Rep. Michele Bachmann retires

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) posted a video on her website Wednesday morning announcing that she would not seek re-election in 2014:

Bachmann cited the eight-year limit on presidential terms as one reason she chose to end her House career after eight years.  “For some, a single two-year House term is enough service.  For others, ten terms or two decades in the House is still not enough service,” said Bachmann.  “Our Constitution allows for the decision of length of service in Congress to be determined by the congresspeople themselves, or by the voters in the district.  However, the law limits anyone from serving as President of the United States for more than eight years.  And in my opinion, well, eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific congressional district.”

“Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress,” Bachmann continued, expressing “every confidence” that if she ran, she would “again defeat the individual who I defeated last year.”  That’s a reference to Democrat Jim Graves, who responded to Bachmann’s retirement announcement by snarking that she “read the tea leaves” after defeating him by only 4,200 votes last time around.

Minnesota Public Radio nevertheless estimates that Graves would have faced an “uphill battle” against Bachmann in 2014, citing the generally conservative nature of the district, the possibility that 2014 could be a bad year for Democrats overall, and the way Bachmann’s failed presidential bid made her uniquely vulnerable in 2012.  However, Graves was doing well against her in early polling for the 2014 race, and she did appear to be ramping up an early re-election campaign before suddenly announcing her retirement.

In her video, Bachmann stressed that her decision had nothing to do with the controversy over her 2012 presidential campaign expenditures, summarized by Fox News as follows: “In January, a former Bachmann aide filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming Bachmann made improper payments to an Iowa state senator who was the state chairman of her 2012 presidential run. The aide, Peter Waldron, also accused Bachmann of other FEC violations.”  The Office of Congressional Ethics is also investigating her presidential campaign finances.

Bachmann said she thought about retiring from the House in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential campaign, but felt such a departure would leave the Republican Party without sufficient time to recruit a replacement candidate and organize a campaign.  She declared her intention to work “hundred-hour weeks” throughout the remainder of her term, fighting for her principles and policy positions, and presumably helping set the stage for her successor as the Republican candidate… although she spends considerable time in her video defending her occasional splits from the Republican Party on matters of principle.

The latter half of her lengthy video announcement is devoted to a statement of those principles, ranging from some local affairs to national issues where Bachmann declared herself a dedicated foe of President Obama and his party, prominently including ObamaCare, the Dodd-Frank financial legislation, immigration, and Obama’s foreign policy – which she said has “contributed to turning the Middle East into a devastating, evil jihadist earthquake.”  She also castigated the Administration for shoddy treatment of Israel, the disaster in Benghazi, and insufficient action to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

She did not rule out a return to politics in the future, saying that after the completion of her current term, her future would be “full, it is limitless, and my passions for America will remain.  And I want you to be assured there is no future option or opportunity – be it in the political arena or otherwise – that I won’t be giving serious consideration, if it can help save and protect our great nation for future generations.”

Bachmann has been an important figure in the Tea Party movement, and if the IRS scandal had not so obviously re-energized them, we might see a more vigorous media effort to spin her retirement as a mortal wound to their cause.  (If the Tea Party was as moribund as the media kept wishing it was, the Democrats wouldn’t have needed to abuse government power to suppress them.)  She was quick to volunteer herself for duty in their vanguard, and her faith in them never wavered.

The Tea Party would, in turn, do well to learn from Bachmann’s experience.  She took a parting shot at the partisan media in her retirement video, and it’s true that her stumbles, like those of other Republican and especially Tea Party candidates, were spotlighted and repeated in a way no Democrat has to worry about.  (How long do you suppose the media will dwell on Barack Obama getting the name of tornado-ravaged Moore, Oklahoma wrong, even though he had just been there?  If someone like Michele Bachmann made that kind of mistake, it would immediately be written into her resume with indelible ink.)

But Bachmann did stumble, making unforced errors that were often the result of poor preparation or hasty over-reliance on unverified information, and that’s exactly the kind of mistake that cannot be made by leaders of a nascent movement closely aligned with the party the media hates.  Every Republican has to run a perfect race, and that goes double for conservative or libertarian insurgents.  It’s not fair, but please, let’s stop pretending it isn’t true.


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