Is Bachmann too extreme? Is Wetterling coherent enough?

August 19th, 2006 – 6:15 PM by Eric Black

I’ve been working for a while on a piece about the stark difference in the rhetoric of the two women seeking the 6th Congressional District. It ran in today’s paper, so I’ll just link to it here and avoid repeating much of it.

Obviously, this is a race between a conservative and a liberal. They disagree about most issues. But the premise of my piece (One advantage of blogging over writing for the paper is you can acknowledge that sometimes a piece has a premise) is that Bachmann’s word choices make it easier for her opponents to play the extremist card. And Wetterling’s answers to specific issue questions are often so meandering and unspecific that they raise questions about how well-informed she is, on issues other than children’s safety. Feel free to quarrel with the premise. But please bear in mind, the argument I’m making is about the rhetoric moreso than the positions.

It’s clear that Dems will portray Bachmann as beyond the fringe. They have for years and now they have higher stakes and a bigger stage, a congressional race, in which to do it. And Bachmann has attracted a highly dedicated group of dislikers who track and document everything she says that can harm her politically. The name of their website, Dump Michele Bachmann, gives you a clue as to their leanings.

The Wetterling case was trickier, and messed up the perfectly balanced frame that newspapers love. The perfect balance for the Is Bachmann too far right theme would obviously be Is Wetterling too far left? And the GOP will probably spend more energy portraying Wetterling as too liberal than on her difficulty discussing issues coherently.

But in off-the-record discussions, members of both parties and neutral political analysts often raise the problems that Wetterling had in her 2004 campaign talking about the issues without sounding a bit like Yogi Berra.

The idea of this post is to add more examples of Wetterlingian and Bachmannian rhetoric and leave it to you to decide how reasonable and/or clear they are.

Before that, a couple of important disclaimers. First :

There is a third candidate in the race, John Binkowski of the Independence Party. From my dealings with him, he’s smart and personable has positions on the issues. He got only passing mention in the story today and won’t get much more unless it appears he’s having a signifcant impact on the race. I understand and care about the circularity of the how-can-he-have-an-impact-if-you-don’t-cover-him problem and I’m sorry and I’ll do what I can in future cases but I already fear this post will be long, as the newspaper story was and I have no theme to develop about Binkowski’s rhetoric. The best I’ll do today is link to his website.

Second (and here’s another beauty of blogging versus writing for the paper, you can write a statement like this and acknowledge the hopelessly selective nature of perception):

It would be wrong and unfair to imply that every time Bachmann speaks, flames come shooting out or that every time Wetterling is asked an issue question, her answer has the consistency of mashed potatoes. But there are those occasions. When I interviewed Bachmann for the story, she said: You are focusing on the most extreme things I’ve said, and many of these are not the issues I’m emphasizing in my campaign. And I said, you’re right. This piece is about the ammunition that your statements have given to your opponents with which to portray you as out of the mainstream.

Bachmann on Gay Marriage

Okay, here’s the full in context version of the Bachmann quote about why everyone should be concerned about whether gays can marry. It’s from a March 23, 2006 MPR debate between Bachmann and state Sen. Scott Dibble about Bachmann’s proposal for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions. A caller asked why he, a married heterosexual, should care.

Bachmann: “On a personal level a same-sex marriage or relationship does not impact heterosexual couples. Where it does impact is with the force of law.
Once we change the definition of marriage and have the force of law behind another arrangement that is the legal standard for a state. That has direct implications.

For instance, I’ll give you just several. First of all would be on public schools. Public schools would now have to teach that homosexuality and same-sex marriages are normal, natural and that maybe children should try them. That would have a profound impact upon the belief system of parents, teachers and students.”

Wetterling on the impeachability of Bush

Here’s the full, in-context impeachment quote of Wetterling. It was during a May 10, 2006 radio debate with her DFL endorsement opponent Elwyn Tinklenberg. The question was how she would vote if articles of impeachment against Pres. Bush came before the House. ( Tinklenberg took some heat for saying that while he wouldn’t introduce articles of impeachment, he would vote for them if they came up). Here’s Wetterling’s answer:

“Wetterling: ” I salute — Senator Feingold initiated that, is that right? “(host Gary Eichten interjects: No, that’s censure).

Wetterling: “Oh censure. I’m sorry. I think we’re going to have to take a look at holding people accountable, all kinds of people in Washington. Politicians have to be accountable for their actions. I will be open to looking at issues as they come forward.

I think that there’s so much facing the country, I think we have to look at the amount of energy and the end result and what are the impacts of all of our actions. I will be open to looking at where we’re at at that point.”

Bachmann on Iran
Here’s Bachmann, during a May 3 debate with her intra-party endorsement rivals, on what the U.S. should do about Iran:

The question was: “If diplomacy should fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program, what should we do?”

Bachmann: “I think that at this point diplomacy is our option. And we certainly don’t want to move toward a nuclear response any time soon or without an abundance of caution.

Iran is at a point right now where America has to be very aggressive in our response. We can’t remove any option off the table. And we should not remove the nuclear response.

However, we must proceed with an abundance of caution. Because we know that Iran is very precarious. And I think we should take very seriously the threats coming out of Iran right now. But again, there are other nations including Venezuela that we need to keep our eyes on as well.”

