At a lunchtime event today, I saw GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann, wearing a white suit and some likely pricey makeup, explain to a crowd at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., why she wouldn’t be voting for House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to raise the debt ceiling, or, for that matter, any proposal that would raise the debt ceiling. While she was at it, she decried President Barack Obama’s recent use of “scare tactics” against veterans and senior citizens in “an attempt to get his way” on the debt ceiling issue.
The American people don’t want to raise the debt ceiling, Bachmann said repeatedly. How does she know? The Minnesota congresswoman reminded the audience that she had recently spent several days on her tour bus, careening across the country and conversing in backyards and town halls.
By contrast, Bachmann argued, the president is obviously detached from the citizenry. He doesn’t grasp the full magnitude of our economic problem. He thinks folks outside the Beltway don’t know what the debt ceiling is. Bachmann extended an invitation to Obama to hop aboard her bus and see for himself “that the people outside of Washington have not only heard of the debt ceiling, they know what raising the debt ceiling will mean for them.”
There’s a fatal flaw, Bachmann said, in Obama's position: He thinks raising the debt ceiling is “routine,” a fiscal tradition that simply shouldn’t be tampered with. But that routine is more like an addictive habit, one the government should quit cold turkey. “The American people have said 'enough,’ ” she said. “Where’s their champion who will finally put down his or her foot and say no?”
So what do the people want? Someone who loves them and cares for them, Bachmann said, someone who will speak for them in the White House. Take, for example, a man she met while on the campaign trail. Joe The Plumber, move over for Joe the Steel Prefabrication Factory Worker. Bachmann encountered “Joe” at the end of his workday in Indianola, Iowa, “lunch bucket” in hand, about to punch out on the time clock. The retirement-age man “had sweat dripping off his body, dirt was stuck to him,” Bachmann recalled. They bonded, she said, over their shared vision for America: “Michele, I want to ask you one thing,” she recalled him saying. “If you’re president, will you promise me that you will give the country back to the people?
“I said, yes I will,” Bachmann recounted. “He asked me that three times.”
But as eager as Bachmann seemed to demonstrate that she knows the American people, she was also remarkably eager to play to her audience. She told them about her media routine: She said she reads liberal outlets (specifically, Huffington Post and the Daily Beast) first, and conservative ones second. She professed an ardent love for her iPad and smartphone, but said she maintains a “love affair with the printed page,” in part because she likes to write notes in the margins.
When, toward the end of her talk, Bachmann was asked about campaign finance reform, she responded with what seemed like a somewhat serious plea for cash. “Number one, I'm open to donations and I'll be happy to give you my website when I leave,” she said. “For campaign finance reform, I believe that it is important for the American people to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights and to be able to speak out.” She may or may not have wooed any would-be donors, but at the end of the talk, National Press Club President Mark Hamrick presented Bachmann with the traditional Press Club gift, a coffee mug. He suggested that she should feel free to use it for other beverages, such as tea. “It will be sweet tea,” confirmed a smiling Bachmann.