‘Hoot-Smawley,’ FDR, Israel & Michele Bachmann
By Michael Collins Piper
Americans who are fed up with what many perceive to be President Barack Obama’s intransigence toward Israel will find a refreshing alternative in 2012 if Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) manages to capture the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
The attractive, outspoken congresswoman—founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives—is an aggressive, no-holds-barred supporter of the Zionist nation. She has taken Obama to task, asserting that “the Obama administration has decided to . . . leave Israel to face the world alone, effectively abandoning our longtime friend and ally when they need us the most.” Mrs. Bachmann told one interviewer of her special passion for Israel:
I have been a longtime supporter of Israel. The first time I went to Israel was the day I graduated from high school. I spent a summer working on Kibbutz Beeri near Beersheba in 1974. I’ve been four times in Israel—three times as a member of Congress. I loved Israel—from the moment I first landed. . . . I am honored to be in a position where I can help Israel. I have a tremendous love for Israel, and great admiration for the Israeli people.
Now serving in only her third term in the House of Representatives—first elected in 2006 following three terms in the Minnesota state Senate—the 55-year-old congresswoman has skyrocketed quickly to national fame and is much talked about in the mainstream media.
Even the liberal New Republic magazine has acknowledged that Mrs. Bachmann is a “serious contender” for the GOP presidential nod.
Already, in an early straw poll in New Hampshire, Mrs. Bachmann ran
fifth in a field of 20 names, out polling former House Speaker New Gingrich and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
support for Israel is philosophically
In private life, Mrs. Bachmann and her husband Marcus have five children, have been foster parents to 23 others and are the owners of a Christian counseling clinic. Mrs. Bachmann is generally identified as a “Christian conservative,” and associated in particular with hardline dispensationalists Tim and Beverly LaHaye, who look forward to Armageddon and who are said to have inspired Mrs. Bachmann’s political activism.
Having studied advanced tax law, Mrs. Bachmann served from 1988 to 1993 as a U.S. Treasury Department attorney in the U.S. Federal Tax Court in St. Paul, where, by her own admission, she prosecuted and sought to send to jail “hundreds” of people charged with underpaying or failing to pay their taxes.
Now ensconced on Capitol Hill, where she founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Bachmann has become a major media figure and political power player.
Unlike a lot of politicians who proclaim their support for Israel as a way to pander to the owners of the big media and to wealthy pro-Israel campaign contributors— who bankroll an estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of the national finances of both major parties—Mrs.Bachmann has a real and passionate devotion to Israel.
A member of a fundamentalist offshoot of the traditional Lutheran Church, Mrs. Bachmann has said, “I am a Christian, but I consider my heritage Jewish because it is the foundation, the roots, of my faith as a Christian.” So her support for Israel is philosophically based and not just political rhetoric. Speaking before the Republican Jewish Coalition, Mrs. Bachmann described her views:
[W]e have to show that we are inextricably entwined, that as a nation we have been blessed because of our relationship with Israel, and if we reject Israel, then there is a curse that comes into play. My husband and I are both Christians, and we believe very strongly the verse from Genesis [12:3], we believe very strongly that nations also receive blessings as they bless Israel. It is a strong and beautiful principle.
Mrs. Bachmann and other friends of Israel on Capitol Hill even introduced a resolution in the House—backed by nearly half of the members of the Tea Party Caucus—urging Israel “to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force.”
In that regard, although Mrs. Bachmann has said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “announced his intention to bomb the state of Israel,” she was mistaken. He never made such a threat.
Like all people, Mrs. Bachmann makes errors, and this was one of a number of her gaffes, which have made her all the more down to earth and endearing to her supporters.
For example, Mrs. Bachmann referred to the Smoot-Hawley Act—which instituted much needed protective tariffs supported by American nationalists—as “Hoot-Smawley,” generating much laughter. Mrs. Bachmann also claimed the law was brought into being by President Franklin D. Roosevelt when, in fact, it was the work of two Republicans—Sen. Reed Smoot (Utah) and Rep. William Hawley (Ore.)—and signed into law in 1930 under GOP President Herbert Hoover.
What concerns purists who expect public officials to know the issues is that Mrs. Bachmann falsely claimed tariffs made the nation’s already precarious economy worse: A variety of historians have exploded that myth put forth by internationalist free traders.
Mrs. Bachmann also puzzled serious readers when she made the strange claim she stopped being a Democrat and turned Republican when she read a book by novelist Gore Vidal that she felt made light of America’s Founding Fathers. Anyone who knows anything about Vidal’s novels about American history knows Vidal celebrates—rather than demeans—America’s founders.
Mrs. Bachmann’s bias against Vidal may also arise from the fact that Vidal has been a vocal critic of Israel and its lobby in America, and has also questioned the U.S. government’s official version of the Oklahoma City bombing. In addition, Vidal’s novels paint the America-first, noninterventionist movement in a positive light in stark contrast to Mrs. Bachmann’s internationalist views.
Mrs. Bachmann’s views on religion have also raised eyebrows, including her possible hostility to Roman Catholicism. Mrs. Bachmann’s church is affiliated with the small Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which states clearly on its website that it believes the papacy “is the antichrist.” When confronted, Mrs. Bachmann insisted it was “absolutely false” that WELS considers the papacy to be the anti-Christ. Perhaps Mrs. Bachmann had not read the website.
A journalist specializing in media critique, Michael Collins Piper is the author of The High Priests of War, The New Jerusalem, Dirty Secrets, The Judas Goats, The Golem, Target Traficant and My First Days in the White House All are available from AFP.
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(Issue # 17, April 25, 2011)