Bachmania! in Iowa City
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann seemed to get the better of an exchange with some Iowa City lefty protesters this afternoon as she visited the People's Republic on the Family leader “Presidential Lecture” series. So Now we know why Bob Vader Plaats – my spell check wants to make it Vader which is too good to not use - is bringing Republican candidates to Iowa City: so they can look more reasonable in comparison?
Following: My usual UI campus, delayed first take look at the event.
A lack of plug-in electricity at the press riser and a dodgy battery has me isolated from the rest of the press, at the far left of the hall appropriately. Even my phone is dying. At least double the press presence as previous candidates or pseudo-candidates, at least 20.
Bachmann leads off with the press by discussing her “seven generation” Iowa bona fides. Seven generations... is that literally genealogically true, a Biblical dog whistle, or both? Twists the old book title into Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Iowa, then says she moved to Minnesota when she was 12. You write the punch line.
Two of the five or six questions we get tie in on Romney and his exploratory announcement. Bachmann declines a direct bash but notes “I don't like to see anything other than free market health care.” She also likes unrestricted buying across state lines (the least common denominator policy to me) and "true malpractice reform.” She also redirects the invitation to attack a Republican and bashes Obama instead.
Two other questions key to the Paul Ryan budget proposal which she calls “an aspirational document, not legislation.” When asked what we should do to get serious about the deficit, she says “defund Obamacare” three or four times. That and waste. Calls Ryan proposal “the 55 and under plan” without saying “privatize Social Security.” (Note: Bachmann herself just turned 55.)
As for her budget vision: She wants “a family budget. The government needs less so families can have more.”
My intended question is about her vision: is there a place in it for the non-straight, the non-Christian, the non-wealthy? But with so many cameras and mikes, a blogger in a beret doesn't get a turn. I'm thinking of killing the hat off for just such reasons. Indeed, a young scruffy guy with a sign asks me if there are any protesters. Me, of course; another reason to bag the beret. I suggest keeping the sign on the down low and wish him luck. But that's not my approach. I just want to hear what they have to say.
We must be at 150 bodies at 5:26. A few Democratic interlopers, but most are polite types like me. The organizing types seem to be wise to protesters. Seems like Ron Paul had more people, but it may just have been the different room. Again, the press at least seems more interested in Bachmann.
BVP starts the show right on time. BVP is against raising debt ceiling, “that's just increasing the national credit card.” Brian Round from NOM is also in the house.
Bachmann intro cites Matthew 7: by their fruits shall ye know them.” And “she's made all the right enemies” (zero scores from NEA, ACLU, ADA, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL...) Keeps citing her “ten years” or legislative experience, counting both state legislature and US House, boosting her credentials with the unstated comparison to Obama. Oh, and she's never missed a congressional prayer meeting.
5:36 and she's on. Again with the Iowa bona fides, using the word “Iowegian,” only without the accent. (I just spent the weekend in my native Wisconsin and I catch myself lapsing into it after just two days' direct exposure.) Lengthy story about immigrant ancestors, with the “seven generations” again.
“We were reasonable fair minded Democrats in my family. It's not so much whether you're a Democrat or Republican, it's about your world view.” Just a hint of the accent on “cup of coffee today.” and “Winona State”
“I saw up close and personal how devastating hight taxes are. They destroy people's lives.” (So farmers ONLY lose farms due to taxes, NOT due to bad crops or bad economy?) “Nobody has a chance against this tax code, and we can afford a bureaucrat to spend his career interpreting a 14 word section of a 3.8 million word tax code.”
Family ran “a Christian counseling clinic.” This background is Important To The Story for the Right To Life (sic) people, in sort of the way that Trig Palin is. “It's not easy to run a business turn a profit and not have it go under.”
“Even if a life is less than perfect, they deserve protection (applause). And that's not to condemn abortion-minded women in a tough situation, but there's a chance of a far better outcome.” Abortion-minded women?
“We wanted to do more than talk the pro-life talk, we wanted to walk the walk.”
Marriage: “Marriage has been under attack for many years. History tells us that in all of human society, there is no culture, there is no nation... you don't see any other standard or definition of marriage other than between a man and a woman until about 12 years ago. That has been the norm. For 5000 years there has been a standard, and now you're deviating from that standard.”
Someone shouts, I can't tell what. Someone shouts again. Bachmann continues. “Social conservatism IS fiscal conservatism. You can't separate it.”
Now with the “three legged stool” she's mentioned on the stump: Uphold marriage, life and family. Strong vibrant economy. Strong national security. “It was a mistake for our president to get us involved in a third war in the Middle East.”
Another shout, the fifth or so. Bachmann responds: “if you'd like to ask a question later, I'd be more than happy to answer (applause drowms out some, ending with...) rules of decorum.” Back to Libya, seems her concern is Al-Qaida will take over post-Khadaffgffy. “They (Obama administration) don't know who's on first or what's on second.”
Mubarak “wasn't perfect but he was one of our few friends in the middle east, and where was Obama then? This is extremely destabilizing for the middle east. We could see a rise in democracy, but easily this could go the other way.”
Iran's goal “is to destroy Israel, and then to destroy the United States Of America.” Oh, and gas prices are Obama's fault. “We've been debasing the currency through the federal reserve.”
“You could be looking at 75% of your income being taken just for the tax burden.”
The Scruffy Guy With A Sign who talked to me earlier walks purposefully across back of the hall; heads turned. I'm told the sign says “I'm better at what I do because I'm gay.”
“The greatest threat to our national security is not Iran or Libya, it's our national debt.”
6:00 Q and A. They call on a protester, she asks, trying to squeeze it all in, about rape victims in war, assorted aspects of foreign policy and ending with “How much oil do you want?”
“I don't want the oil coming from the middle east, I want it coming from the United States. (applause)” “We are not seeing the progress we would like to see in Afghanistan” “In Iraq and Afghanistan we learned lessons that should have kept us out of Libya.” Thus playing her own disagreement with Obama, for opposite reasons, against the protesters.
“The US is the number one energy resource country in the world. This is great news. The problem is government policy.” Lists off many energy sources and many offshore locations, avoids term Drill Baby Drill. Lots of applause
BVP: “Emma from Mt Vernon followed the rules and wrote down a question” about illegal immigration. MB: “Enforce the laws on the books.” Shouting follows after she drops the name “Steve King.” Cites the Israeli Wall as a good example (!) “The way you do it is a double wall with about 100 feet in between for vehicles.” Step up enforcement “so that welfare benefits are not going to illegals.” Applause. “We have so many Hispanic Americans who are great citizens. I would encourage setting up chambers of commerce in any minority community where we haven't seen the same level of economic aspirations.” “They WILL learn to speak English” gets an applause interruption.
Varnum-Brien and DADT (the catch-all Gay question). “That decision belongs to the people of the state, it is not up to black robed masters. That is not the purpose of a court to impose their morality on all of us.” DADT was a policy the military was happy with, no “social engineering” in national security. “It worked and that's what we should stay with.”
Q & A cuts off early because she's going on Hannity. More shouting. She's out, crowd quickly starts to disperse.
I'll give her credit for taking on the protesters, even if she mostly just stayed on script; I have vivid memories of Palin just plowing ahead as if they weren't even there. Sorry for the too obvious comparisons to Palin, but it begs itself.
The take away: Someone has to emerge as the Not Mitt, and I give her a better chance than most. She fills the Palin Niche and the Huckabee Niche, without the Newt Baggage or the Pawlenty Boredom. Certainly a better chance than the next guy Vander Plaats has on deck: Rick Santorum on May 2nd.