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

She never could accept that politicians are supposed to get their facts right so the argument can be about what policy is best.

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.
REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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 But she never could and never did accept the (apparently outdated) premise that before you can argue about what the government should or shouldn’t do, you are supposed to get your facts right so the argument can be about what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.

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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.