An introduction to Michele Bachmann

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Congresswoman Michele Bachman, R-Minn., used the June 13 CNN Republican Debate in New Hampshire to announce her intention to seek the GOP presidential nomination, thereby grabbing headlines. According to MSNBC's Chris Matthews she showed impressive "stagecraft" during the debate. Outside of the debate, however, she has shown an equally impressive "talent" for questionable statements and policy positions.

Having five children of her own, and being a foster mother to 23, she started her career through involvement in schools. In 1993, she helped to found a public charter school. Soon after it opened, many parents reportedly began to complain about the school's overtly religious curriculum. Among the concerns: a teacher once banned the Disney movie Aladdin because it contained magic, and the board running the school, which Bachmann sat on, advocated mandatory prayer.

In 2000, she ran for and won a seat in the Minnesota state Senate. In 2003, she introduced a bill to ban marriage equality in the state, saying it was because God told her to. The bill was ultimately defeated, even though she warned that its failure would mean "sex curriculum will be essentially taught by the local gay community."

Bachmann was elected in 2006 to the U.S. House of Representatives for the state's 6th Congressional District. Not long after taking her seat in Congress, in July 2007 she voted against the College Cost Reduction and Access Act that would increase the size of Pell grants, lower interest rates on student loans, and provide more favorable repayment terms. She complained that the bill favored a "government-run direct lending program over nonprofit and commercial lenders."

Among her other congressional actions have been sponsoring a proposed bill in 2008 to stall mandating the use of energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs, by requiring a study detailing their benefit before any mandate; opposing the (now successful) auto industry bailouts; opposing expansions to AmeriCorps; promoting the "death panel" myth on the House floor in an effort to block health care reform; and introducing legislation to repeal the Democrats' financial reform legislation.

In 2010, after founding the congressional Tea Party Caucus, she failed to win GOP support to get herself named House Republican Conference Chair when the position was vacated by Congressman Mike Pence.

Her policy positions include advocating teaching of intelligent design in public schools, opposing the minimum wage, increasing domestic oil drilling, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and banning LGBT rights.

A key policy point is Bachmann's desire to start phasing out Social Security and Medicare, stating that we need to start to "wean" people off of these benefits and privatize both programs. But anyone who has observed the tumultuous nature of the stock market since 2008 would be wary of tying Social Security benefits to that roller coaster. According to Wonk Room's Pat Garofalo, this would have cost seniors tens of thousands of dollars in the 2008-2009 crash.

The congresswoman is also no friend of environmental protections. She has repeatedly charged that global warming is a hoax, and she was a lead supporter of increased oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Outer Continental Shelf. During the July 13 GOP debate, she called for closing the Environmental Protection Agency, stating that it should be renamed the "Job-Killing Organization of America."

When it comes to the LGBT community, she has made a myriad of anti-gay statements. She has said that being gay is dysfunctional and "part of Satan." She claimed that if "gay marriage goes through ... K-12 little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal, natural and perhaps they should try it." She is against the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) and stated in the GOP debate that she would reinstate the military's discriminatory "don't ask, don't tell" policy if she were elected president.

In a 2008 interview on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Bachmann claimed that Barack Obama, as well as all those who considered themselves "liberals," held anti-American views. She also stated that she would like the media to do a McCarthy-style investigation of members of Congress to see if they hold "anti-American views."

Among other equally entertaining but baseless statements, she has claimed there is no scientific evidence that carbon dioxide is harmful, that removing the minimum wage would solve unemployment, that there are hundreds of Nobel Prize laureates who support creationism, that  the message of "Lion King" is that gays can do things better because it happened to be written by a gay man, and that Planned Parenthood is striving to be "the LensCrafters of Big Abortion."

Bachmann has also shown herself to be a problematic student of history. For example, ignoring the fact that the famous revolutionary battles of Lexington and Concord took place in Massachusetts, she claimed, in two separate speeches in New Hampshire, that those battles happened there instead. Also ignoring the fact that several of the founding fathers and early presidents owned slaves, and that the original Constitution classified slaves as three-fifths of a person, she claimed that the founding fathers "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."

Perhaps because of all of this it is no wonder that Bill Maher, on his HBO program "Real Time with Bill Maher," described her as for "those who think that Sarah Palin is too intellectual."

Photo: Gage Skidmore CC 2.0