Just me talking here, but this is an interesting example. Depending on your preferences, you might note that Bachmann endorses diplomacy and caution. And saying that no options should be taken off the table, is almost boilerplate, since few people argue for taking options off tables.

On the other hand, you could notice that, although the question didn’t ask about whether the U.S. should nuke Iran, Bachmann chose to bring it up twice in her answer, to say that it is an option. And then what heck was up with the sudden appearance of Venezuela at the end of her answer?

Wetterling on Iran

Not long after impeachment, good ol’ Gary Eichten asked Wetterling what the U.S. should do about Iran.

Wetterling: “We have to hope. We have to take Iran’s threats seriously. They see a world without Israel and without the United States. We have to aggressively go after them and work diplomatically to try and stop their going forward. I think that it’s part of our not having a strategic plan.

This is an error we made with the Iraq war. We did not engage the support of our allies. And we’ve got to pull everybody together at this point and take it seriously with tough economic sanctions and hope that it makes a difference. Right now, they’re hurting and we can have an impact.”

Eichten: “Anything beyond economic sanctions?”

Wetterling: ” Political sanctions. How we all work together. I think the U.N. option has to be given an opportunity to succeed.

We recognize the fact that we are living in a shrinking world and we have to figure out a way to work within this planet. And that’s going to take people, serious efforts of coming to the table.

We all have an interest in making sure that Iran does not go forward with their stated plan.”

Take the bit about working within this shrinking planet. Perhaps to some ears that sounds like Gandhian wisdom. To others, meaningless mush. Who, after all, suggests that the answer is to move Iran to another planet? Who opposes people coming to the table? And, ultimately, what do you do if no one at the table produces a solution?

Yikes! This is the longest post in many months (and I was starting to do so well at writing short.) Please accept my apologies. I have more examples that I’ll save for future installments if this discussion catches on. In the interest of leaving some small space for others in the blogosphere, I’ll quit here and turn the question over to you.

Based on their rhetoric, is Bachmann too extreme? Is Wetterling coherent enough?

42 Responses to "Is Bachmann too extreme? Is Wetterling coherent enough?"

Wetterling v Bachmann says:

August 19th, 2006 at 7:14 pm

Eric Black on Wetterling-Bachmann

Eric Black has an article in the Star Tribune today, and a post on his blog, “The Big Question,” addressing the Sixth District race. Though he states his own opinion in a question, to make it seem as if he’s…

REB says:

August 19th, 2006 at 7:46 pm

The pres and crew must be worried abt her = they keep coming back here= another jet fuel guzzling trip this tues by the pres== They must know something about her that the voters do not .
Is Bachman a mixed up lady????

Peder says:

August 19th, 2006 at 8:03 pm

My sense is that Wetterling is in over her head. She seems like a nice lady who has done tremendous work for a noble cause but isn’t ready for primetime. Bachmann might be mean but if I have to choose between mean and bewildered, I know which way I’d lean.
REB, a jet fuel guzzling standard? Is there anyone on the left you’d attack for the same reason? How about a former VP who tell us that the time is running short for the planet but still jets around like a rockstar?

Gary Gross says:

August 19th, 2006 at 11:12 pm

Michele Bachmann isn’t in over her head by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve watched her answer questions on a wide range of issues. Not only does she answer them on point, she answers them with a specificity that I haven’t seen in any Minnesota politician.

The trust factor matters and Wetterling’s apparent lack of depth of understanding makes it impossible for me to trust her in Washington. That doesn’t mean that she isn’t a likeable lady. She’s clearly likeable. I simply question her competence, especially when compared with Michele Bachmann’s specific answers.

As for Michele’s ‘extremism’, I’d take that as the Dems’ only chance of defeating her. She’s only an extremist to liberal ‘tolerance’ voters. The day that people of faith are routinely labeled as extremist is the day this country is past hope.

Not only will Michele Bachmann win this November but I’ll predict that she’ll be part of the Republican leadership by her 2nd term in office.

REB says:

August 19th, 2006 at 11:40 pm

Gary GRoss
Not only will Michele Bachmann win this November but I’ll predict that she’ll be part of the Republican leadership by her 2nd term in office.

God Help Us

Pat Smith says:

August 20th, 2006 at 1:30 am


In my post track-backed above, I discuss the issues I have with your piece. Let me give a brief summary here so I can make sure you hear my concerns.

I think you are hypocritical to label Patty Wetterling “mushy-mouthed” and “incoherent” when Michele Bachmann’s rhetoric is often just as vague. Take the candidates’ views on Iran quoted above. Both candidates deal in generalities rather than specifics, and their message seems about the same: Take Iran seriously, be aggressive, use diplomacy, proceed with caution. Bachmann adds the lines about nuking Iran and Venezuela (?!), while Wetterling talks of economic sanctions. Apparently, it is OK for Bachmann to talk in generalities, but it is not OK for Wetterling. Bachmann is being specific but extreme; Wetterling’s speech “has the consistency of mashed potatoes.” They both said essentially the same thing, using the same type of language. So how can that be true?

I’ve listened to the candidates’ statements at FarmFest that are linked at Lawrence Shumacher’s St. Cloud Times blog. To my ears, Wetterling shows a solid grasp of the issues, as much or more so than Bachmann. This is true of every time I’ve heard her speak. Perhaps her speaking style is not as polished as Michele Bachmann’s– after all, she is not a career politician. If she often speaks in generalities, well, all candidates do; Bachmann does it; that’s just the nature of politics.

