Michele Bachmann, whose failed presidential 2012 run embroiled her in allegations of campaign-finance violations, has chosen not to run for a fifth term in Congress. This week, the controversial Sixth District congresswoman’s reckless statements broadcast during a recent trip to Egypt served up a reminder of why Minnesota and the nation will be better off once she’s left office.
Bachmann, whose presidential campaign is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation, has lost none of her capacity in these waning months in Congress to astonish us with her dubious grasp of the truth and careless disregard for potential consequences of statements made in her official capacity.
In most cases, Bachmann’s zest for conspiracies — anti-Americans stalking the halls of Congress, the census being used to round up U.S. citizens — simply leads to a few headlines and leaves people in Minnesota and elsewhere shaking their heads.
But in some situations, Bachmann’s words cross a critical line and have the potential to do real harm. Her 2011 claim that the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine causes mental retardation was one of those occasions, since unvaccinated boys and girls face a higher risk of dying from certain cancers.
Bachmann crossed the line again during a visit to Egypt in which she heaped praise on the new, military-led government that not only ousted the nation’s democratically elected president two months ago but in doing so, slaughtered at least 1,000 of its own people.
According to the Times, Bachmann and Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Steve King of Iowa — both of whom are in the running to become the new face of the fringe element in Congress once Bachmann departs — were in Cairo on Sunday. In an interview, they conveyed a jaw-dropping message to the new government. “Keep up the good work” is how the Times summed it up.
“We are here as members of Congress to say, ‘We are with you, and we encourage you,’ ” said Bachmann, who also inaccurately implied that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s main political opposition party, led the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Gohmert compared the new regime’s leader, Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, to George Washington, and complimented Sissi on “creating a government where the rule of law is king.” He also said Sissi and the new leaders brought to mind Thomas Jefferson’s call for “eternal hostility to every form of tyranny.”
Said Gohmert: “Stand strong, Egypt. Stand firm.”
While our first thought was George Washington spinning in his grave — his greatness is due not to just to military victories but to his decision to hand over control of a budding nation to civilians — the level of misinformation on display is stunning.
No, the Muslim Brotherhood was not behind 9/11. That would be Al-Qaida.
No, the rule of law is not embodied by the military-led ousting of a democratically elected leader. Nor by the new government’s crackdown — killing protesters, detaining thousands of political opponents and suspending protections against abusive police.
The feckless congressional trio were played for fools by their hosts, who broadcast the interview on a progovernment network to enhance the regime’s shaky legitimacy. Egyptian viewers, however, have no way of knowing that these three inspire eye-rolling, not respect, back home. Many may now think that the United States has officially endorsed the brutal seizure of power.
That would put Americans in Egypt and the Middle East at greater personal risk. It also undermines President Obama’s delicate mission to maintain working relations with the military and the Muslim Brotherhood in an incendiary situation and nudge this critical ally back to democracy.
Bachmann’s office did not respond to an editorial writer’s requests for comment, but did send out a news release saying she was traveling with a bipartisan delegation to discuss security and economic issues with world leaders.
While such congressional travels aren’t unusual, few require damage control. Bachmann’s lack of common sense in Cairo is another reminder of why she won’t be missed here or in Washington when her term ends.