Michele Bachmann regularly sees comparisons to Sarah Palin, but she's ready to be put to the test on her own merits. "We don't see a similar comparison between two men, for instance, who would also be running for President," she says. The representative from Minnesota threatens to steal fiscal and social conservative voters away from other Republican candidates for President if she chooses to run. Last weekend, Bachmann came in first place during a straw poll with 23 percent of the vote from attendees at a gathering at Liberty University. She also came in second place in a recent "positive intensity tracking" poll from Gallup. Most national polls, however, place Bachmann at about 4 percent among Republican voters. Bachmann received her J.D. degree from Oral Roberts University before the law school moved to Regent University. She is a member of Salem Lutheran Church, and her husband runs a Christian counseling center in Stillwater, Minnesota. CT spoke with Bachmann about Tea Party concerns, Donald Trump's birth certificate questions, and recent budget negotiations.
We've seen quite a bit of attention devoted to fiscal concerns, and I know this is a concern for you since you launched the Tea Party caucus last year. Do you have any concerns that the Tea Party might overshadow the concerns of some conservative Christians?
There has been a common cause that has risen in the last six months or so. What we're seeing emerging is a three-legged stool of concern. One is certainly fiscal conservatism, the second leg is social conservativism, and the third would be national security concerns. The Tea Party movement is an organic, spontaneous movement and in many ways a leaderless movement. People come in to the Tea Party with their particular issues. There's probably a 70 percent area of agreement, and the agreement would be on no increased taxes, government acting within a balanced budget, and the government acting within the parameters of the Constitution.
There are many, many people in the Tea Party movement who are also social conservatives. Almost all social conservatives are also fiscal conservatives. If culture embraces social conservative values, it translates into fiscal conservatism because fewer people become dependent on the government. The thing we're encouraging fiscal conservatives is, don't throw the social conservatives out because they will be your best friends on your issue. We're recognizing that people can advocate for issues that they believe in, but where there's an area of commonality and 70 percent level of concern, let's pull together on those issues.
The House continuing resolution included what many Christian relief organizations considered major cuts to programs that aid the world's poor. Do you support these cuts?
Well, what I support is getting our fiscal house in order. There are many nonprofits and NGOs that have enjoyed substantial government support in the past. They may need to seek their support in the private sector, because what we see is that it will be very difficult to be able to do benevolent works if there is no prosperity to fund them. You know the government can't exist without profits and income generated in the private sector. Right now we're seeing a decline in the private sector's ability to be able to produce revenue. The question will be, will these groups have public money to work with or will it be generated privately? Probably some of the best work has been generated through private funds, and so it may be that the organizations have to seek funds there.
Would you have supported a budget compromise that might keep federal funds directed towards Planned Parenthood? Or is that out of the question?
We do need to defund Planned Parenthood, a billion dollar a year organization. It receives fully one-third of their funding from the taxpayers. It's important that this is an area, again, where a nonprofit—which Planned Parenthood is—seek their funding from private sources as opposed to the taxpayers. I've also been unwilling to vote for a budget that would include funding for Obamacare. Obamacare will be the first time in the history of the country that we truly have full taxpayer support of abortion, and I cannot go down that road.
The media has widely reported some things you've said about President Obama's anti-American sentiments and other previous statements. Do you have any regrets about comments you've made?
I speak many, many times publicly. I have gotten things wrong that I have said in the past, but when it comes to credibility, I think the President's credibility is far worse than any other public official's. The President has said, for instance, that if we spend a trillion dollars that we wouldn't see unemployment go above 8 percent. He was clearly wrong. He made the statement that if we passed the government takeover of healthcare that we would see a $250,000 per household reduction in the cost of health insurance premiums. Instead, we get a 20, 40, upwards of 80 percent hike in health insurance premiums. The President's statements have indicated a tremendous lack of credibility on his part, and that is far more serious than potential misstatements or mistakes that I may have made in my statements.
Donald Trump and others have raised questions over President Obama's birth certificate. Do you think the discussion over his birth certificate is a distraction from other issues?
Well, certainly the biggest issues that we are facing right now are unemployment, lack of private job creation, excessive levels of spending, and debt accumulation. I do think that this is an issue that is so solvable. I don't understand why the President doesn't just solve this issue. He could disclose his official birth certificate, and my understanding is that hasn't been done. And there's some facsimile, apparently, of something that is different. If the President says that he was born here, then I take him at his word. Within a minute the President could make this controversy go away. I don't understand why he doesn't do that.
How would you respond to someone who says that President Obama is a Muslim?
Well, I would have to take the President at his word. No one can know the thoughts and intents of another person's heart. And if the President states what his religion is, I have to take him at his word.
You have raised five children and taken in 23 foster children, and you've expressed concern about Michelle Obama's breast feeding initiative. Should the federal government take steps to reduce childhood obesity?
All of our biological children were nursed, and that's wonderful. But we are seeing the government extend their influence into the realm of the family, and I don't believe that that is a constitutional duty of the federal government to tell people what they should be and have and dictate in areas where the realm belongs to the family. My statement regarding Mrs. Obama was regarding the tax code. That day the President was talking about closing loopholes for corporations and at the same time Mrs. Obama was asking for more loopholes. There's a contradiction between the first couple. We should let people choose on their own how they want to live their lives without altering the tax code, and that was my concern.
