrong, and dangerous.

  • Trollop emo-hamster C&L hater! (damnit) on August 12, 2011 11:33 AM:

    He must be trying to make up for his earlier ridiculousness. Good statements though, nonetheless! The only people who support Bachman are religious idiots and malcontents (aka 53% of Americans)

  • Gandalf on August 12, 2011 11:43 AM:

    You know when you go to a circus you don't remember what the lion tamers look like but you sure do remember the freakiest looking and acting clown.

  • JayinOregon on August 12, 2011 11:44 AM:

    Michelle Bachmann is a threat to all and everything. What a disgusting, vile POS.

    She should be locked away in a dark hole or burned at the stake. Yuck.

    Whacko. Nutter. Koo Koo.

  • FRP on August 12, 2011 12:06 PM:

    ............. Who is running the circus minimus

    WSJ: "A candidates' debate that featured the fiercest farce-to-farce exchanges of the 2012 contest."**

    Read more: http://thepage.time.com/#ixzz1UpNjs4H3
    **Edited for clarity

    The tiresome* legalese of children each crying out to their mommies to "look at me" while pointing out that cookie crumbs are not always evidence of cookies . This pounding the defense table effort loses that life like elasticity of conforming to day dreamy Vaseline schlameered Guccione lensing while Rome's ashes are copiously mimicked in the various Potemkin Pravda's iterations as ticker tape celebrations with barbecue , or some such due diligence , before getting into the heart schtopping carnefare of neatly disposed pure white female marriage jilting harridan cum keednapping veektim bekuz requiring minds we wanna , gotta , know .

    Eets a reequirement

    Plus a new look at an old problem !

    How to keep a leads bleedings , that keeps it leading so our coostomers may keep a reading until sanguining .

    Breath 2 3 4

    * Tiresome is the key . If the targeted "We" can be droned into a passive acceptance with mesmerized hysteria , its on to win win win .

    Drafts for Micheles victory speech are being crayoned in as we sleep .

  • Hannah on August 12, 2011 9:00 PM:

    Cilizza (on Hardball) thought Bachmann's answer, wherein she redefined the word "submissive" as "respect" was a good one. HUH???

    The moderator asked a perfectly valid question, in fact, I told my TV "great question" when I heard it. If (God forbid) Bachmann were president, would she take orders from her husband or follow the Constitution, as she sworn to do. Come to think of it, as a member of Congress she swore the oathto the Constitution, so I think we already know the answer. The gal on Last Word tonight had the best analysis on this point.

    In another wingnut takedown, Jon Stewart was perfect in his bit on the FAUX "reporter" who just got back from maternity leave.