Bachmann preaches to the choir

Rep. Michele Bachmann
MinnPost/Raoul Benavides
Rep. Michele Bachmann

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann opened the TV version of her reelection campaign yesterday with a simple message: Her DFL opponent, state Sen. Tarryl Clark, has voted for tax increases often during her career in the Legislature. It’s an almost insultingly simple message, but many small government conservatives have done well with it, and it has the undeniable merit of being true.

The same cannot be said for a Bachmann fundraising appeal that fell into my hands recently. It contains one fairly colossal whopper that FactCheck.org examined months ago and denounced as a “wildly inaccurate” partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and “compounded by outright misrepresentation,” a second falsehood that treats an unofficial projection of the debt in the year 2020 as if it has already occurred and engages in such over-the-top rhetoric about the dangers of top Democrats that you know it would fly only with the already-converted base of Bachmann supporters for whom a letter like this is intended.

Picking up on that last point first, this is a fundraising letter, not an advertisement for a general audience. It is mailed to recipients whom the campaign believes are potential contributors, not by swing voters who might be offended such over-the-top stuff.  This is normal. Fundraising letters often throw out red meat. Still it seems reasonable to hold a candidate accountable any public or semi-public communications that go out over her name.

Case 1: The letter, which never mentions Tarryl Clark and is mostly an attack by name on Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama, says that Pelosi and Obama “rammed a socialized medicine plan through Congress that’s so expensive it requires 16,500 new IRS agents just to make sure you are paying plenty of taxes to fund it.”

The case of the 16,500 new IRS agents
You can argue about some of the word choices, like “socialized medicine” (I would call that one false) or even “rammed through.” But focus on the one hard fact asserted, the 16,500 new IRS agents. It borders on nonsense.

I asked the Bachmann campaign for its source and was referred to this piece from the free righty paper The Washington Examiner. The assertion about IRS agents traces back to a study by the Republican staff of the Ways and Means Committee, which took a statement from a CBO estimate of the cost of the big health care bill and made several transparently unsafe assumptions.

Here is how FactCheck.org rated the statement. The IRS apparently will need some new employees to implement its responsibilities under the Obamacare law, but the number assigned by the Republicans is a significant exaggeration and, if you care, the task of the new hires will not be “to make sure you are paying plenty of taxes to fund it.” Rather, FactCheck wrote, their task will be “to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance.”

The tripling of the debt?
The Bachmann letter also asserts that the team of Pelosi and Obama “have TRIPLED our national debt, spent Trillions we don’t have on massive new government programs we don’t need, and as a result 3.6 million more Americans are now unemployed.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

The national debt has definitely grown since Obama took office, but it hasn’t doubled and certainly not tripled. Bachmann blundered on her debt calculation previously, when she switched back and forth between the two different ways the national debt is calculated in order to overstate the growth of the debt during Obama’s first year.

But even that exaggeration only made the debt double under Obama (it didn’t, but it has certainly grown). And at first I assumed that the fund-raising letter was making the same mistake again. But when I asked for the source, Bachmann campaign spokester Sergio Gor referred me to this piece by the Heritage Foundation, which says that based on various assumptions not shared by the administration, the debt is on a path to triple by 2020 from the debt Obama inherited from his predecessor.

I certainly hope that won’t happen, but if it does it will still be a far cry from a Bachmann statement made in a 2010 letter to potential donors claiming that the tripling had already occurred.

The damage to the Constitution?
The fund-raising letter says:

“Nancy Pelosi and President Obama are systematically undermining the foundations of our Constitution, our democracy, our economy and our freedom.”

President Barack Obama
REUTERS/Bob Strong
President Obama

Regular readers of Black Ink know that I am fairly obsessed with the Constitution and with the claim of Tenthers, including Bachmann, that Obama routinely violates the Constitution by grabbing new powers not properly delegated by the charter.

When I read the statement in the fundraising letter, I assumed that Bachmann was making the same argument, and perhaps she was. When I asked spokester Gor for the most specific backup he could provide for the statement about the damage to the Constitution, his reply was fairly general. It read:

“When referring to ‘systematically undermining the foundations of our Constitution’ Congresswoman Bachmann is referring to the shocking power grabs, the fundamental changes in our way of life that this Congress is imposing and the broad definition which this administration has twisted the Constitution into, only to fit their activist agenda. There is not one aspect we can point at; it’s the general attitude towards reforming or changing what the Constitution has meant all these years.”

