Pondering presidential politics. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann indicating decision time is near. We're discussing issues and candidacy considerations with the republican presidential candidate ... maybe ... Michele Bachmann on this edition of Iowa Press.
Borg: Many are assuming that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann isn't yet committing to a campaign for the republican presidential nomination. If she joins a growing list of contenders for a boost from Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses she'll be campaigning in familiar territory. She's a native of Waterloo and, although she's now representing suburban Minneapolis in Congress, this is her fifth Iowa visit in the current election cycle. She is Minnesota's first republican congresswoman, now in her third term, making her presence felt by organizing a Tea Party caucus in the U.S. Congress. Welcome to Iowa Press.
Bachmann: Thank you so much, it's an honor to be back home.
Borg: It's nice to have you here.
Bachmann: Thank you.
Borg: And across the Iowa Press table, Senior Political Writer for the Associated Press Mike Glover and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.
Glover: Congresswoman Bachmann, Dean mentioned in his introduction many people assume that you're paving the way for a run for the republican nomination. Where are you in that whole process?
Bachmann: Well, we're coming very close now. We're very excited about the progress that we have made. I have traveled extensively to Iowa, to New Hampshire, to South Carolina. We have had very strong support there. We have also laid groundwork in that we've hired people in each of the states and we have had great success on fundraising. Last quarter I was the number one candidate in the race to raise money, including even more than Mitt Romney. Ron Paul's PAC had raised more money but the Liberty PAC can't transfer any of that money to a presidential race. All of our money is transferrable. So, we've done a wonderful job fundraising. We've had great grassroots support. And we're looking forward to building and establishing that and we're going to let everyone in Iowa know, and I made the announcement last night here in Iowa via Skype, that I will be making my announcement, one way or another, here in June and it will be in the city where I was born in Waterloo, Iowa.
Glover: And give us some more details about the timetable for that. Will it be early June, first week in June?
Bachmann: You're very good. It will be coming up and we'll let you know. It will be Iowa Press that will know first what the date will be.
Henderson: Democrats are making hay about an election that recently occurred in upstate New York where a democrat won a seat that had been held by republicans for a long time. What have republicans learned from that election?
Bachmann: I think that messaging is very important and understanding what the voters are thinking and feeling. And a candidate needs to reflect what the voters want, the voice that they want to have in Washington, D.C. Clearly that didn't happen in this race and I think it's important. That is incumbent upon republicans that they do reflect that message of the people.
Henderson: One of the debate points in that race was a proposal advanced by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan in regards to Medicare. Was it wrong for republicans to advance a competing argument to your already core argument to repeal the healthcare reform plan that President Obama signed?
Bachmann: Well, that remains to be seen. I think that will continue to be analyzed. I do commend my colleague, Paul Ryan, for wanting to deal with the out of control spending because what we know right now from the latest figures is that Medicare will not be sustainable, in other words, there won't be enough money to pay for Medicare in just thirteen years from now. That is a very real situation. And so I think there's a few messages we need to transmit. Number one, the Paul Ryan plan really should be called the 55 and under plan, no one who is 55 years of age or older will see any changes in their plan. The only changes are for people below age 55 and that's where the reforms would be. Number two, I think it's also important that we don't just focus on numbers and insurance policy technicalities, it's important that we also focus on humanity. I don't want any 78 year old woman to think that her Medicare is about to be pulled out from under her. It won't be. I want to focus also with the federal government on cures for senior citizens. We're expanding our population of senior citizens and I want to focus on cures for Alzheimer's, for diabetes, for cancer, heart disease so we can have a better quality of life for seniors.
Glover: So, the problem republicans have had with this issue, not just the proposal but the sales job behind the proposal?
Bachmann: No question. I think that that's something that we have learned, that there is a failure in the messaging about what we need to do. When I speak with senior citizens they want to make sure that the federal government keeps their promise with them, that they have Medicare but they also don't want to so burden their children and grandchildren that their tax rates are so high that they can't afford to live. They want to be a part of the solution but we need to do a better job communicating without a doubt.