Your interpretation of Wetterling’s comments on Iran is also unfair. Here’s what you wrote.

Take the bit about working within this shrinking planet. Perhaps to some ears that sounds like Gandhian wisdom. To others, meaningless mush. Who, after all, suggests that the answer is to move Iran to another planet? Who opposes people coming to the table? And, ultimately, what do you do if no one at the table produces a solution?

Your questions seem to refer to a different conversation than what’s in the text. Wetterling states pretty clearly that the solution is diplomacy, bringing our allies to the table, and if that fails, economic sanctions. Carrot and stick. Many in Washington are saying that military force is not a viable option in Iran, despite what Bachmann and the Cheney cabal say. This faction includes Dems and Republicans, partisans and non-partisans. So what other options are there?

The statement quoted above where Wetterling believes Feingold introduced impeachment proceedings is fair game for criticism, but it doesn’t seem like either censure or impeachment is a big priority for Wetterling. Instead she seems to be focused on the real issues: getting things done, building consensus, working on issues that matter to the Sixth District. So I think it’s forgivable that she didn’t know the hardball, inside-the-beltway details. You could find examples where Michele Bachmann was ill-informed, also. One that particularly sticks in my mind came when I was watching the hearings on Bachmann’s gay marriage amendment. A fairly general question was asked about the text of her bill; Bachmann responded that she didn’t know the text of her own, relatively short bill and didn’t have a copy of the text in front of her. Which is worse? I’m sure there are more examples from all 3 campaigns. You make it seem as though it is an issue exclusive to Wetterling.

Your thoughts on Wetterling (disguised as questions) are all in the form of, “to some ears”… “some say”… “some have said”… “questions have been raised”… etc. Those are called weasel words, my friend.

How is it any different from Chuck Roberts, on CNN, asking, “Is it true, as some have said, that Ned Lamont is the al-Qaeda candidate?”

It seems to me that you are cherry-picking examples and misrepresenting statements to make the case– and it is your case, not someone else’s– that Wetterling is incoherent and poorly informed in order to give balance to the undeniable truth that Michele Bachmann is an extremist. This is unfortunate and unfair.

Chip says:

August 20th, 2006 at 8:05 am

I have every confidence that Patty Wetterling will give a nuanced look at the issues facing individuals and families in the 6th district.

We have plenty of glib, sound-bite politicians in Washington. I’d rather have someone who seems poised to help us break out of this partisan gridlock, and I think Wetterling us just the ticket.

Minnesota is unusual this year in that it has three “real” people (read: not “politics as usual”) candidates running who it recently is beginning to emerge have real shots at upsets.

First is Patty Wetterling — the contrast between her and Michele Bachman is great, but I view it as the difference between one of our neighbors running against the political machine.

Then down in the 2nd, we have former FBI agent Coleen Rowley running against what is arguably the dirtiest politican from Minnesota. Here’s a squeakly-clean whistleblowing tough-on-crime mom, running against an opponent that is focusing all his effort against one of her volunteers. She voted Republican most of her life, but got tired of the corruption in Washington and is running as a Democrat, but wait — I think “Independent” may be actually closer to the mark.

Then we have Tim Walz, a school teacher from Mankato, who was not involved in politics until he got manhandled when trying to take two of his students in to see the President at a rally two years ago. Walz, a member of the National Guard who had just returned from deployment, was treated like a terrorist because one of the students he brought had a “Kerry” sticker on his wallet. It made him angry enough to attempt to battle the system from the inside.

Bachman and Kline are part of the machine. Gutknecht despite being an incumbent is maybe less so, but hasn’t been doing his campaign for a 6th (7th?) term many favors with a recent series of misteps.

So I’ll take what appears to be some independent and an open minded neighbors over what appears to be some more lock-step party-and-President-Bush-following mahine politics any day.

Just think how much better we’ll be if every state sends two or three fresh, less partisan faces to the Congress over the next two or three elections.

Dave Simpkins says:

August 20th, 2006 at 8:34 am

How can Patty Wetterling be difined a liberal out of touch with the district when she really hasn’t been very big a clearly defining anything? And how has liberal become such a dirty word. Liberal policies gave us a minimum wage, child labor laws, the 40 hour work week, civil rights legislation, ended slavery, fougth for clean air, gave women the vote, created social security and built a social safety net. Michele Bachmann sounds far more out of touch with the district and most of the civilzied world. Wetterling will do well to present herself as a moderate, average voter trying to make some sense of the extreme views floating around.

Karl says:

August 20th, 2006 at 8:40 am

Is Michele Bachmann too extreme?

Bachmann says she’s for diplomacy and then threatens to nuke Iran, suggests Venezuela might be our next target and promises to support military incursions around the globe wherever we (Bush) want to spread liberty.

Bachmann says public education is her “number one issue,” but takes nearly $50,000 from advocates of completely abolishing public education.

Bachmann claims to have a “career” as a tax litigation attorney, when in fact, she worked as an IRS tax collection lawyer for only five years from 1987-93–and isn’t even currently authorized to practice law in Minnesota.

Bachmann, who has a gay step-sister, says she loves homosexuals, but states in a speech that being homosexual is “part of Satan.”

