WASHINGTON — Michele Bachmann’s brief tenure in Congress gave her a forum for national attention and fame –
but rarely translated into legislative success for her cause or political success for herself.
Instead, the Minnesota Republican who announced Wednesday that she will not seek a fifth term in the House of Representatives leaves a legacy of political missteps and lots of incendiary rhetoric – often loaded with false accusations and wild exaggerations.
She retains an avid following among the tea party movement, which praised her Wednesday and called her a key to the tea party uprising that fed Republican gains and a takeover of the House in 2010. “Without her standing up for the tea party movement at the earliest time, we would not have enjoyed such a successful political effort,” said tea party strategist Sal Russo.
But her House Tea Party Caucus is regarded as barely a player in Congress. Her bid for Republican leadership in the House of Representatives fizzled quickly. Her quest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination went nowhere.
Instead, the Federal Election Commission, the Office of Congressional Ethics and reportedly, the FBI, are probing allegations her 2012 presidential campaign covered up payments to an Iowa state senator.
“Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress,” Bachmann, 57, said in a videotaped statement. “And rest assured, this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff.”
She also warned that any attempt to question her record or her decision was the product of media bias, not truth.
“I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term,” she said. “They always seemed to attempt to find a dishonest way to disparage me. But I take being the focus of their attention and disparagement as a true compliment of my public service effectiveness.”
Bachmann said she’d continue to be involved in conservative causes, and many in the movement welcomed her involvement. Often a star speaker at conservative gatherings, she gave voice to the rage at President Barack Obama and what her supporters feared was a government run amok. She urged tough stands against Obama and the Democrats, from a showdown over the nation’s debt ceiling in 2011 to her recent talk of possible impeachment of Obama.
In some ways, though, she was also a prototype of a modern politician, who sought and soared to fame on her rhetoric and style – even if that rhetoric was known more for its hyperbole than its content.
Here’s a sampling, compiled from PolitiFact, a nonpartisan watchdog:
– April 27, 2009: Bachmann said a swine flu epidemic broke out in the administration of Democrat Jimmy Carter. It began during the administration of Republican Gerald Ford.
PolitiFact: “It’s ridiculous for her to suggest a partisan link with a deadly disease.”
– Nov. 3, 2010: “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,” Bachmann told CNN. “He’s taking 2,000 people with him.”
PolitiFact: “The backing appears to be one news story, relying on an anonymous state government official in India. People familiar with presidential travel say that estimate is way off.”
– Aug. 26, 2011: Bachmann, campaigning for president, said Obama “has virtually no one in his Cabinet with private-sector experience.”
PoltiFact: There’s a long roster of Obama Cabinet officials with that experience.
– Sept. 22, 2011: “President Obama has the lowest public approval ratings of any president in modern times,” Bachmann said.
PolitiFact: Since World War II, “nine presidents hit lower lows than Obama has.”
– March 16, 2013: “Seventy cents of that (food stamp) dollar that’s supposed to go to the poor doesn’t. It actually goes to benefit the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
PolitiFact: “That is ridiculously off-base. Even the broadest calculation of administrative costs for SNAP tops out at 5 percent of program costs, far below the 70 percent Bachmann claims.”
– May 15, 2013: Bachmann said of the IRS, “There’s a huge national database that’s being created right now. Your health care, my health care, all the Fox viewers’ health care, their personal, intimate, most close to the vest secrets will be in that database, and the IRS is in charge of that database?”
PolitiFact: “It’s not a ‘database.’ The IRS isn’t running it. It won’t include ‘intimate’ health data. And most Americans won’t need to interact with it at all.”