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Michele Bachmann's Holy War

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Bachmann's entire political career has followed this exact same pattern of God-speaks-directly-to-me fundamentalism mixed with pathological, relentless, conscienceless lying. She's not a liar in the traditional way of politicians, who tend to lie dully, usefully and (they hope) believably, often with the aim of courting competing demographics at the same time. That's not what Bachmann's thing is. Bachmann lies because she can't help it, because it's a built-in component of both her genetics and her ideology. She is at once the most entertaining and the most dangerous kind of liar, a turbocharged cross between a born bullshit artist and a religious fanatic, for whom lying to the infidel is a kind of holy duty.

It has taken just over 10 years for Bachmann to go from small-town PTA maven to serious presidential contender, a testament to both her rare and unerring talent for generating media attention, and to her truly astonishing energy level and narcissistic tenacity. Minnesota politicians who have squared off against Bachmann all speak with a kind of horrified reverence for her martial indomitability, her brilliantly fortifying lack of self-doubt, even the fact that she hasn't appeared to physically age at all in 10 years. "She will not stop," says Cecconi.

Bachmann ended up unseating Laidig — and since then, getting herself elected is pretty much the only thing she has accomplished in politics. That's not an exaggeration: As both a state senator and a congresswoman, Michele Bachmann has never passed a piece of meaningful legislation. Her time in the Minnesota legislature was concentrated in two lengthy and unsuccessful protest campaigns. The first was a jeremiad against school standards, which fizzled out when Ventura's replacement, then-governor and current presidential rival Tim Pawlenty, backed his own version of school standards with the coming of No Child Left Behind. The other was a hysterical campaign against gay marriage that involved some of the strangest behavior ever attributed to an American elected official.

In 2003, after the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued its famous ruling permitting gay marriage, Bachmann proposed an amendment to the Minnesota constitution banning gay marriage — despite the fact that the state legislature had already passed a law making same-sex unions illegal. Even the politicians who were sufficiently gay-phobic to have passed the original anti-­marriage law were floored by the brazen pointlessness of Bachmann's bill. "It's unnecessary, it's redundant, it's duplicative," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ann Rest.

The episode was classic Bachmann, whose political strategy throughout her career has mostly revolved around having her Little House on the Never-Existed Fundamentalist Prairie sensibilities rocked by something she has read (or misread) in the news, then immediately proposing a horseshit, total-waste-of-­everybody's-time legislative action in response. In 2009, after she saw a news story about the Chinese calling on the world to abandon the dollar as its reserve currency, Bachmann somehow took this to mean that the Obama administration might force ordinary Americans to abandon their familiar green dollar bills for some international and no doubt atheist currency. To combat this possibility, Bachmann introduced a resolution to "bar the dollar from being replaced by any foreign currency." Even after the gaffe was made public, Bachmann pressed on, challenging Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to "categorically renounce the United States moving away from the dollar." Imagine Joe McCarthy dragging Cabinet members into hearings and demanding that they publicly disavow the works of Groucho Marx, and you get a rough idea of the general style of Bachmannian politics.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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