Bachmann says she supports working families, but describes the minimum wage as “superfluous” and asks why we even need one.

It’s no wonder Michele Bachmann wants reporters to talk about anything but her extremist statements. But that’s the real Michele Bachmann that her constituents know–not the slick, sanitized image her advisors are now trying to sell to uninformed voters. Her supporters include everyone from Pat Robertson (who must be advising Michele on Venezuela)and Phylis Schlafly to friends of klansman David Duke.

Michele Bachmann can run but she can’t hide from one of the most radical, extreme records of any Minnesota politican.

Eva Young says:

August 20th, 2006 at 9:16 am

Eric, the blogger you quoted on Bachmann v Wetterling is Jeff Kouba, not Paul Kouba – one of the few Bachmann supporters I have respect for. Most of her supporters in the blogosphere are like failed school board candidate and embarrassment to the Republican Party, Tom Swiftee aka Swiftee.

Thanks for the link to Dump Bachmann.

From your article:

But Bachmann defends her comments, saying some of her constituents feel their children’s teachers were promoting homosexuality. She also points to Massachusetts, the only state in which same-sex marriage is recognized, where a school district required grade-schoolers to read a book about two princes who married.

EY: It’s always worth checking into Bachmann’s stories like this. Which school district was this, and what actually occured. Bachmann made the claim once that a school district in California had banned the declaration of independence. That was patently false, and the claim came from Michele Bachmann’s press conference announcing the introduction of the American Heritage Act.

What’s a more trustworthy resource: The Drudge Report or the New Yorker? It’s not, to be sure, much of a competition. But, wittingly or unwittingly, Norman Draper of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has lately followed the fedora instead of the monocle. How else to explain the following passage from his piece yesterday on proposed (and unnecessary) legislation in Minnesota to allow teachers to discuss and teach the founding documents?

[Sen. Michele] Bachmann cited a California case in which teachers were forbidden from teaching the Declaration of Independence and some of George Washington’s writings because of the references to God and religion.

Here’s how this little canard entered the Echo Chamber, where it’s still bouncing around more than four months later: After a Cupertino, California, teacher filed suit against his school district, saying he had been discriminated against as a Christian, a conservative legal organization released a press release with the headline “Declaration of Independence Banned from Classroom.” Reuters ran a story asserting that the teacher had “been barred by his school from giving students documents from American history that refer to God — including the Declaration of Independence.” Matt Drudge splashed a headline across the top of his website, alleging that the Declaration of Independence had been banned. The story exploded on conservative websites and on right-wing talk radio. Sean Hannity moved his Fox News show to Cupertino for an hour-long special called “Take Back America.” At the website Free Republic, a commentator wrote: “This is further evidence of why I truly despise educrats to the depths of my soul. I truly hate them. Petty, PC, ultra liberal, bottom-of-their-class, can’t-do-anything-else, power-mad, petty little drooling morons.”

And none of it was true. Not the way Reuters told it, not the way Hannity told it, not the Free Republic rant — and certainly not the breathless Drudge Report headline.

The Declaration of Independence was never banned from the school, as a recent Peter Boyer New Yorker story, as well as other media accounts, has made clear. In fact, it hangs in the school’s library, and is included in the fifth-grade history textbook. (The Boyer story is not online, but a Q&A with the author is.)

EY: It was this case I raised when you spoke at the National Association of Scholars forum which featured Scott Johnson of Powerline and yourself. You cleaned Johnson’s clock by the way.

It would have taken Norman Draper 5 minutes of google searching (California School district bans declaration of independence) to find the article.

Take home message: Michele Bachmann lies about everything. Reporters need to fact check her every word.

Yes, Bachmann is an extremist. She says different things to different audiences. But don’t take my word for it, listen to her on KKMS sometime. Go to events where she is talking to her base – and listen to her there.

What got me to start the Dump Bachmann blog, is when Lavender Magazine interviewed her, and the interview was a puff piece. You can’t underestimate Bachmann’s ability to get good press.

Cathy Harrison says:

August 20th, 2006 at 9:16 am

As fair as Eric tries to be I am not at all surprised to see that he did not include Patty Wetterling’s full response to the Iran question in his article today. This leads readers to continue to see her as unclear on the issues and displays Bachmann as more clear on the issues. Only here can you read what he ‘really’ meant. Most people will not come this blog nor take the time to read his article on the internet to be able to access the link to her full answer. It would have been better had he explained himself in his article instead of only here.
On the candidates: Michele Bachman ‘spins’ her words to energize her supporters who are on the very religious right fringe of our society. She uses Republican talking points of fear mongering and hate filled rhetoric against minorities in our society. Patty Wetterling talks with people about the issues that they are truly concerned about in our state and in our world i.e., Health Care, Education, Immigration, Social Security, Medicare and Medicade, and the war in Iraq. Patty is willing to be a voice of reason in Washington, someone who knows how to bring pepple together to come up with the solutions that will be the best solutions for all Americans not just some Americans. I would rather elect someone who is “reasonable” than someone like Michele Bachmann who is divisive and out of touch.

Cathy Harrison says:

August 20th, 2006 at 9:18 am

I meant: how to bring people (not pepple) together.

Eva Young says:

August 20th, 2006 at 9:18 am

I’d encourage you to cover John Binkowski. Voters deserve to know about all options on the table.

