By Bill Press - 05/31/13 10:00 AM EDT
Say it ain’t so. There has never been a sadder day in American politics.
Political reporters are still in shock over Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) sudden announcement that she will not seek reelection to Congress. How dare she just up and walk away? What are we going to do now for laughs? It’s not fair. Our primary source to prove the absurdity of politics in general, and the fecklessness of today’s Republican Party in particular, has suddenly disappeared.
Indeed, the real story about Bachmann’s political career is not that it’s ending so soon — it’s that it lasted as long as it did. One of the wackiest people ever to serve in Congress, she’ll be remembered only as a politician who didn’t care what she said, as long as she generated a headline. You can credit Mother Jones for capturing some of her more outrageous comments.
In 2008, she told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews about candidate Barack Obama: “I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.” The next year she added: “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.” Against proposed cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, Bachmann called for armed resistance: “I want people of Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back.” She has also warned that the Census could lead to a new round of internment camps, accused President Obama of moving toward a “global currency,” declared that ObamaCare could lead to abortion field trips for 13-year-old girls, charged that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation and credited our Founding Fathers on working tirelessly until there was no more slavery in this country — which must have come as news to Thomas Jefferson. My favorite Bachmann moment came when she congratulated the residents of New Hampshire for the shots fired at Lexington and Concord.
Let’s just say she was more interested in making a point than in telling the truth. In fact, Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact, told Minnesota Public Radio that he had never researched a Bachmann quote and found it to be true. She is the only politician to earn that dubious distinction.
And now consider this: For a while, Bachmann was a serious Republican presidential candidate. She won the Ames Straw Poll in 2011. By most accounts, she won the first Republican primary debate. At one time, she led the polls. She is one of the top fundraisers in Congress, having amassed $14.4 million to win a fourth term in Congress (and still won by only 5,000 votes). She’s the founder of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. And she gave the Tea Party response to the president’s 2011 State of the Union address.
Indeed, her starring role in politics says more about today’s Republican Party than it does about Michele Bachmann. Small wonder that former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) this week suggested the party should put up a sign reading “Closed for Repairs.” He echoes both Newt Gingrich’s complaint that the Republican establishment is “mired in stupidity” and the Republican Party’s own “autopsy,” issued in March, which described the party as “narrow-minded” and “out of touch.” The party will never be taken seriously again as long as it continues putting forth clowns like Bachmann, Herman Cain, Christine O’Donnell and Sarah Palin. Can’t they find somebody sane to run?
True to form, and clueless to the end, Bachmann insists that her decision not to seek reelection has nothing to do with the fact that she’s already behind in the polls and under investigation for alleged campaign finance violations by the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Federal Election Commission, the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI. But, of course, why should we expect her to start telling the truth now?
One thing for sure: Like Richard Nixon, we haven’t seen the last of Michele Bachmann. The only question is: How long before she’s hired by Fox News?
Press is host of “The Full-Court Press” on Current TV and author of The Obama Hate Machine.