Bachmann voices ire at ‘Bail-out Nation’
By Edward Luce and Tom Braithwaite in Washington
Published: October 7 2009 19:26 | Last updated: October 7 2009 23:02
Reaction against Barack Obama’s “Bail-out Nation” is provoking the emergence of a coalition of conservatives, libertarians and independents increasingly alarmed over the growth of US national debt and budget deficits, according to Michele Bachmann, a rising rightwing star of the Republican party.
Ms Bachmann, a second-term congresswoman, who played a prominent role in the “town hall” agitations against Mr Obama’s healthcare reform agenda in August, made her comments against the backdrop of sharply falling support for the Democratic party – although Mr Obama’s personal approval rating remains high.
On Wednesday a Gallup poll showed the two parties running almost neck and neck for the first time since 2006 – with the Republicans at 44 per cent and the Democrats at 46 per cent.
The pollster also showed a majority of independents favouring the Republicans over the Democrats – again, reversing the trend of recent years.
“What we are seeing is a real sense of unease among American people and not just Republicans,” Ms Bachmann contended in an interview with the Financial Times.
“Whether it’s the government bail-out of the banking system, or the White House sacking the chief executive officer of General Motors, or the bail-out of AIG, or the level of debt accumulation, more and more people are joining a coalition that is saying this is unconstitutional and un-American.”
Ms Bachmann has been the source of plenty of controversy in recent months.
In August the lawmaker from Minnesota called on opponents of “socialised healthcare” to “pray to God” for Mr Obama to fail. Last year Ms Bachmann, a Christian conservative, provoked memories of the witch hunt days of Joe McCarthy when she called on the media to investigate “un-American” sentiments in Congress.
Ms Bachmann, whose mere name can provoke apoplexy in some liberal quarters, has been less vocal than some of her colleagues in the “birther” debate that questions whether Mr Obama was actually born on US soil.
In the interview she sought to play down social values to stress the coalescence of a new movement, united against further federal government involvement in the economy.
“It remains to be seen what role social values will play in the backlash against Obama,” said Ms Bachmann.
“What I can say is that we are agreed on 70 to 80 per cent of the issues and that it is united around a defence of the constitution. The fabric of this big tent is made up of the very parchment of the constitution.”
Ms Bachmann would not be drawn on whether she would back Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, as the Republican party’s presidential candidate in 2012.
But she pointed out that Ms Palin’s forthcoming book, Going Rogue, hit number one on Amazon’s bestseller list last week, a month before its release date.
“What did Nancy Pelosi’s [Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives] book sell in the first week? Two thousand, seven hundred copies?” Ms Bachmann asked. “Sarah Palin is a compelling political figure.”
Ms Bachmann’s comments may prove anathema to a dwindling band of moderate Republicans, who are concerned about the party’s supposed abandonment of subtle thinking and of intellectual inquiry, in favour of a more populist Midwestern approach to politics.
But the debate within the Republican party is likely to intensify in the coming months, with a growing number of leading figures already throwing their hats into the ring for 2012.
Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota, Ms Bachmann’s home state, announced he would attend a political fundraiser in Iowa next month – a sure sign of presidential toe-dipping, since Iowa hosts the first caucus event in the battle for party nominations.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has barely paused for breath since being eliminated by John McCain in last year’s Republican primaries.
Old-fashioned Republicans believe it would be suicidal for the party to embrace a candidate such as Ms Palin. But for the time being the political tide appears to favour populist figures.
“People are beginning to realise that Obama is a socialist,” said Ms Bachmann. “And that is not the way America is.”
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