When John Binkowski talked to me, he told me he supported a flat tax (or maybe a consumption or value added tax) and also wanted to get rid of the department of education. I haven’t heard Michele Bachmann talk about those things – and these are issues that are things many conservatives rally around.

Mike Grimes says:

August 20th, 2006 at 9:20 am

John Binkowski is far and away the best candidate in this race. He will win if the media comes close to fair coverage. Unfortunately it is very clear the media could care less about being fair. It would be nice if the media focused on candidates willing to debate the issues, rather then candidates who were recruited by a party simply because people know the name. John Binkowski is running because he wants to make a difference in this country. Patty Wetterling is running because the DFL begged her to run. Patty Wetterling had a chance to prove she was a legit candidate two years ago. The fact that people will be less likely to support Bachmann then Kennedy does not make Wetterling a more legitimate candidate. She has proved this time around to be even less ligament then two years ago, and if we need to limit one of the major candidates in this race to one sentence it should be Patty.

Paul Schersten says:

August 20th, 2006 at 9:36 am

Bachmann’s references to a “nuclear response” are quite weird. They do come out of nowhere, seemingly. Is is possible she was trying to reference a miitary response to their nuclear program? Just a thought. Not trying to defend her; just based on how bizarre it is.

dare2sayit says:

August 20th, 2006 at 9:54 am

The 5th District will no doubt vote in a liberal who will help put America in greater danger of a major Islamic terror attack. I don’t think voters in the 6th district will allow this to happen, I certainly won’t and will be voting for Michele Bachmann.

Eric Black says:

August 20th, 2006 at 10:23 am

In a comment above, Eva Young of Dump Bachmann points out that in the story (not the post) about this subject, I have the wrong first name on the pro-Bachmann blogger who talked about Wetterling’s rhetoric. She is right. It’s Jeff Kouba, not Paul. The error is mine and I regret it and apologize to Jeff Kouba. It’s now correct on the strib website. Thanks Eva.

Eva also questions the accuracy of the Bachmann anecdote about the school in Mass. where children were required to read a fairy tale about two princes who marry. She segues into a discussion of a different case in which she alleges that Bachmann made stuff up. I haven’t done the work on the other case, but on the one I cited, I did look into it.

The part about the Mass. school checks out, and is the best single anecdote I know to bach up Bachmann’s overall claim about the potential impact on schools of gay marriage legalization.

On the other hand, Bachmann’s overall statement is at best an exaggeration.

I did an extensive workup on this and, of course, it was too long and came out of the story (which was then still too long).

But, after taking my son to the Twins game today, and celebrating my daughter’s birthday this evening (it’s not too late to wish her happy birthday) I will dig up my notes and file a post about the fact-checking I did on that quote. It will be up by Monday a.m.

Gary Gross says:

August 20th, 2006 at 10:27 am

Labelling Michele Bachmann as an extremist because of her not taking military options off the table or because of where she stands on minimum wage is a difficult task at best.

Legislators deal with a wide range of issues on a daily basis. When Wetterling says that she isn’t wonkish, most voters will take that as meaning she lacks the gravitas for the job. Compare that with Michele Bachmann’s habit of answering questions on point with specificity and it’s impossible to convince me that this isn’t Michele Bachmann’s race for the taking.

Check out this link for more of my analysis.

Dave1028...Formerly Dave says:

August 20th, 2006 at 11:21 am

One thing that strikes me as odd or bugs me a little bit about Wetterling is her apparent lack of knowledge on the issues. She had two years to get up to date and prepare for this election. She is doing a dis-service to the voters by not being more informed.

As far as the nuclear statement by Bachmann, I think you were the first one to address it Paul, and it does seem to be more than a little bit out there. Clarification of her comment would be nice, because if she actually feels that a nuclear attack on Iran, or anywhere for that matter, is a viable option, then I think her coconut is truely cracked.

Pat Smith says:

August 20th, 2006 at 11:48 am

Eric Black, please check your comment filter/junk filter and allow my comment from last night. When I posted it, it said it was being “held for moderation”. It was pretty long and I don’t want to type it all again.

Cathy Harrison makes a good point upthread. Your Strib article uses only a short snippet of Wetterling’s answer on Iran, misleading readers to think she is being unclear. Analyzing both candidates’ statements, they are saying pretty much the same thing, using the same type of language. It is unfair to say that Patty Wetterling is unclear when Michele Bachmann is just as vague. It is doubly unfair to cherry-pick a quote from that long answer and use it to argue that she is unclear without even hinting that the longer answer gives a more complete context.

Geoff says:

August 20th, 2006 at 12:03 pm

Bachmann’s extremism is undeniable based on both her agenda of getting creationist/ID nonsense slipped into school science curricula, and her hysterical homophobia. We have real and urgent threats to security in this country, and gay marriage is nowhere on the list.

As for this statement:
“The 5th District will no doubt vote in a liberal who will help put America in greater danger of a major Islamic terror attack.”

You need to get ahold of yourself, put things in perspective, and start looking rationally at the situation. The threat to this country from Islamic groups is nowhere near as dire as the threat we faced for decades from the Soviet Union. Also, George Bush and the neocons have done nothing but make the situation worse after first being caught asleep at the wheel on 9/11. Even prominent conservatives are finally having to admit that the neocon strategy in Iraq and now in Lebanon via the Israelis is making us more enemies and also strengthening their hand, and though we can’t lose militarily, we have
lost our political standing. Our forces in Iraq have become irrelevant at best, so we have our people in harm’s way for not a good enough reason.