What think?

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/25/2010 - 09:56 am.

    Picking nits. It’s kind of like when the Mark Dayton ad refers to Emmer’s DUIs but fails to mention they were from 20 and 30 years ago. People roll their eyes. It’s election season. Red meat is on the menu.

  2. Submitted by John E Iacono on 08/25/2010 - 09:56 am.

    May we see the letter, please?

    Context would be nice.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/25/2010 - 10:00 am.

    Typical. When reality isn’t on your side you have to obscure and distort. I just wonder how many people actually buy into this nonsense.

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/25/2010 - 10:02 am.

    What do I think? I think the Republican party, during the time of Reagan embraced the bald faced lie as a campaign strategy and they never let go. For quite a number of years I voted as a moderate switching between parties but once the lies and distortions and voodoo economics started, I could never vote for the Republicans again. Now, even more than ever, the party is controlled by the former Birchers and Klan people and state militia fanatics that want nothing more than to destroy our country and our government so that they can gain control. Bachman is an idiot and a tool for the billionaires that want to take over our political and economic system.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/25/2010 - 10:27 am.

    “What think?”

    I think I don’t know whether I’m more mad at voters who don’t know or don’t care. What’s the matter with MN-6?

  6. Submitted by L.A. Krahn on 08/25/2010 - 11:09 am.

    Thanks for the analysis – did the letter at least credit the authors of this work of fiction? The creative team behind Representative Bachmann’s brand of dangerous zaniness deserve their proper kudos.

  7. Submitted by Nila Ouska on 08/25/2010 - 11:47 am.

    I was going to comment on Ms Bachman but realized I didn’t even know where to start. She’s truly amazing and scary. Her attacks on the President and others in the Democratic party are malicious even for a politician and her lies are non-stop. My son is a Republican and he won’t say anything about her other than he thinks she’s to bad to talk about. I can only hope other Republicans are becoming aware of this and she loses her public platform so some of the hate-mongering can stop.

  8. Submitted by Tim Larson on 08/25/2010 - 11:50 am.

    //Typical. When reality isn’t on your side you have to obscure and distort.

    Just like “Recovery Summer” huh.

  9. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 08/25/2010 - 11:59 am.

    I don’t think these lies and distortions are ANYTHING like “when the Mark Dayton ad refers to Emmer’s DUIs but fails to mention they were from 20 and 30 years ago”. Dayton’s ad was true but left out info some people feel is relevant. That’s different than lies – and they (Bachmann and her campaign) know it.

  10. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/25/2010 - 12:04 pm.

    Bill Schletzer comes at this from much the same viewpoint that I do. There was a time – long ago – when there were reasonable Republicans. No more. At least, not that I’ve come across. Tom Horner, in those years long ago, would have fit comfortably in the Republican Party. Now he has to run as an independent because he’s too far left for the current version of the party.

    That said, John Iacono has a point. Context does make a difference, and a link to the letter would help. It would also, of course, provide “red meat” for those (me included) who tend to think Bachmann is an embarrassment to both her Congressional District and the state.

  11. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 08/25/2010 - 12:27 pm.

    Paul,
    “How many people buy into this nonsense”? Unfortunately, far too many.

    The answer would be a combination of the numbers from the following questions: 1)How many recipients actually read it before sending a a check in response to it? 2) How many do any of the research Eric did to see if it’s factual? and 3) How many send send a check after reading it?

  12. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/25/2010 - 12:38 pm.

    Business as usual.
    What’s scary is not that Bachmann says it, but that (some) people believe it.

    And Bill; I’d trace the current Republican Big Lie approach to Nixon.

  13. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/25/2010 - 01:18 pm.

    A stray thought that is only tangentially related to this thread; Sen Harry Reid is hitting his opponent, Sharron Angle, hard for her statement (technically her agreement with a statement) that there are some in Congress who are ‘enemies’. Over at WaPost they’re reporting it as a call for Angle to start naming names, or cut the inappropriate rhetoric. I wonder, if Tinklenberg had called Rep Bachmann on similar statements 2 years ago, would the outcome have been different? The way I recall it (correct me if I’m wrong), Rep Bachmann basically skated on her statements; while Dems/liberals reacted through donations to Tink, nobody really pushed back and demanded that Bachmann prove her assertions. Why not?

