WASHINGTON — A long-time National Press Club member said she’d rarely seen the club as full as it was Thursday for a speech by Minnesota Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.
Flanked by her husband, Marcus, two of her daughters and a panel that included journalists like Christiane Amanpour, Bachmann used her Press Club speech to detail her opposition to raising the debt ceiling and eviscerate President Barack Obama’s economic policy.
Recognizing her audience, Bachmann largely abandoned her bubbly campaign persona, though she recycled several trusty lines from the stump (like when she highlighted the “titanium spine” she’ll use to stand up to raising the debt ceiling). None of her speech broke new ground, though it was focused almost exclusively on economic policy and her criticism of both Obama and the debt ceiling plans currently under consideration at the Capitol.
“Obama has asked for a $2.4 trillion blank check to get him through the 2012 election,” she said. “Still the president has no plan. It’s unthinkable but he still has no plan.”
Bachmann offered few specifics of what economic policies she would pursue as president. She said she would be a pro-growth president who would fight against tax and spending increases and pass on the savings to the American people.
“The more government spends, the more it taxes. The more it taxes, the less money there is for the private sector to create jobs,” she said. “I will not raise taxes. I will reduce spending. And I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling.”
A ‘flawed assumption’
Bachmann reiterated her belief that the economic calamity caused a failure to raise the debt limit predicted by the White House, the Treasury Department and politicians on both sides of the aisle is overblown. She pointed to a plan she introduced to prioritize spending on the interest on the nation’s debt and salaries for members of the military should the country lose its ability to borrow money.
“Obama should take the option of default off the table,” she said.
Bachmann used the debt limit debate to paint herself a populist whose resolute opposition to raising the limit was based in the opinions of everyday Americans.
“All of [the plans] begin with a flawed assumption that we must raise the debt limit,” she said. “The American people have made it abundantly clear that they don’t want an increase in the debt limit.”
She said she wouldn’t consider any of the debt plans currently being considered at the Capitol. Surprising no one, she said she will vote against the Boehner plan on Thursday night and would oppose any legislation that does not defund Obama’s health care reform law Congress passed last year.
Bachmann pointed to her partial support of the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, which the House passed last week. She signed the titular pledge but opposed the legislation when it was on the floor because it did not include a repeal of the health care law.
“The bill simply did not go far enough to fundamentally restructure the way this city spends money,” she said. “We must repeal and defund Obamacare as part of any solution to our current debt crisis.
“Just ask [voters]. Hop on my bus. You’ll see what the American people are saying.”
Bachmann never criticized Republican leadership plans for raising the limit, choosing instead to keep the focus solely on Obama. She latched on to a remark from Obama’s nationally televised address Monday night when he referred to the routine debt limit increases Congress has undertaken since the limit was instituted more than half a century ago. Bachmann took umbrage with the statement.
“That’s the problem — it’s become the ‘routine’ thing that is done here in Washington D.C.,” she said. “The American people have said enough. Where is their champion who will finally put down his — or her — foot down and say no?”
No answers on her husband’s business
Bachmann fielded several questions from the audience on a range of issues, but she noticeably sidestepped when asked about her husband’s controversial therapy business that former patients say seeks to cure them of their homosexuality.
“I’m running for president of the United States,” she said. “My husband is not running for the presidency. Neither are our children. Neither is our business.”
She got a couple of softballs and offered a detailed response to a question that tripped up Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin in 2008: What news sources do you read?
Bachmann said she uses her iPad to read news, but that she still has a “love affair with the printed page.” She said she generally consumes news outlets with a liberal lean, including MSNBC, the Huffington Post and the Daily Beast.
Asked if she thought the media had been too tough on her presidential run, she offered an anecdote from her childhood.
“I had three brothers and no sisters … and there is no better preparation for politics than that,” she said, saying her parents would sometimes warn her brothers, “‘Don’t pick on your sister, it’s not going to work.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org