Borg: Aside from better framing of the Medicare proposal in that New York election, isn't that also possibly a hint of what could happen in a general election with a third party candidate peeling away traditional republican votes?
Bachmann: Well, the third party candidate was a self-funder. This was a millionaire who put three million dollars of their own money in and it was not a person coming from a conservative background. They put the label Tea Party over their candidacy. And so that took away enough votes to make the difference. So, I think it's very important on the candidate who is running on the republican side that they identify who the candidates are and where they stand. You need to start out with a very good candidate who is fully funded, who has a good message and who can communicate that message.
Glover: And you have a message, a theme, a persona that sells very well with the Republican Party. You are very popular among the base of the Republican Party. How do you translate that into general election politics to win a general election should you be the nominee?
Bachmann: Well, the best example was the 2010 election. That election was won by the Tea Party. People have a mistaken view that the Tea Party is the radical, right wing fringe of the Republican Party. It isn't and the reason why I think the mainstream media and why a lot of left wing radicals are so fearful of the Tea Party is because the Tea Party is made up of disaffected democrats, independents, libertarians, people who have never been political before and conservative republicans, it's all of the above. And this new group of people that are getting involved in politics are looking at Washington, D.C. and their state capitols, they're seeing budgets that are bursting and they are saying, we've got to get control of our government and maybe now we can't leave it to the politicians, maybe now we the people will have to get involved. And so it's really a remarkable new burst of energy in America very similar to previous movements where people have said, I need to get involved, this is very healthy, it's very good and it's causing us to rethink getting our fiscal house in order. That's a good thing.
Henderson: Last time you were in Iowa you brought your birth certificate. Has President Obama answered all the questions about his legitimate citizenship by releasing his birth certificate from Hawaii?
Bachmann: I think Donald Trump is the one who really brought this issue to the forum. Because of his efforts we saw President Obama released not only a short-form but his long-form birth certificate and I think that really put to rest for most Americans, there may be some who this issue is not put to rest for, but I think for most Americans this issue is put to rest. This is a legal document that has full attestation and that is really the only authority there is, is by the clerk within Honolulu where the President was born. It has been fully attested as a legal document. I think for most Americans that issue is put to rest.
Glover: I'd like to get you to handicap the republican field as it takes shape. Who do you think, who do you assume is running? And who do you think is a frontrunner right now?
Bachmann: Well, I think we know the candidates that have made announcements or who are actively working towards making an announcement, I think that's clear and the field is wide, although it has dropped off. Donald Trump dropped out, Mitch Daniels dropped out, also Mike Huckabee dropped out. That thinned the field. In a speech that I prepared for last evening I had said the line that if just a few more candidates would drop out we could settle this whole thing tonight here in Iowa. So, that's something that maybe we can look forward to. But I think the media has stated that they believe that the frontrunner is Mitt Romney and that is what the polling data shows as well.
Glover: So, you agree with that, Mitt Romney is the frontrunner?
Bachmann: I think that's true.
Glover: And how do you overcome that?
Bachmann: Well, I think the good thing is that this is a fairly long process and people see the candidates and the candidates have to stand for their values and speak for their positions and make their arguments how they'll defeat Barack Obama and I think that's what will be incumbent upon the people, to see who best can stand and defeat Barack Obama.
Henderson: You described Sarah Palin, the former Alaska Governor, as a friend. How would you describe her as a competitor? And are you competing for the same block of votes within the Republican Party?
Bachmann: We have great respect for Governor Palin and I like Governor Palin a lot and I don't see myself as a competitor to Governor Palin or to Mitt Romney, I see my competitor Barack Obama. That is the individual that I believe does not deserve a second term because under President Obama's leadership we've seen a great increase in unemployment, we've seen an explosion in the national debt and we've seen, I think, mishandling of our foreign policy in the Middle East, in particular when the President called on Israel to shrink its borders to the 1967 level. That is completely indefensible. And to allow Palestine full passage, east west, in other words, dividing Israel. I believe that the President of the United States has made America more vulnerable to external hostilities and more vulnerable also economically from China and other nations.
