By Molly K. Hooper - 04/22/10 10:00 AM EDT
Firing back at former President Bill Clinton, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on Wednesday defended her controversial “gangster government” criticism of Democrats.
Asked if she thought it was appropriate to use the term as American frustration with government hits record levels and lawmakers have received death threats, Bachmann told The Hill, “Absolutely, I do.”
Other Republicans are not embracing “gangster government” as a talking point. During an appearance on “Meet the Press,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Sunday distanced herself from Bachmann’s statement, saying, “Those are words that she chose. Those are statements she made.”
In an interview with The Hill, Bachmann cited the Obama administration’s actions on rescuing automakers as a type of gangster government.
“When government comes in and decides who the winners are, who the losers are and there’s no recourse, that’s what happened to 3,400 dealerships across the country. That’s one example of gangster government,” Bachmann said.
She calls herself Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) No. 1 target this November. While that claim is open to debate, she is clearly reviled by many on the left.
In the last cycle, liberals in Hollywood and New York made political donations to Bachmann's opponent, including actress Jessica Lange, film producer Jeffrey Soros and writer/director Nora Ephron.
Bachmann won her 2008 reelection race by three percentage points, attracting only 46 percent of the vote. Her district is a swing district; Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won it by 8 points in 2008.
But the fact Bachmann was elected, and then reelected, in two cycles that were dominated by Democrats could mean she will be in the House for years to come.
She insists that she’s not scared of losing her seat: “When I came to Congress, I didn’t come here to stay here as a fixture for ever and ever. I came here to do my job. And if that means that I draw grief or that the mainstream media goes after me, well, so be it, I’m just doing my job,” the mother of five kids and 23 foster children said.
Unlike other House members in purple districts, Bachmann is no centrist.
She voted against the 2008 Wall Street bailout and is a favorite of the Tea Party movement.
Bachmann’s office is adorned with framed photos of her family as well as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and conservative TV and radio host Sean Hannity.
The 54-year-old lawmaker is regarded as a leading voice for the GOP, which does not sit well with some in the party. The YouTube of her “gangster government” remark on the House floor has over 2 million hits.
The Minnesota lawmaker is a constant presence on the Fox News Channel, something Democrats hope to capitalize on this November.
Gabby Adler, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman, said, “Minnesotans hardly believe it is Michele Bachmann’s ‘job’ to spend all of her time building her national profile on cable news while completely ignoring the needs and priorities of Minnesota families who are struggling in these tough economic times.”
Bachmann is not shy about calling out the prior administration.
The former federal tax attorney claimed that the increasing overreach of the federal government started under President George W. Bush, but has since spiraled out of control with Democrats in charge.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of Bachmann’s closest confidantes, said Bachmann never stops playing offense.
When Democrats attacked her on the campaign trail, King said Bachmann “upped the ante…I don’t think they can up the ante to keep up with the conviction she has, let alone the talent.”
There have been times when Bachmann has backtracked, however. She called her 2008 remark that then presidential candidate Barack Obama “may have anti-American views” a “misstatement.”
She revealed, in an interview with The Hill in January of 2009, that she was considering tamping down the rhetoric. But Bachmann has clearly decided not to play it safe — like so many of her colleagues do.
For example, Bachmann is the only targeted House Republican who has appeared at a campaign rally with Palin this cycle.
Bachmann believes that elected officials need to speak out for what’s right, even if that means risking reelection: “Be willing to risk losing your job, be willing to risk having the media mad at you … or even your own leadership mad at you in your party. It should be about doing your job and serving the people back home, and if it means you are here one term, then you are here one term but at least you gave it everything you could.”