Watching Bachmann during Obama’s address

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two of the most conspicuous figures in the audience at Wednesday night’s Joint Session of Congress were women with almost identical first names but little else in common.

Rep. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann

One, of course, was Michelle Obama, who received a standing ovation when she arrived in the House visitors’gallery minutes before her husband exhorted lawmakers to help him overhaul the nation’s healthcare system — and perhaps regain the political momentum he lost during an August dominated by angry outbursts from critics of his far-reaching plan.
The tall, elegant First Lady, wearing a peach colored dress and flanked by Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife and a bevy of people who’ve had trouble paying for their health-care bills, including a 62-year-old farmer’s wife from Carrington, N.D., was in full campaign mode, beaming at supporters and flashing the thumbs up sign.

The other was Rep. Michele Bachmann, not as tall but equally elegant in a black dress that matched her mood, who was conspicuous for a different reason. Sitting directly in front of the president six rows back on the GOP side of the packed chamber, the outspoken — often outrageously so — socially conservative Minnesota Republican made it clear she wasn’t there to lend a helping hand to Obama, as she did while planting a prolonged kiss on President George W. Bush at his 2007 State of the Union speech.
In fact, Bachmann could barely bring herself to acknowledge Obama’s presence. Demonstrating what must be the weakest effort at applause ever, she slowly brought her hands together when Obama arrived. But that was even more effort than she could muster during most of the 44 times —  I counted them — when Obama’s speech was greeted by applause.
On a number of those times, when Obama received standing ovations even from Republicans, she was the only member who remained sitting. And on many occasions, when her colleagues applauded Obama, she feebly patty-caked the back of one hand with another instead of bringing her palms together.
Disdainful attitude
I was sitting in the press gallery, above Obama, whom I couldn’t see, and in front of Bachmann, whom I could. As I watched her, I became fascinated with her demeanor. I’ve watched every president from Lyndon Johnson to Obama address joint sessions of Congress, including every State of the Union speech since 1966, and I’ve never seen anyone display the disdainful attitude toward a president as Bachmann did.
Thankfully, she didn’t sink to the depths of Rep. Joe Wilson, the out-of-control South Carolina Republican who cried out “You lie!” when Obama said reports that his reform effort would insure illegal immigrants were false. (With Gov. Mark Sanford’s recent extra-marital adventures in Argentina, South Carolina is the only state that’s had a worse summer than Obama.)
As I watched Bachmann, who frequently chatted with an equally disinterested colleague — I think it was Florida’s Ginny Brown-Waite, but I’m not sure — I began to record her reactions as members, sometimes mostly Democrat but often many Republicans as well, rose to give Obama standing ovations:  Here are some of them:
• Obama cites two “heart-breaking” examples of people betrayed by insurance companies and declares, “No one should be treated that way in the United States of America.” (Bachman remains sitting, patty-cake applause).
• Obama declares that under his plan, “it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of pre-existing condition.” (Bachmann rises belatedly, weak applause).
• Obama promises to place a limit on out-of-pocket expenses “because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.” (Bachmann remains sitting, weak applause).
• Obama says: “It’s time to give every American the same opportunity that we’ve given ourselves” as members of Congress. (Bachmann remains sitting, no applause).
• Obama calls GOP Sen. John McCain’s proposal during the 2008 presidential campaign to create an insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance at competitive prices “a good idea” then and “a good idea now, and we should embrace it.” (Bachman remains sitting, no applause.)
• Obama: “We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick.” (Bachmann remains sitting, weak applause).
• Obama: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future. Period.” (Bachmann, sitting but applauding).
About the only times Bachmann was able to shake off her lethargy was when she jumped to her feet to join Republicans as they waved copies of the GOP healthcare proposal when Obama said that “we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have,” and when he indicated he would not insist on a public option provision as part of his plan.
Hosting a town hall meeting
I guess it’s fair to conclude that Bachmann, the first Repblican woman elected to Congress from Minnesota, won’t be applauding Obama when he comes to Minneapolis on Saturday to talk about his health care plan. Actually, she’ll be hosting a town hall meeting on health care reform that day in her central Minnesota district in St. Cloud.
But don’t expect her to keep a low profile. She is, after all, Minnesota’s second most Googled politician — she currently has 1.04 million hits on the Internet search engine, second only to new Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s 3.98 million — and may regain her high visibility by repeating her charge that Obama’s health care plan includes “death panels” that will pull the plug on aging seniors.
Or maybe she’ll just call again, as she did in 2008, for the media to investigate Obama and other members of Congress for anti-American bias, or insist that carbon dioxide is a harmless gas that doesn’t cause global warming and declare, as she did last March, that she wants Minnesotans “armed and dangerous” to fight Obama’s proposed cap and trade tax policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Or perhaps she’ll just argue that evolution is a theory that has never been proven.
And maybe she’ll even make it really interesting and reveal that God wants her to run for president.