Glover: Are you assuming that Sarah Palin is running, that she's going to be a competitor?
Bachmann: I don't know. She may or she may not be. My decision in running is completely unique and independent of any other candidate. And, again, I don't see myself in comparison with any of the republican candidates, certainly not based on gender, certainly not based upon necessarily economic support but it will be based upon the power of ideas. That is what Iowans care about, the power of ideas and also I have a record, I have an extremely strong record. I was a former federal tax litigation attorney, I have extensive scholarly work and practical work. Also, my husband and I created a business from scratch, we created the capital, we're job creators and I have an extensive knowledge base to know how to successfully run a business and to earn a profit but I also have an understanding of children. My husband and I are parents to five children and 23 foster children that we have successfully raised in our home. We have a strong background and I want to bring that to bear for people in Iowa.
Borg: A moment ago you said that you're running against Barack Obama but you also acknowledged that Mitt Romney is a frontrunner for the nomination. How do you make the case that you're a better republican candidate than Mitt Romney?
Bachmann: I think one thing people need to know is that I stand for what I mean and I mean what I say. When I ran for the Minnesota state Senate, when I ran for the United States Congress I was very clear about the positions that I hold and people know me as a fighter. When I grew up here in Iowa I had three brothers and no sisters, that is the best preparation for politics any girl could ever have. I'm a fighter for what I believe in. One thing that I fought very strongly against is the government takeover of healthcare. I believe strongly in free market healthcare. And if I'm elected President of the United States, if I choose to run, I will guarantee the American people that I will not stop until I repeal Obama care. We need a president who is committed to repealing Obama care but I'm also committed that my first duty will be to turn the economy around and start American made jobs.
Borg: Is that where Mitt Romney is vulnerable, on healthcare?
Bachmann: I believe that a vulnerability for any of the candidates would be any less than a 100%, full scale commitment to the repeal of Obama care.
Henderson: I want to go back to an issue you raised just a few moments ago for viewers who may have wanted to know, what would you do in regards to Israel?
Bachmann: Well, I would stand with Israel. I would be Israel's best friend. Israel is our best friend in the world and particularly in the Middle East region. I would stand and I would let the Arab world know that we have Israel's back, that we will not divide Jerusalem, that we will help Israel in defense of their borders and I would also recognize that the greatest threat that the United States and Israel faces is a nuclearized Iran. Iran has said unequivocally they are on the march to get nuclear weaponry and will use it to wipe Israel off the map and they'll turn and use it against the United States. Instead, the President of the United States has focused on settlements in Israel. Well, Israel building apartments on its own land? I don't see that as much of a threat. A nuclearized Iran, now that's a threat.
Henderson: One of the things you intend to use against your rivals, if you do indeed announce that you are a bonified candidate for the presidency, is your status as a native Iowan. Do you think that will ...
Bachmann: I think that's anyone's great gold standard, to be a native Iowan, there's no downside coming from Iowa.
Henderson: But what specific advantage do you gain from being a native Iowan? You've spent most of your life as a Minnesotan.
Bachmann: Well, when I was twelve years old our family moved to Minnesota but I'm actually a seventh generation Iowan. Our family left Norway and came to Iowa back before the Civil War began. As a matter of fact, one of my great-great-great-great-grandfathers at fifteen signed up and served in the Civil War and was extremely proud of that and carried the flag in the Memorial Day parade up in Forest City, Iowa, northeast Iowa, that's where our family primarily is from. I think it's a distinct advantage because I have that sensibility and I often tell people, everything I needed to know I learned in Iowa growing up. I just loved growing up in this state, my family is still here. As a matter of fact, my brother was a TV weatherman at WHO here in Des Moines for a number of years, Gary Amble. And so we have very, very strong Iowa ties, very strong sensibilities and the nation would be far better off if we took Iowa ideas and common sense to Washington, D.C..
