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Michele Bachmann’s legacy: prototype of today’s post-fact politician

REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Rep. Michele Bachmann shown speaking at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation's "Presidential Summit on Spending and Job Creation" in Manchester, N.H., on April 29, 2011.

In her elegant video announcing her retirement from the U.S. House, Michele Bachmann said that she wore the attacks of the liberal media as a badge of honor.

It’s not true. But the fact-checking sites that have published countless slams on her inaccuracies won’t score that one. In fact, on Planet Bachmann, all those “pants on fire” ratings were more evidence of the liberal media conspiracy to bring her down because of her devotion to what she took to calling “constitutional conservative” principles. She did learn how to turn the hostility of the mainstream media into a political asset. But it’s bull.

The fact-checkers were hard on Bachmann because she constantly got her facts wrong. After a while, it became clear that she was the prototype of the 21st century post-fact politician.

I’ve covered Bachmann since her first race for Congress. She is the queen of getting her facts wrong. Perhaps, on Planet Bachmann, this is also a badge of honor. She didn’t need no stinkin’ facts. Whole books could be – and were – written to catalogue her provable falsehoods. She may think that those, too, were motivated by animus. Surely, some of her critics and opponents hated her for her ideology. But she never could and never did accept the (apparently outdated) premise that before you can argue about what the government should or shouldn’t do, you are supposed to get your facts right so the argument can be about what policy is best.

It makes me sad that, in the end, her political career was not ended by the latest — nor the accumulation — of her falsehoods. Jim Graves, the Democrat who almost beat her last year, didn’t even bother running against her for her falsehoods. By 2012, Bachmann had succeeded in establishing that – at least in the context of her very successful 12-year (counting her service in the Minnesota Senate) political career – facts don’t matter.

Her farewell statement, released in the night as she departed on a trip to Russia, was full of the kind of arguable, credibility-straining assertions that are normal in politics. She isn’t retiring because of any concern about holding her seat. The FBI investigation of potential violations during her presidential campaign has nothing to do with it either. It has something weird to do with the fact that presidents are limited to eight years.

Right. And that thing about the president being term-limited, that’s a fact.

p.s. I’ll be on KMSP-TV, the local Fox affiliate, sometime during the 9 p.m. hour, to talk about the Bachmann news.

Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 05/29/2013 - 11:20 am.

    My Prediction

    holds true. The ‘handwriting’ was so evident given the happenings of the past couple of months, in addition to Mr. Graves’ narrow loss in 2012 coupled with his recent reentry.

    Even a narrow narcissistic thinker like Michelle could not miss the clues which were so prevalent, especially recently. There will be the’ hangers-oners’ who will morn her passing, but the 6th will gain respectability given they do not latch on to another ego-maniac as their GOP flag bearer.

  2. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 05/29/2013 - 11:35 am.

    You nailed it

    As far as I know, you and MinnPost were the first news outlet to predict Bachmann would not run in 2014.

    Hat tip. I’ll be watching KMSP-TV tonight.

  3. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 05/29/2013 - 11:37 am.

    I never understood why our local major media–including Mr. Black’s former employer–either willfully or negligently ignored Rep. Bachmann’s antics. Go back to here initial race for Stillwater School Board, or her primary against long-time Senator Gary Laidig. She has blazed a trail of head-shaking statements and actions.

    How can you take seriously someone who hides behind the shrubbery outside the state capitol to watch a gay rights rally? How can you trust someone who told blatant lies about Patty Wetterling? How can we feel adequately represented by someone who paid nothing more than lip service to the transportation needs of the northwest quadrant of the district?

    The puff pieces that were done were, at best, hackery, and at worse lazy journalism.

    But I certianly was looking forward to Bacmhann-Graves 2.0.

  4. Submitted by jody rooney on 05/29/2013 - 11:40 am.

    Couldn’t she just leave now and make us all happier

    Then the Governor could appoint Mr. Graves and we could be on to saner representation.

    • Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 05/29/2013 - 12:55 pm.

      Unfortunately that’s only with senators

      House seats sit open until there’s a special election.

      Speaking of senators, is she dropping out to run for senate? The MNGOP is having trouble finding anyone to challenge Franken. If they don’t hope to beat him, maybe Republicans will go for maximum entertainment value.

      • Submitted by Jon Austin on 05/29/2013 - 02:00 pm.

        No chance…

        Ms. Bachmann had a decent chance – though maybe less than 50/50 – of hanging on to her Congressional seat in the most conservative (and gerrymandered) district in the state. Statewide, her electability is near zero; she would certainly do better than Kurt Bills against Amy Klobuchar (65-31), but I suspect it’d be 55-45 for Franken.

        We should be so lucky.

        • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/29/2013 - 06:11 pm.


          Once again, the politicians failed to agree to a redistricting plan and lines were drawn by independent judges. There was no gerrymandering.