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Comments (26)

  1. Submitted by Joe Johnson on 09/11/2009 - 08:25 am.

    Minnpost has reached a new low in Bachmann fantasying. They actually had someone watch her for the entire speech. That’s 60 minutes eye molesting. Is this journalism or stocking.

  2. Submitted by John O'Sullivan on 09/11/2009 - 09:05 am.

    I’m no fan of Bachmann, but I find it hard to fault her for her half-hearted applause. It’s all just pageantry, anyway. No one is genuinely moved to their feet by the words of a president anymore. The party leaders know the media is going to be counting minutes of applause and number of standing ovations. If it were up to me, I’d say congress should rise during the entry and exit of a president and applaud when the speech moves them to, but this business of subjectively judging how enthusiastic a representative’s applause is seems quite banal. There are a lot of other better things to criticize Bachmann for, aren’t there?

  3. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 09/11/2009 - 09:10 am.

    Joe, I agree. It was stocking. And stocking is not journalism. Stocking is what the teenagers do at night in Walmart. Having said that, I’m glad Albert Eisele took advantage of his perfect spot for Bachmann viewing and observed her closely, sharing his observations with us. I only wish he’d had a video camera.

  4. Submitted by Ed Stych on 09/11/2009 - 09:17 am.

    Seriously, you had nothing better to do than stare at Bachmann for the entire speech? This is just silly.

  5. Submitted by CJ Sinner on 09/11/2009 - 09:31 am.

    erm, did Obama make the same remark about out-of-pocket expenses and not going broke when sick twice, or did that somehow get into the list twice? As for Bachmann, normally her pageantry wouldn’t interest me, but when she’s the ONLY member of Congress to remain seated for most of those times, that’s newsworthy and notable to me. Clearly, she’s trying to make a point … and unfortunately, this article will likely give her the signal that someone noticed it enough for her to count herself successful. Not that it shouldn’t have been written — but she probably wanted to be noticed.

  6. Submitted by Tom Knisely on 09/11/2009 - 09:37 am.

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! This is such a non-story. If you could go back and watch Betty McCullom during any Bush address to Congress you’d get the exact same reactions. The Bachmann hysteria on this site is amusing.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/11/2009 - 09:45 am.

    Wow. Just wow.

  8. Submitted by Justin Heideman on 09/11/2009 - 09:50 am.

    Thanks for the report, unlike the above commenters, I find it very interesting. Bachman’s disconnectedness with reality and her deep-seated distrust of our president IS news.

  9. Submitted by Chris Savage on 09/11/2009 - 09:52 am.

    Stocking? Really? Two Bachman supporters aren’t familiar with the work “stalking”?

    Okay, THAT explains SOOOOOO much…

    This woman is guano-crazy. I’d be mortified if my representative acted the way she acts and this bit of childish behavior during his address is minor compared to most of what she does/says. Our president is on the right side of the issues if Bachman is showing him disdain, that’s for sure.

  10. Submitted by myles spicer on 09/11/2009 - 10:26 am.

    The most interesting part of this story is the “hits” her website gets. Clearly (and pathetically) the Republican Party has been captured by the Bachmanns, Limbaughs, Becks, and Palins of the world. This is now nothing more than a fringe party run by a combination of right wing ideologues and …kooks!

  11. Submitted by Kristy Grieger on 09/11/2009 - 10:33 am.

    (1) I’m sure the statement about limiting out-of-pocket expenses is a mistake in posting it twice.

    (2) It would have been stalking (correct spelling, right?) if he was behind her and to the LEFT (meant as a joke) and not stuck facing her.

    (3) It would have been stalking, if she didn’t make it news by not even applauding when the Pres referred to something he liked by Sen McCain (her party). In the least, she should have acknowledge that reaching across the aisle is a good thing.

    (4) For her to look like she missed a Tupperware party because he wanted to speak to both houses of congress, is disrespectful and worth reporting.

    (5) Of course, she was probably busy trying to find ways not to use the statistics obtained by the US Census that show how well Minn is in providing more sweeping health care coverage than Massachusetts.

  12. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 09/11/2009 - 10:41 am.

    We are all dumber for reading this insane, shallow, mind-numbing, report.

    I remember watching the “House Speaker Tip” during RR’s State of the Union addresses. I would rather watch MB.