You've expressed concerns about the President's decisions regarding Libya. Should the United States be militarily involved in any of the events in the Middle East?
It was a mistake for the President to get the United States involved in Libya. The Obama doctrine now states that he will use the United States military to further humanitarian causes. The United States' military purpose is not to intervene in another nation's affairs to affect humanitarian causes. We do not have the resources or the manpower, and that changes the mission of the United States military. It reduces the United States' standing in the world. And it leaves the United States vulnerable to attack when we are engaging in humanitarian actions.
For instance, 1,000 people were massacred in the Ivory Coast, and there are many people who were killed in Syria. Does that mean that the United States should launch a military action in each of these nations? On what basis? Why is the President picking and choosing? The President has now put us in a third war in the Middle East. Once we engage it's very difficult to extricate ourselves.
In Libya, we do not know who the opposition forces are. There has been testimony and information that indicates that Al Qaeda and Hezbollah may be present. They are terrorist organizations. For the United States to go into Libya only to potentially help Al Qaeda gain a foothold and have access to a sustained source of revenue from oil, that would be a mistake of historic proportions.
In the past you've expressed skepticism on the issue of global warming. Should the federal government take any steps to care for the environment?
There's a tremendous difference between conservation efforts and having the federal government add a new tax to individuals and businesses, a tax which would benefit the federal government and would not necessarily benefit the environment. If we believe everything Al Gore has said about the issue of global warming and if we implement the taxes that he's encouraged us to levy on carbon emissions, we would reduce Earth's temperature by less than a fraction of a degree 100 years from now. In other words, the amount that we would reduce Earth's temperature wouldn't even be measurable 100 years from now. And if we implement everything Al Gore has asked us to do, what difference would it make when we observe China and India and the developing world? Because the third-world nations are all developing at such a rapid pace now, the reductions that we make would be greatly overshadowed by the increases and development that are occurring around the world.
The best thing that we can do is allow the marketplace to generate clean technology. We have seen research, development, and new technologies actually give us far better techniques for man to coexist with the environment in a way that would not be detrimental to the environment.
In their approach to politics, many Lutherans use a "Two Kingdoms" doctrine, a belief that God rules the world in two ways. Does your Lutheranism inform your political thinking, and if so, how?
I came to Christ at 16 years old. I was baptized as a child, and I'm sure that the gospel was preached in my church. I just didn't fully understand it until I was 16 years old when I received Christ. That has changed my life, and since that time I have tried to devote myself to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my hope that my life will be different by embracing the teachings of the Bible, and I hope that that will cause me to change and become more Christlike in the way that I lead my life. I wish that I was not a sinner. I am, but I know that I'm forgiven, and I'm extremely grateful for the redemptive work that Christ has done for me on the Cross. Certainly a biblical worldview does inform my thinking in a positive way, because the golden rule says, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Many evangelicals have expressed concerns about voting for a Mormon candidate for President. Do you share those concerns?
There are concerns that believers have across the board on a number of different issues—fiscally as well as social concerns as well as job creation and foreign affairs. So I don't think that Christians can be categorized in one specific area, just like I don't think Jewish voters or nonreligious voters can be categorized in one particular area either.
We see a lot of comparisons between you and Sarah Palin. How might you differ from her and other candidates who are thinking about running for President?
If I choose to run I would be standing alone on my own qualifications and also the platform that I would stand on during the course of the election. People don't look just at gender; they look beyond that. We don't see a similar comparison between two men, for instance, who would also be running for President.
Do you have any concern that other candidates are too similar on certain issues, like fiscal or social concerns?
No, I'm not concerned about that at all. There are very certain distinctions between candidates. People do not want to have a political insider as their nominee, someone who has been part of the political establishment. People want something that's new and different. In the 2008 race, we saw voters believe that Barack Obama was new and different and an outsider. And unfortunately, he hasn't proved to be that.
President Obama has cited Reinhold Niebuhr as one of his favorite thinkers and philosophers. Who do you look to for inspiration?
First of all, it would be to the teachings of Jesus Christ and also the Old Testament works by Moses. I also was influenced by Dr. Francis Schaeffer when I was in college. He was one of the greatest philosophers of the last century. But I also look to a number of different scholars. I like to read various other commentators. There are a number of people that I read.
It sounds like you're leaning towards a presidential run. Are there certain things that you're waiting to figure out before you take the plunge?
This, as you know, is a momentous decision. We are not entering into this rashly. We're putting together a plan and a team, and we're making our decisions based upon the resources that we have. We have not made the decision.
I know you will be speaking at Ralph Reed's event in June and you have attended Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit in the past. Are there any religious leaders that you're looking to for guidance?
There are a number of Christian and Jewish organizations that I speak with in the course of my work. This decision about whether or not I run for office will be made in consultation with a number of people. I'm not calling any religious leaders in particular, but certainly my husband and I are making this a matter of prayer.
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