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Michele Bachmann waited Thursday to speak at the American Legion convention in Minneapolis.

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Bachmann draws comparison to Thatcher and Reagan

  • Article by: RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER
  • Star Tribune
  • September 1, 2011 - 8:11 PM

Republican Michele Bachmann visited Minneapolis on Thursday to draw a close comparison between herself and the leadership of Ronald Reagan and Great Britain's Margaret Thatcher.

"It took two very strong leaders on the stage, one a woman and one a man, to reverse the course of their respective counties," the Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate told the American Legion's national convention. "We find ourselves today in search of another Margaret Thatcher to restore our great country to the thriving nation I believe we can be again."

Touting her experience

In her speech to the same convention President Obama addressed earlier this week, the candidate tried to reinforce her fiscal and social conservative credentials and at the same time present herself as having the stature of a world leader. Her repeated references to Thatcher served as a reminder that a female leader can be strong on foreign policy as well as domestic issues.

While the speech was billed as a congressional appearance, her 20-minute address was peppered with references to what she would do "as president."

Asked about the comparison to Thatcher, she said: "We're in a similar time period and we need to have strong viable leadership to see that return again today... [Reagan and Thatcher] are both tremendous examples."

Drawling a close line to conservative leaders of the past could give her a boost as she works to recapture earlier campaign sizzle as her poll numbers lag. GOP Texas Gov. Rick Perry has vaulted over her in polls since he got in the race last month.

But she has some foreign policy experience that governors, like rivals Perry or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, cannot deliver. She reminded the legionnaires that she sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is briefed on classified national security matters. She says, based on those briefings, there are terrorists who wake up every day seeking to do the United States harm and she would be a president who would take those threats seriously.

In a room full of veterans, she said that she would limit troop deployment to places where there is "a clear and vital United States interest and mission." Echoing both criticism of Obama's decisions on Libya and of former President George W. Bush, she said if she were president, "we never will half-heartedly commit our troops to battle without a true end plan. Without knowing our enemy and also knowing our mission."

Like the president, she promised to protect and honor veterans' service and benefits. Bachmann said: "Serving you, our veterans, doesn't have to be complex. It just has to be done."

Earlier this year, Bachmann proposed a potential $4.5 billion in spending cuts to veterans through capping "increases in Department of Veterans Affairs health care spending" and reducing "veterans' disability compensation," according to her website.

After an outcry from veterans groups, the advocate for slashed government spending withdrew that proposal.

'I liked hers better'

Bachmann did not address that issue with the waiting media. Although it was her first public appearance in Minnesota in weeks, she answered just one question before hustling behind a black-curtained area backstage for a photo session with veterans.

Although a few attendees said Bachmann sounded more like she was campaigning, several favorably compared Bachmann's speech to the one delivered by the president two days before. "I liked hers better," said Cary McMasters of North Carolina.

Chuck Kruger, Minnesota State Commander of the American Legion, gave both the president and Bachmann the same marks. "They were both good speeches. They pretty much tell us what we want to hear."

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @rachelsb

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