  14. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/25/2010 - 01:26 pm.

    Brian–
    BAchmann’s statements are not about being true; they’re about whether people WANT to believe them. I doubt that proof would affect very many voters.

  15. Submitted by Jacklyn Arzio on 08/25/2010 - 02:40 pm.

    I have always thought that Minnesota had some of the country’s finest citizens; independent people of intelligence, honor and integrity who value hard work and honesty. It is hard to understand why you would elect someone like Michele Bachmann. I just don’t get it.

    She loves the limelight and spends her time on self promotion not the State’s work. Her rhetoric is viscious and untruthful and often just plain ignorant. You really deserve better.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/26/2010 - 09:53 am.

    //Just like “Recovery Summer” huh.

    I don’t know what your referring to Tim, but if someone else somewhere else is distorting the truth and deliberately lying to people for political gain, that’s wrong. As John I. like to say when someone points out that private sector workers are just as inefficient as government workers, two wrongs don’t make a right.

  17. Submitted by Elsa Mack on 08/26/2010 - 10:22 am.

    What strikes me as most disingenuous is her spokesman’s failure to list a single actual example of Obama trampling the constitution or over-reaching his powers. He simply restates the original claim in a longer phrase. Meanwhile, members of Bachmann’s own party want to literally rewrite portions of the constitution and scream bloody murder when freedom of religion is exercised by a religion different from their own.

  18. Submitted by John E Iacono on 08/26/2010 - 04:04 pm.

    I believe the “big lie” traces back to Goebbels in the nazi regime in the early ’30’s.

    He said “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it often enough, people will believe there must be something to it.”

    It worked for Hitler, and politicians all over the globe, both sides of the aisle, have embraced his dictum with alacrity.

    Want to see the next one? Turn on your TV, no matter which side is speaking.

    Keep in mind also that “the false is never so false as when it’s ALMOST true.”

    My solution: ignore all words. Watch for tone, and if it is negative, make a mental strike against that candidate. If it is positive in tone, score one for that candidate. Count up on election day, and cast your vote.

    Horner scored one today, as did Emmer yesterday with the one about his kids.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/27/2010 - 10:00 am.

    Ignore words, focus on tone. Our democracy is doomed.

  20. Submitted by Eric Bunnell on 08/29/2010 - 08:17 pm.

    I love facts,..
    Fact. Obama promiced that Obama care would raise taxes. Fact, he is defending people appealing Obamacare by saying congress has the right to tax.

    So I guess that when California bluecross and blue shield raised their prices 30%, and Obama gave them a stern talking to, I guess Obama know it wouldn’t raise taxes.

    Fact… Cost of living goes up higher then inflation every day. Thanks to the dead weight Obama has been throwing on the economy, it won’t get better. Did you know they used to say, spend 1/4th your income on housing, now it’s half. Then the car, car insurance, ect… I guess phone can be considered a cost of living expence since there are programs to subsidize people for that too.

    Fact… $787,000,000,000 was borrowed from China, one of the biggest human rights violators who kill their employees of the state in order to bring them to the number two economy in the world.
    This $787,000,000,000 saved or created 2,800,000 jobs. That is 281,071.43 per job… and it wasn’t enough because they had to spend another 26,000,000,000 dollars to save or create 300,000 teacher jobs. That is 86,666.67 dollars per job. I guess Obama gave teachers a raise in this ressession.

    But facts are worthless when you are running this country by fundementals. Like the fundemental right for illegal imigrants to live here. As secretary of state hillary roddam clinton annouced to the UN, ‘Fighting the Arazona Law was one of the greater things the Obama admedestration has done for human rights.’ Just like Al Sharpton marched to protect Cival Rights, and ended up clashing with Glen Beck (whom the newspapers can’t help but note is predomenently white) in order to fight to protect cival rights. In fact, he said that Glen Beck was hijacking cival rights, and they don’t need to go to his side and defend the honor and values that created America as a Great Nation.

    But facts are only here to prop up ideals.

  21. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/01/2010 - 06:26 pm.

    Mr. Bunnell–
    You make a great case for increased funding for education.

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