  13. Submitted by Terry Hayes on 09/11/2009 - 10:58 am.

    To Chris Savage:
    Read my whole post.
    I thought this was a great article, well worth reading, and like I said, if Mr. Eisele had videotaped Bachmann sitting there acting like she missed a Tupperware party (great line!) I would avidly watch the whole video. Maybe the people who think watching Bachmann is a boring waste of time aren’t as observant as the rest of us.

  14. Submitted by myles spicer on 09/11/2009 - 11:00 am.

    My favorite (recent) spelling experience was the sign carried by one of the nut cases at the town hall meetings:

    “These morans have no brains”

  15. Submitted by Fred Fuhldang on 09/11/2009 - 11:59 am.

    He was stocking [sic] her? Really? I always thought stockings were what you wore on your feet in the winter. Was he trying to look at her nylons? Was he trying to take her shoes off? Was she even wearing stockings? Does he have a foot fetish? When MB grabbed Pres. Bush, kissed him, and wouldn’t let him go, was she also stocking him to see if he was wearing socks? So many unanswered questions here.

  16. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/11/2009 - 12:15 pm.

    Having taught Jr. High students for several years (awhile back) I find it easy to recognize what Ms. Bachmann was doing.

    She was acting like a spoiled adolescent girl who had been forced to take a class she didn’t want to take or go someplace with her parents that she didn’t want to go (church, or a family reunion, for instance).

    I’ve known girls who could maintain that passive-aggressive stance for hours, even entire semesters, and watched their subsequent attempts to manipulate others in response to how much they “suffered” because they were forced to do what they should have done but didn’t want to do (sometimes quite successfully).

    Of course most youngsters grow up and grow out of such spoiled, childish, behavior by the time they’re high school sophomores or juniors. This does not seem to be the case with Ms. Bachmann (and more than a few of her supporters?).

    I can’t help but wonder who, in Ms. Bachmann’s life is going to pay for her having to sit through the President’s speech because, based on her attitude, SOMEBODY’s going to have to be the target for all that childish resentment. Perhaps we’ll hear it come out in her Saturday Town Hall.

  17. Submitted by Gregory Stricherz on 09/11/2009 - 12:26 pm.

    Maybe we could have gotten a bit of coverage on this instead:

    SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Health-insurer shares advanced Thursday after President Barack Obama laid out his proposals for health-care reform in a speech that analysts said didn’t add any new dangers to managed care companies’ bottom lines.

  18. Submitted by Scott Sperry on 09/11/2009 - 01:33 pm.

    Does it really matter? Ever watch Hillary during W’s speeches. Same thing. It just posturing and both sides do it. Hardly newsworthy. I hope things aren’t that slow for you, Mr. Eisele.

  19. Submitted by Dean Wold on 09/11/2009 - 03:09 pm.

    Who cares. She is a spoiled, ignorant, hateful, corrupt, woman. I know she is embarrassing for our entire state but as Britt points out: if the 6th wants to elect this shithead that is their business; she does not speak for the state.

  20. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/11/2009 - 03:18 pm.

    As long as my money is paying Ms. Bachmann’s generous salary, health care and retirement benefits, I am interested (if sometimes morbidly) in what she does in the chamber of the House of Representatives.

  21. Submitted by Camden Pike on 09/11/2009 - 11:49 pm.

    I read the last line in this editorial then I see this.

    “MinnPost does not permit the use of foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that may be libelous or interpreted as inciting hate or sexual harassment.”

    Nice cheap shot.

  22. Submitted by Paul Andersen on 09/12/2009 - 10:38 am.

    Wow…………with opposition (liberals) pieces like this……….who needs friends:)???

    You guys are absolutely pathetic in your hysteria of anything Bachmann……Please keep it up!!!

  23. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/12/2009 - 11:50 am.

    A description of what someone has done, particularly when that person is an elected official, is not a personal attack.

    All the article contains are descriptions of her behavior during Obama’s speech, with references to her past actions and statements provided as context.

    You’d have trouble getting a court to rule that this constitutes libel.

  24. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/13/2009 - 08:00 pm.

    She really resonates with the voters of the sixth. I wonder if they make spelling a prerequisite to vote in that district.

    “Stalking” is a term used to describe unwanted attention by individuals.

    “Stocking” is sometimes referred to as hose, is a close-fitting, variously elastic garment covering the foot and lower part of the leg.

  25. Submitted by Aaron Rothe on 09/28/2009 - 11:37 am.

    Anyone interested in getting Michele Bachmann out of office should look into Democratic candidate Dr. Maureen Reed. She’s going to wipe the floor with Michele Bachmann, but needs support!

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