          But we all had a good laugh when Rep. Bachmann sent out a fundraising letter lamenting how “liberal judges redistricted her out of the 6th district.” (paraphrasing)

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/29/2013 - 09:04 pm.

            The lines were drawn

            by a panel of independent judges, but they didn’t start from scratch (there have been a lot of proposals for a ground up redistricting that look a lot more rational than what we have now). Take a look at my first district: a narrow strip across the bottom of the state.
            Rather, the judges attempted to maintain as much as possible the existing political structures taking into account accumulated population shifts. So there is some legacy of previous gerrymandering.

            • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 05/30/2013 - 06:19 am.

              Just When?

              The courts re-drew lines in 2010, 2000, as well as (I believe) 1980 and 1970. The DFL legislature drew the lines in 1990 after Gov. Carlson messed up his veto.

              If the GOP drew the lines, it hasn’t been in my lifetime, and the last party drawn lines were by the DFL.

  5. Submitted by T J Simplot on 05/29/2013 - 11:42 am.

    Nice exit

    She’s one of my least favorite politicians but even if she was one of my favorites I would not respect the fact that she resigned via an email announcement and then left the country. That tells me a lot about her.

  6. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 05/29/2013 - 11:47 am.

    Let me be among the first. . .

    to congratulate you, Eric, on predicting her retirement in April. I assumed she would go on and on until,., well, I don’t know. I quit trying to imagine the country’s increasingly moronic and dysfunctional political landscape without her a long time ago. Maybe there’s hope for this country yet.

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/29/2013 - 12:03 pm.

    What will the House Intelligence Committee do now?

    So many theories yet to be explored.

    She has had a slice of America as a fan base, but as the Iowa primary conclusively showed (and he previous election results showed), it was not a wide fan base, even in the Republican party.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/29/2013 - 01:36 pm.


      brings to mind the old joke about Minnesota ceding its southern counties to Iowa and raising the IQ of both states.

  8. Submitted by Jon Austin on 05/29/2013 - 12:12 pm.


    Ms. Bachmann’s announcement was many things, but “elegant” is not a word that comes to mind. “Stilted?” Yes. “Over-produced?” Yes. “Surreal?” Yes. “Elegant?” No.

    It will be interesting to watch Ms. Bachmann over the remainder of her term. Will she vanish into well-deserved obscurity as a lame-duck or will she – freed of having to submit herself to the voters – aspire to new heights of irresponsibility and inaccuracy? Fact-checkers everywhere are holding their collective breath in anticipation.

  9. Submitted by Jim Camery on 05/29/2013 - 12:14 pm.

    The only thing I’m sad about

    is that Karl Bremer didn’t live to see this day.

  10. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/29/2013 - 12:51 pm.

    Bachmann and term limits

    Check out Salon today for Bachmann’s previous comments on term limits. Once again she can’t be bothered to give the truth for why she is quitting, but then why start now? I’m sure Fox or Cartoon Network will have a place for her. Is CBN still around? I’d love to see a show patterned on Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker and their old show with Michele and her rather odd hubby. That would be too good!

  11. Submitted by Geo. Greene on 05/29/2013 - 03:50 pm.

    Our Alternate Universe

    For someone who grew up in the Space Age, back when science and reason were held in high regard, it is sad to see so many “post-fact” (love that) politicians like Bachmann paid attention to at all.

    Evolution, the most settled theory in science, is opposed with trumped up junk science promoted by preachers. Scientists must be wrong about global warming, but oil companies must be right. Bachmann and her party like science when it makes them money and hate it if it might cost a company some money to preserve public health or safety. An unfettered free market is assumed to be inherently benevolent, yet we’ve just seen what evils deregulation and greedy bankers can do to an economy.

    While I respect my fellow American’s right to an opinion, I am under no obligation to respect the opinion itself if it’s willfully grounded in ignorance.

  12. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/30/2013 - 07:55 am.

    Ten years and zero accomplishments

    I guess what the 6th district wanted all along was zero accomplishments. They got what they wanted. Bachmann will likely end up with not a single bill to her name that was signed into law. All of her nonsense has caught up with her self defined titanium spine.

    Bachmann will end up in one of the many Republican “Think Tanks”. Their think tanks are where all their leading edge crackpot ideas come from. They will have their perfect person if they can snare Michele. Bachmann has proven you don’t need facts to gather in the spotlight, just what think tanks want.

  13. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/15/2013 - 05:51 pm.

    Obama and facts

    Mr. Black – it seems you were very much concerned about Michele Bachmann and her use of “facts.” In fact, you called her a “post-fact politician.” (5/29/13 – Minnpost)

    However –now you are discounting the obvious and repeated and blatant falsehoods of President Obama.
    Is Mr. Obama a “post-fact Politician?” If he is – “What difference does in now make?”

    Applying different standards to different politicians is more about politics than journalism.

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