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Fast and Loose with the Truth

By Alan Jilka
Opinion | September 26, 2011

SALINA, Kan. - Sometime in the next few months, when the obituary is written for Michele Bachmann's 2012 Presidential campaign, commentators will look back at her announcement and note the seeds sewn for her demise. On that day, June 11, 2011, her habit of playing fast and loose with the truth finally started to catch up with her.

Upon launching her campaign she likened her determination and spirit to that of hometown hero John Wayne. Problem was, John Wayne was from the town of Winterset, IA, three hours away. Bachmann actually shares hometown roots with serial murderer John Wayne Gacy. The mistake brought attention to one of Mrs. Bachmann's glaring faults - her propensity to set facts aside in pursuit of her political goals.

Michele Bachmann set a fundraising record for a congressional candidate in 2010 when she brought in more than eleven million dollars for her re-election campaign. Her fiery anti-Barack Obama rhetoric is enormously attractive to those with a visceral contempt for the President, ill-will that will ignore any falsehoods in her stump speeches and is oblivious to rational political discussion.

Bachmann has kept the Pulitizer-prize winning website, politifact.com busy the last couple years. The site, run by the St. Petersburg (FL) Times dedicates itself to researching claims of politicians. As of June 16, 2011 politifact had examined twenty-three Bachmann statements. Only one had been rated as true. Nine were rated false, and seven were designated pants on fire, their category for the ridiculous.

As an official candidate Bachmann continued her casual attitude towards the truth. Shortly afterwards Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer pressed her on a number of her claims. The candidate had stated that the founding fathers were dedicated to the abolition of slavery, and insisted that John Quincy Adams was one of those founders. She also criticized the Obama Administration for issuing only one drilling permit since taking office. The actual number is over two hundred. Bachmann essentially refused to defend her claims, and then had the audacity to tell Schieffer, "No, I haven't misled people at all."

Other examples of her outlandish and false statements abound. She has criticized President Obama for releasing "all of the Strategic Oil Reserve." Actually, he released thirty million barrels, out of the 727 million barrels (approx. 4%). And she has stated, "I have never received a penny from the (family) farm." Public records show that she and her husband have received over $260,000 in subsidies from the family farm from which they have had an ownership interest since 2001.

More recently, she is being criticized for claiming that the vaccine mandated for school age girls by Gov. Rick Perry in Texas to prevent the HPV virus causes mental retardation. Her insistence on this point prompted an emphatic refutation by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who put out a release saying that there is "absolutely no scientific validity to the statement."

Bachman's disregard for facts in her appearances is largely condoned by the Tea Party movement that she proudly claims to represent. Most of these individuals suddenly came to regard deficit spending as a problem when Barack Obama became President at the onset of the worst economic downturn since the 1930's. They're not about to admit any of the causes of our fiscal problems rooted in the past decade, such as the Bush tax cuts, the wars fought on a credit card while the costs were "off budget," not counted in the overall budget, or an unfunded prescription drug program, etc.

The closer scrutiny associated with a Presidential campaign is now sending Bachmann's poll numbers south. A refreshing conclusion, for those tiring of the Caucus she heads in Congress and the political force she symbolizes nationally, could be that, in our political discourse, facts do matter.


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