Chuck Hagel (no liberal) just this morning on Fox news said that the situation in Iraq is bad:

“It’s how do we get out of this mess. We’ve got a very unstable Middle East, I think the most unstable Middle East we’ve seen since 1948. And you can measure that any way you want. The fact is the future of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqi people just like it was in Vietnam.

The answer, in my opinion, is not to just keep feeding more American troops into it. The Iraqi people have already made some decisions here. We, in fact, are in probably a low grade, maybe a very defined, civil war.

You’ve got corruption everywhere, as bad as it’s ever been. You’ve got uncontrollables that we can’t control, we can’t deal with. Iran probably has more influence in Iraq than we do at this point.”


Paul Schersten says:

August 20th, 2006 at 12:08 pm

Or if she does believe it, what in blazes does she mean? Why does she mention it so readily rather than a more basic military response? Is she referring to tactical nukes to take out bunkers, which I believe (I’m not sure) according to some analyses would be the only way to reach the Iranian programs?

I’m pretty sure we’re gonna have to live with an Iran with nukes, incidentally.

Paul Schersten says:

August 20th, 2006 at 12:18 pm

Sorry – answering Dave there wiht my last one.

Geoff –

“The threat to this country from Islamic groups is nowhere near as dire as the threat we faced for decades from the Soviet Union.”

I think that’s a question separating people poltically on all this stuff.

Thought about one way, you’re right. Jihadists don’t have 40,000 nukes pointed at us. Although, there are scientists who seriously worry about cataclysmic bioterror attacks, not that they have the capacity now.

But thought about another way – likelihood of a major, society-rending attack – you’re not right. It’s far more likely that Islamists will at some point essentially take away one of our cities. The consequences of that – for our freedoms, for our economy, for societal stability – would be enormous.

I’m not saying it’s incredibly likely. But it’s not a ridiculous notion. And the Soviet threat, while huge, had become for all practical purposes essentially a vanishingly small one in terms of it actually being likely to occur by the mid-60′s to early 70′s. (I was alive and sentient.)

Gary Gross says:

August 20th, 2006 at 1:37 pm

Chuck Hagel (no liberal) just this morning on Fox news said that the situation in Iraq is bad…

Chuck Hagel is a liberal Republican & won’t get past a primary challenge when he runs again. As for him saying that the situation in Iraq is bad isn’t news. He’s one of the gloomiest politicians I’ve ever seen on the issue.

He’s what conservatives like me call a ‘weenie’, meaning he’s a total pessimist and a mental midget. He isn’t a thinker. He just spouts whatever he reads in the Washington Post or NY Times.

eric zaetsch says:

August 20th, 2006 at 4:08 pm

One thing Eva Young did not say – she is GOP, not a Dem.

I post and comment on dumpbachmann, which she founded. My basic view is that Paul Wellstone was too middle of the road; so there is a spectrum of anti-Bachmann feeling and belief there.

My dislike of Bachmann arises in the creationism bent she wants to shoehorn into public education. She and state sen. Mike Jungbauer, 83 Sess, authored a bill based on the Santorum language; and on Discovery Institute’s “intelligent design” approach,

I call ID a total hoax but that is opinion. The judge in the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board largely agreed, however, but that is a trial court opinion only.

In EDWARDS v. AGUILLARD, 482 U.S. 578 (1987)the Court struck down a Louisiana bill on teaching creationism whenever evolution is taught. Hence, Discovery Intitute in Seattle, allied to Slade Gorton, hence conservative GOP, cooked “intelligent design” as a different flavor, different name, basic non-science, anti-science.

That is what the Dover school board struck down in Kitzmiller; and what Ann Coulter’s book takes too many hundreds of pages to wallow around and about the case for evolution being still undecided.

Science is not decided by popular vote, church, government or anything but peer review and modification. Evolution is evolving, most recently the extinction phenomena have been generally accepted as due to asteroid impact events causing great climatic disruption. Also, punctuated equilibrum is a more accepted view than a continuum of change.

If you want to read, Discovery Institute is an easy Google, and there is Panda’s Thumb to link into the other side.

The term “Santorum language” traces to that @$^#^!$!%&@#% from Pennsylvania, who insinuated convoluted and turgid language into the Conference Committee report for the No Child Left Behind Act [2001, I think]. The recent mischief in Kansas was over the Santorum language.

There are many reasons to dislike the prospect of Bachmann representing the district I live in, but her danger to education as we know it and trust it is the greatest cause to oppose her that I see.

She is not an innovator of bad education ideas, or of marriage amendment nonsense – she is a follower, but a zealous one.

The Bachmann family business is a DHS Rule 29 mental health clinic, which has a quite decided Christian counseling bent to it, and I feel that DHS may have crossed an Establishment Clause boundary in granting it that Rule 29 status – check the “mission statements” of the staff:

That’s a personal view, and unless or until a court challenge looks at it, there is only private opinion about where Establishment Clause lines are properly drawn.

