Rep. Michele Bachmann works to undo self-inflicted political damage
As a first-term congresswoman, the Republican from Minnesota likely would have been campaigning anyway. The surprise -- for her and those who had been watching her race -- was that she found herself on the defensive, trying to explain away controversial comments she made Friday night in what became a notorious appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball" (video of which appeared earlier on The Ticket).
Interviewed by host Chris Matthews -- which meant, as a conservative, she was operating without a net -- Bachmann said of Barack Obama, "I'm very concerned that he may have anti-American views." She then went on to call for a "penetrating expose" by the media into the levels of patriotism among her colleagues on Capitol Hill.
As word of her comments spread over the Internet, some of her constituents might have been understandably confused. The day before her stop on "Hardball," Bachmann had this to say during a debate in her district with Democratic rival Elwyn Tinklenberg, “If the presidency would somehow go to Barack Obama, I would welcome him to the 6th District ... . As a matter of fact, I would put my hand on his shoulder and give him a kiss if he wanted to.” (The reference harkened back to what had been, until now, Bachmann's main claim to national prominence -- her physicality, as shown below, with President Bush as he worked his way out of House chambers after delivering his 2007 State of the Union address. Grab your headphones, the background music adds a certain quality footage.)
Aside from sending dramatically different signals about her attitudes toward Obama, Bachmann's proposed probe of Congress drew a rebuke, not surprisingly, from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Democrat, who just happened to be in Minnesota today, said Bachmann's suggestion "dishonors the position she holds and discredits her as a person."
But here's what really has to concern Bachmann: In the wake of her comments, Tinklenberg has taken in more than $700,000 for his effort to defeat her.
Bachmann, in a local radio interview Sunday, insisted she really did not consider Obama's views anti-American, calling that a "misreading" of what she said.
Actually, it's hard to see how her "Hardball" comments could have been read any other way. Regardless, there can be little debate that she has turned her reelection bid into a race that will be closely watched on election day.
-- Don Frederick
Photo: Associated Press