Glover: In Iowa it's required that candidates for president do retail politics, there's no question that you have a buzz about you and your candidacy. Can you pull off the retail politics?
Bachmann: Without a doubt. In Minnesota we have the common thread in that we're also a caucus state. When I ran for the United States Congress I didn't do it by buying expensive ads on TV, I literally went living room to living room and I would meet with maybe a couple or maybe fifteen people and I would make my case. That makes the best candidate. Why? Because we learn the pulse of the people, we learn what they're thinking, what their heart is telling them, that's what I want to do in Iowa, go person to person. That makes the best president because a president then can actually reflect the will of the people. That's the kind of president I want to be.
Borg: As you analyze yourself, Mike used the word you create a buzz where you go. Why don't you analyze yourself and your personality. What is it about it that creates that intensity?
Bachmann: Well, I'm a happy person. I'm a happy person and my husband and I have been married 33 years, I loved my parents, they raised me well, we were Christians and I became a very solid, born again believer in Jesus Christ and I think that I'm an optimist, I see the bright side. We had a point in our life where we went to below poverty as a family and then I had to learn to make my way in life. I didn't see that as a negative, I saw that as an opportunity to appreciate the value of a dollar and because of that and because my parents divorced when I was a young teenager it put in me a heart for at-risk chicken, children. My husband and I have broken hearts for at-risk children. That's why we took 23 foster children into our home and we raised these children. We really believe in positive solutions and a better future. And my husband and I aren't the kind of people who gripe, we're the kind of people who just hunker down and try and figure a way out of the problem. That’s so reflective of what I saw growing up in Iowa and that kind of John Wayne America optimism is what we need to have again, what we can have again in America.
Borg: You're able to transmit that optimism to people and that's what I was really asking. How do you create that report and get people really excited about yourself?
Bachmann: Well, because I think I can see the good that is in people. And when I grew up we were a democrat family, we were reasonable, fair-minded people and I'm a very conservative republican but when I look at people I don't see republican and democrat, independent or political at all, I see people, I see their face, I see humanity and that's what I want to do is I want to know people's heart, I want to know what people are thinking and I want to always let people know be encouraged, things can be better. People are very upset right now and rightly so, gasoline is about $4.00 a gallon, they haven't seen the economy turn around and what I want people to know is that this is not systemic, we don't have to stay this way. W can again be the head and not the tail in America. We don't have to watch ourselves get ourselves kicked because China is growing. What we're missing in America is the political will to succeed. I have that political will to succeed. I want us to make things and manufacture things again in Iowa. My grandmother worked carrying trays of sliced bacon at the meat packing plant in Waterloo. My grandmother worked in a factory sewing in Waterloo, Iowa. My grandpa worked down at the railroad yards. We were blue collar people but we were good people. My grandmother read the Wall Street Journal every day, Time Magazine every week and she instilled in me a love for learning and that's what I think people need to know. We need to make things in America again and we need to change the tax code so we can do that.
Henderson: You recently referenced your Christian faith. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, when he announced he would not run, said that he just didn't feel called to do that. Have you had that sort of calling to run for president?
Bachmann: Well, every decision that I make I pray about as does my husband and I can tell you, yes, I've had that calling and that tugging on my heart that this is the right thing to do and because it's such a momentous decision, not only for myself, my husband and our 28 children, it is a momentous decision what ideas will I bring to bear? What are the resources that I have to marshal in terms of people, assets, the message and also the finances, the amount of time this will take, what this will mean for the nation. Am I the right person for the job? Every decision and every endeavor my husband and I have made we think it through, we're not rash people. We make a plan because we want to succeed, we don't want to fail and so we've been very deliberative in this process and that's why we're now coming to the culmination and next month, as I announced last night, I'll make that decision right here in Waterloo and the world will know.
Henderson: It looks as if Iowans will be presented with the resumes of two Minnesotans as potential candidates for the Iowa caucuses. How would you differentiate yourself from former Governor Tim Pawlenty?