An interesting unpublished Minnesota case deals with Christian hiring bias, outside of churches, which can discriminate – Rohland v. St. Cloud Christian School [2004]


eric zaetsch says:

August 20th, 2006 at 4:23 pm

A Bachmann education problem, she is jingoistic and anti-internationalism, despite a clear move of the world economy to a global dimension. She was endorsed in the past by Edwatch, and is kindred in view with them [an Eric Black archive item from before the GOP caucus noted her anti-UN views, yet if UN thinking, and weapons inspection truth had been heeded, we would not be mired as we are now in Iraq].

The “Freedom Fries” thinking arose when the French gave warnings of exactly the kind of insurgency to expect, because they were familiar with the northern Affrican colonial liberation efforts that DeGaulle ended by withdrawing troops. The present insurgency is what the French warned of; and they knew of the Sunni – Shiite situation because post-WW II, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were French “protectorates.”

Given Bachmann’s jingoist leanings, she would exacerbate things caused by the neo-cons rather than looking to champion any innovative exit strategy thinking.

Wetterling seems basically a quiet person, not a self-promoter to any measure; and she seems to think as she talks as opposed to having a mind like a steel trap already snapped closed.

With on open mind, she may seem vague, while Bachmann’s totally closed mind does not open her to any such perception.

Wetterling is the one of the two I would buy the used car from; that’s for sure, and not a bad bottom line thought.

eric zaetsch says:

August 20th, 2006 at 4:31 pm

One last thought – others can help here, before I was paying attention, Bachmann’s first opponent-ouster was Laidig, a GOP state senator who was centrist GOP, and not an idealogue by any measure.

I am told he also spoke more comprehensively, less in FOX style sound-bites, less like Bachmann – more toward the Wetterling demeanor, and people unfortunately went for the sizzle and not the steak.

From all I have heard Laidig was a quite decent and intelligent GOP person – not into divisive absolutist simple-minded rhetoric.

eric zaetsch says:

August 20th, 2006 at 6:37 pm

I read the main article twice now.

I believe that noncommittal issue spotting, recognizing complexities exist so that simple solutions are suspect, is what Wetterling displays.

Each candidate, in her own way conveys what to expect.

Bachmann will be a straight party-line fundamtalist-right wing GOP voter, and pretty much says so, if sent to DC.

Wetterling gives no 30-sec quick-fix, but the impression is she will go to DC skeptical of GOP leadership but also wanting to learn Dem leadership views, with an open mind before setting her mind.

If so, it would be false to posture some simplistic platform if wait-and-see is her gut instinct. She is being honest.

Bruce Vento was not indecisive, but when first running for Congress he would think on his feet more than after years there. Rhetorical meandering would be a term for it. Wetterling and Vento both taught math, and have analytical minds that fit math. If Wetterling turns out to be another Vento, the Sixth District will be lucky. There is nothing in what she says that indicates a committed party-line voting hack — the very thing Mark Kennedy is being criticized for, and the thing he is disclaiming.

Wetterling is already there, her own person going in with an open mind, and needs to disclaim nothing.

As a childrens’ advocate, she has been able to work with others without rancor. Bachmann had and lost a state senate party-leadership role. What does that say? Dick Day is pure GOP, but presumably not hard to work with – other GOP than Bachmann have done it and keep Day in leadership.

Bachmann’s own party in the state senate dumped her, didn’t they?

Gary Gross says:

August 20th, 2006 at 7:05 pm

For all Eric Zaetsch’s blather, the fact still is that Patty Wetterling is a lightweight on the issues. Her meandering, evasive answers are a sign that she’s either trying to hide a very liberal agenda or she’s clueless. She’s a radical on Iraq, calling for the bringing home of troops ASAP.

Wetterling knows that her values aren’t the majority view in the Sixth District:

Speaking to Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party elders at a Hemenway Forum luncheon in Oakdale, she said, ‘I’m not going to run for the 6th District. The numbers show me that … I will not win.’” (Bill Salisbury, “Wetterling A Stronger Senate Candidate, She Says She Won’t Run For 6th District Congressional Seat,” Pioneer Press, April 20, 2005)

Say whatever you want but I wouldn’t be betting much on a Wetterling victory celebration.

Ryan says:

August 20th, 2006 at 8:59 pm

The choice is between a pragmatic candidate and an ideologue. An optimistic candidate that talks of hope, and a pessimistic one who speads fear and hatred. Regardless of their ability to talk on their feet about foreign policy issues, there is no question who will be a better Representitive of Minnesota 6th.

Lets remember what the U.S. House’s role is on foreign policy: to advise and consent. Neither will be required to actually make foreign policy decisions- that rests in the hands of the executive branch (especially since congress “declaring war” is a thing of the past). Even treaties are only required to pass the Senate. So both candidates should be given a little bit of a pass on some of the nuances of international policy- although suggesting leaving the “nuclear option” open in Venezuela is a little alarming.

Domestic issues should be the focus here- considering the vast majority of Congress’s time and efforts are spend here. Patty has a record working with people from all ideological backgrounds (see her standing next to far right Rep. Jim Senesnbrenner a couple weeks ago during the Walsh sex offender bill signing) on strengthening our domestic security (Amber Alert system, state sex offender database, etc). I have yet to see Bachmann reach out and work with people of differing opinion. Even if you agree with her ideas, the fact is not many of her ideas have ever come to fruition because they lie outside the mainstream and she lacks the ability to build coalitions. You are left with a well versed, well spoken, parinoid cynic who lacks the ability to successfully progress any of her ideas. I think that is the most under reported element of MB- her complete inability to get anything done. Other than conceal and carry, (and I would give Sen. Pariseau more credit on that) she has acomplished very little in St. Paul other than create controversy.

