Political Animal


August 29, 2011 12:30 PM Bachmann’s attempt at humor

By Steve Benen

We talked earlier about Michele Bachmann, campaigning in Florida, arguing that Hurricane Irene was a message sent by God in opposition to government spending. This morning, the right-wing lawmaker’s campaign spokesperson told reporters, “Of course she was saying it in jest.”

Is this a legitimate defense? Let’s take another look at this.

Here’s a clip from MSNBC of Bachmann’s quote:

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The full quote, which MSNBC only showed part of, is as follows: “I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.”

Also note, Bachmann didn’t just say this once. At a separate campaign event in Florida on the same day, she made the same point, using slightly different phrasing.

“Washington, D.C., you’d think by now they’d get the message. An earthquake, a hurricane. Are you listening? The American people have done everything they possibly can, and now it’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it.”

In both instances, the videos show Bachmann’s supporters chuckling.

I’ll gladly concede that the right-wing Republican delivered the comments in a seemingly lighthearted way, but it’s also worth noting that presidential candidates don’t generally joke about deadly natural disasters while the disaster is unfolding. Bachmann clearly liked the line well enough to repeat it more than once, but while she was drawing laughs, people were literally dying.

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.


  • K in VA on August 29, 2011 12:38 PM:

    If she was actually "joking," then what she said constitutes taking the Lord's name in vain. That's a big non-no.

  • c u n d gulag on August 29, 2011 12:42 PM:


    Boy, that "Shecky" Bachmann sure is a laugh riot!!!

    She's probably got a ton of killer Jew and fag jokes.

    Look for her when she appears at "Yuck-Yuck's," or whatever the comedy club near you is called.

    And don't forget to tip the wait and bar staff...

  • candideinnc on August 29, 2011 12:47 PM:

    We need the Rethugs to hold up signs, like "applause" signs, that tell us whether we are supposed to take them seriously or not, because, to be honest, there is so much B.S. they are spewing that makes no sense whatever and that they ultimately disavow (e.g. Perry on Social Security and Medicare), that I just can't believe they mean anything. This harridan talks about Gawd constantly. She is a caricature of Elmer Gantry in a dress. Is she just a joke, or is she really running for President?

  • AtlasMugged on August 29, 2011 12:48 PM:

    Does she believe that 9/11 was a sign that government is out of control?

  • jhill on August 29, 2011 12:48 PM:

    I'm with K in VA. If it was a joke, she was violating a commandment (and I thought these people wanted all 10 in front of every courthouse, but I guess that's for us pagans).

  • beep52 on August 29, 2011 12:53 PM:

    Interpreting the mind of god is tricky business.

    Could just as easily be that the earthquake is a warning not to inject high-pressure liquids into fault-prone areas, and that Irene is a sign we'd better take carbon emissions seriously.

    Just sayin...

  • Ray Waldren on August 29, 2011 1:00 PM:

    If Congress and Obama couldn't address infrastructure issues, God (in the person of Hurricane, later Tropical Storm Irene) just did by washing out bridges, roads, etc.

  • ElegantFowl on August 29, 2011 1:02 PM:

    This is more important politically than you realize. Republicans desperately need a way to deliver different messages to their base than they deliver to the general public. Dog-whistling, we sometimes call it. If the media lets her get away with this wink-nod-chuckle approach then it will be a key tool in future elections and we'll see it often.

  • Harvest on August 29, 2011 1:04 PM:

    Over twenty people dead in several states, and billions of dollars in property loss and damage, all to have God tell politicians to cut more spending -- oh, the hilarity!!

    If Bachmann was serious, which I stongly suspect she was, such delusional fanaticism should disqualify her as a candidate for any office. If she was just "kidding" about this destructive and tragic event, her cluelessness and calousness should likewise disqualify her. But she has been spewing outlandish, hateful and false nonsense for so long, the press and public probably won't even notice the remarks. In fact, we should expect her to become increasingly unhinged as she tries to out-Perry Reverend Rick, who has stolen a considerable amount of her thunder in a few short days.

  • hells littlest angel on August 29, 2011 1:07 PM:

    Religious motherfuckers are quite notorious for their hateful and stupid sense of humor.

    Just kidding.

  • anon on August 29, 2011 1:09 PM:

    Nothing new that conservo-repugs lack the empathy gene.

  • Skip on August 29, 2011 1:12 PM:

    Imagine how hilarious her jokes are about the drought in Texas and the fact that Perry's Prayer Meeting didn't bring rain.

    If God wanted to to send a message, He can speak for Himself, like in the Olden Testament. Why would He need Bachmann as His burning bush?

  • Uncle Omar on August 29, 2011 1:22 PM:

    Apparently Pat Robertson didn't pray hard enough to keep God from smiting Virginia Beach this time around. It must be all of the hypocrisy in Virginia Beach that God was angry about.

  • LL on August 29, 2011 1:30 PM:

    So. Ok. In re. Candideinnc's comment, I propose no-one should take seriously ANYTHING a professional republican says.