Bachmann: Sure. I have great respect for the former governor and I think that all the candidates will bring their own story to bear and the voters will make a decision. What I can tell them is that I am not an establishment candidate. I have set my own course. I am a very independent person. I've taken on my own republican leadership when I was in the Minnesota Senate and I've taken on my own republican leadership when I was in the Congress of the United States and I continue to. I'm an equal opportunity fighter because I'm about the people that I represent and I have been shocked and amazed at how easily members of Congress spend other people's money. They spend it hand over fist and it's like they don't even look in the rear view mirror. That has to end and it has to end now because the problem isn't ten years from now, the problem is now and so I fight for what I believe in, I'm committed and I have a record of being a fighter. That I think makes me unique I think above all of the candidates because people see that I have fought to be able to bring what people believe to bear and I will continue to fight for what the people want.
Borg: I'm sorry to interrupt but we're getting low on time here. I want to go back to a question that Kay asked about the Middle East and Israel and you said the danger there is a nuclear equipped Iran. What is the solution there? Is it to strengthen and support Israel? Or is it to take the nuclear capability away from Iran?
Bachmann: It would be all of the above.
Borg: How do you do that then?
Bachmann: It's a very long answer. I sit on a House intelligence committee, we're classified, we're tasked with the nation's classified secrets and obviously I can't reveal that here on your show but this is a very real threat, the potential of a nuclearized Iran, they are certainly on pace to become a nuclearized nation. We know Pakistan is today. We also know that Al Qaeda is doing everything they can to gain access to those nuclearized weapons.
Borg: But the question is how then do you take that capability away from Iran and keep it from being developed if that's what you fear?
Bachmann: There are multiple angles that we have to go about that, many of which we are not able to discuss on public TV. They are classified areas and I believe the American public would want us to keep those areas classified all for the purpose of keeping the United States the dominant superpower in the world. It is my opinion that America is the indispensible nation of the world. We are a nation that is a force for good. When we are the superpower of the world we are bringing about peace in the world. I believe in peace through strength. We need to be a strong nation. That is why I'm horrified at much of what President Obama has done. I believe he has sent signals of weakness to the world of America. That is not where we want to be. We want a strong missile defense, we do not want to seed U.S. sovereignty to the U.N. or multinational organizations. I came out against the war on Libya. The President went and engaged in that endeavor when there was no threat from Libya, when we did not have any vital national interest and when Secretary Gates said he didn't even know the military objective and it appears that the rebels that we are assisting possibly may be affiliated with Al Qaeda of North Africa. What possible U.S. interest would we have in bringing up Al Qaeda in North Africa and Libya? This was a mistake from the President.
Glover: We're running short on time but one of the things we have mentioned in the course of this program is that Iowa caucus politics is retail politics where Iowa republican activists are going to want to get to know you, get to know who you are, not just where you are on various issues but who you are. What should Iowa republican activists know about Michele Bachmann?
Bachmann: What they should know is that I'm an Iowan, that I was born here and that I'm an optimist. I came from a lower-middle class family, I had to work my way through college and through life. My husband and I we're very modest means and we live the American dream. We worked extremely hard. I want them to know I'm a very hard worker, I'm committed to my faith, I'm committed to our family but I'm committed most of all to the ideals that created the nation. I love the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, I stand on those ideas and those values. The founders wrote in the Federalist Paper that the greatest quality for a president of the United States would be their character and not that I'm a sinless individual, I'm a great sinner, that's why I became a Christian, I needed forgiveness from a Holy God but what I want people to know is that I value life, I'm 100% pro-life, I'm pro-marriage, pro-family and I'm 100% pro-American jobs.
Borg: We're out of time. Thank you so much for being with us today.
Bachmann: Thank you for the privilege.
Borg: A reminder the Internet is your direct connection to our Iowa Press staff. It's firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be back next week at the usual times, 7:30 Friday night and 11:30 Sunday morning. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.