Gary Gross says:

August 20th, 2006 at 10:28 pm

Ryan, That’s nonsense. You say that Congress’ role in foreign policy is that of advise & consent. Why should I vote for someone who doesn’t have a grasp of the issues?

The plain blunt truth is that Ms. Wetterling suffers from the same affliction as Ms. Klobuchar: a total lack of gravitas.

Pat Smith says:

August 20th, 2006 at 10:58 pm

1. Substance; weightiness
2. A serious or dignified demeanor

Gary, that’s hilarious! I think you have labeled the wrong candidate with “a total lack of gravitas.”

Let’s take definition #2 first. Michele Bachmann and “gravitas” should not be mentioned in the same sentence. Running away from her constituents to hide in the bathroom? Hiding in the bushes to spy on a group of gay protestors, whom she “loves,” but are still “part of Satan”? Please. This is hardly the kind of dignified behavior I expect from my congressperson.

Back to definition #1: Michele Bachmann is the real lightweight in this race. She’s great at talk and sound bites, but has accomplished little in her Senate career. I like Ryan’s quote above: she’s “a well versed, well spoken, par[a]noid cynic who lacks the ability to successfully progress any of her ideas.”

Gravitas, pshaw.

Gary Gross says:

August 20th, 2006 at 11:56 pm

Pat, Shame on you for suggesting that someone that hasn’t shown a willingness to get specific on any of the major issues of our time as being the one with gravitas.

What are you basing your opinion on?

The fact that Patty Wetterling has appeared confused about who said what about such a minor thing as the impeachment of a president? Or that she didn’t know that senators can’t start impeachment procedings? If that’s your definition of gravitas, then you’ve got awfully low standards for gravitas.

I’d bet that if she were asked in an impromptu interview (a) what rights were contained in the Bill of Rights; (b) what things should be taken into consideration in Iran policy; (c) what are/were the major law enforcement agencies with regard to immigration; and (d) where in the Constitution would she look for guidance on a President’s war powers, she’d get every one of those questions wrong and look clueless doing it.

If you want someone that doesn’t have a grasp of the issues representing you, then please don’t get in the way of those of us who take the major issues of the day seriously.

Chip says:

August 21st, 2006 at 8:30 am

Give me someone with an open mind (Wetterling) who is likely to listen to competing ideas from all sides anyday over someone who has a closed mind (Bachman) who is going to spend all her time trying to persuade others to her views.

We have too many partisan knee-jerk representatives in Washington, D.C. now and that hasn’t worked too well. How about trying to send some people with good hearts and open minds to see if we can get this Congress working together again.

Leo Pusateri says:

August 21st, 2006 at 5:43 pm

The problem with “open minds” is that sometimes they are so “open” that things begin to fall out.

A “good heart” without any working knowledge of history, our Constitution, or of perspective of just what it took to earn the freedoms that we enjoy today, is dangerous.

A “good heart” amounts to nothing when it cannot discern good from evil. After all, it has often been said (and well applied when it comes to liberalism) that “The road to hell is paved with “good” intentions.”

Andy Horstman says:

August 22nd, 2006 at 4:04 pm

It’s disappointing to read a respected writer think it shows deep thought to make clear, if insane, statements. Michelle Bachman offers nothing but more hateful discrimination and selfishness. If you truly want to speak out against incoherent political speech I’d have expected much more from you in the last six years. You certainly wouldn’t start with Patty Wetterling when Bush and his gang offer much more grist for the mill.

Carol B says:

August 28th, 2006 at 8:59 pm

People already know who Patty Wetterling is and what she has done. Her name conjures up a lot of recognition for “good deeds”. Uninformed people might think Michele Bachmann’s last name lacks the last “n” and she’s related somehow to the florists. For the politically uninitated, who would you pick? Also know this: Patty’s race against Kennedy in 2004 was obviously rigged. Anyone who has seen the screen shot of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website from the early morning of November 3, 2004 knows this. Votes were siphoned from Wetterling’s column and moved to 3rd party candidates, then later redistributed for a Kennedy “win”. How else did third party candidates in such a small district receive THOUSANDS of votes versus hundreds in all other Minnesota ongressional districts? With such a close race at this point, if Bachmann wins, there ought to be a full investigation of the election. There are active voters rights groups in the 6th district and elsewhere who are ready and watching this and other races closely for any and all signs of chicanery. Don’t think that just because we use paper ballots the results can’t be altered. The state uses Diebold electronic tabulation. Read about Harri Hursti to learn how easy it is to break into a Diebold memory card using only a screwdriver, throw a dip switch, and flip an entire race WITHOUT DETECTION.

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big_question » Blog Archive » Bachmann the Anti-Totalitarian says:

November 7th, 2006 at 4:13 pm

[...] Sen. Michele Bachmann’s possible rhetorical overreach, consistent with the theme of “Is Bachmann too Extreme? Is Wetterling coherent enough?” While covering the May [...]

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