    Nothing. Because they don't mean anything seriously. All they care about is power, money, and imposing their ideology on everyone. They'll say any stupid fucking thing that comes into their heads in service to those goals. This, of course, sounds a lot like the typical big-church fundamentalist to me. And since when did anyone want one of THOSE running the country? Well. Maybe idiot GOP voters do, but they can't be taken seriously either, since to the extent they understand their own politics, it's the politics of destruction.

    This lame-ass, know-nothing rube-ism has been a curse upon Western societies for at least 1000 years, and probably the late romans were bitching about it too.. we brought it over from England, and it's been responsible for more misery and destruction than just about anything else I can think of. And the cynical pols who exploit this rube-ism..well, there's a special place in Hell for them.

  • Schtick on August 29, 2011 2:06 PM:

    I am getting so sick of the bible thumpers, both the millionaire preachers and the millionaire congress critters and corporate millionaires telling us it isn't mother nature that is slapping us around, but God's punishment because we don't worship money and the people that have money like they want us to. It boils down to God hates us and is going destroy us because we won't worship money.
    I lean towards the teachings of Jesus myself. He didn't care much for money nor the rich that had it all. He's my kind of guy. Be happy with what you have and share what you can with others even if it's only happiness.
    As for the those with all the money, it must be tough and very lonely staying awake night after night thinking of ways to screw everyone else and trying to convince them it's for their own good. AND they have an open line to God telling them all this. If they were poor, they would laughed at and made fun of for hearing voices in their head telling them such crazy things.

    crapcha is getting really crappy. more than usual

  • AnnDe in Virginia on August 29, 2011 2:58 PM:

    Bachmann is "crazy like a fox" and does have followers. Rational people should not dismiss nutcases like this if they get votes.
    Bachmann and Perry are of particular concern because of their basic allegiance to Dominionism, which you do not hear about in their speeches! THAT is really scary.

    Some people distinguish between what they term "hard" and "soft" dominionism. Such commentators define "soft" dominionists as those who believe that America is a Christian nation (not according to the Founding Fathers); and "hard" dominionists as those who advocate the establishment of a theocracy.

    Learn about it and work/vote for rational leaders who understand the founding principles of our unique nation!

  • Lance on August 29, 2011 6:52 PM:

    So now God kills people because the President doesn't listen to a disaffected minority in this country?

    Well, I suppose we've always known He's anti-democratic.

  • Ed Margerum on August 29, 2011 7:48 PM:

    I accept Bachmann was joking. If so she has demonstrated her lack of gravitas, lack of compassion, lack of empathy, lack of taste, lack of presidential demeanor and lack of respect for the creator. Perhaps she has some 9/11 jokes waiting in the wings.

  • Josef K on August 29, 2011 8:38 PM:

    Bachmann clearly liked the line well enough to repeat it more than once, but while she was drawing laughs, people were literally dying.

    I'm seriously starting to wonder if this woman isn't a clinical sociopath. How this woman is allowed to care for parentless children is beyond me.

  • K Grover on August 29, 2011 8:44 PM:

    If we can't tell when she's joking and it requires a campaign spokesperson to claim that Bachmann really was joking, it's not a joke. Given past statements/mis-statements by her, it is entirely too consistent a statement for me to accept that she was joking.

    Furthermore, in agreement with previous posts, her claim that her statement was a joke should be a campaign killer. For a national candidate to joke about a devastating storm while the storm was washing homes, businesses and people into flood waters, destroying areas from North Carolina to Maine and well inland into Vermont, is obscene. Over 30 people are dead and damage claims are over 7 billion--and in most areas, including where I live, the worst flooding hasn't hit yet.
    Oh yeah, really funny Ms. Bachmann.

  • Steph on August 29, 2011 10:24 PM:

    If you want to make "jokes" about things that harm people, next time leave it out of the campaign and bring it up at one of those fancy cocktail parties you wasteful politicians have with our tax dollars. I am sure that you will be able to fill the room with laughter there as well.

    I don't know about everyone else's conception of God, but my God does not want us to poke fun or judge others' misfortunes like oh let's say disregard the innocent lives that were lost through a hurricane that was sweeping across the Eastern coast.

    And what makes you think that your party is going to be any better at spending than Obama has been? You think you are a prophet of some sort and God will just show you the way because you are so special?

    Thanks Bachmann, my next vote was made just that simpler. No damage control from your PR department can change my perception of you and your political party.

    I vote for the ones that respect AMERICAN lives.

  • DRF on August 30, 2011 4:46 PM:

    I've watched the clip, and clearly she makes the comment in a humorous tone. However, given the context and words, it's obvious to me that she is making a serious point--that God favors her political position.

    If find this attitude totally unacceptable, and don't buy at all her explanation that this was just a "joke". She's not Bill Maher, she's a national candidate giving a political speech.

  • james--jamesofthecommons on September 24, 2011 4:51 AM:

    The fact that this moron,and other Tea Party represenitives have been voted into office,and are continuing to gain political power in this country, is a clear indication that this nation has lost its'collective mind.
    The rise of Tea party bizzaros,from little known nutjobs to wellknown nutjobs,''nutjobs who are making decisions that have an effect on people all over the world''is a sighn from god that the voters must stop voting for nutjobs !