At the Values Voter Summit, Bachmann Gohmert Overdrive

The Tea Party’s vanguard defended the shutdown to social conservatives, including a comparison of their fight with Obama to an ancient battle against Muslims. By Ben Jacobs.

10.12.13 4:00 AM ET

Shutdown? What shutdown?

While the government shutdown wasn’t discussed much in a morning session featuring 2016 presidential hopefuls like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio at the Values Voter Summit, it was a major topic during the afternoon part of the program.

During a congressional town-hall featuring three right-wing congressmen, Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), and followed up by a speech from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the partisan conflict over the Affordable Care Act and Washington’s budget impasse was discussed at length to an audience of social-conservative activists. It was even compared to an eighth-century battle between Christians and Muslims.

There was no real mention of the economic effects of the shutdown. Instead, the discussion focused on what it meant for the monuments on the Washington Mall and the political consequences of the fight.

Bachmann brandished police tape on stage that she said she had taken down from around the Lincoln Memorial as she regaled audience members with the story about how she, Gohmert, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) went from the World War II Memorial to the Vietnam War Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial on the day after the shutdown and stormed the barricades to allow veterans and patriotic Americans to visit these national shrines.

Gohmert argued that President Obama and Harry Reid were using the shutdown to make “American people suffer like has never been done in a shutdown before”—an intentional ploy for the Democrats to manipulate public opinion and regain control of the House, he said. Gohmert insisted that he didn’t believe the polls that said Republicans were losing the government-shutdown fight in the arena of public opinion, noting that nobody ever liked Congress.

All raged against Obama’s negotiations or lack thereof. Scalise said the president’s goal was to have “government run exactly how I want it.” Gohmert also shared his disgust with the Democratic-controlled Senate, which he saw as being unreasonable in passing “a ridiculous budget” that was not worth negotiating on. He was shocked that Democrats would “blow the size of government up rather than bring it down.” Jordan shared Gohmert’s dismay with the Senate budget and simply reiterated his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan.

It wasn’t all talk of the shutdown and the negotiations around it, though. Gohmert suggested that John McCain was an al Qaeda supporter and Bachmann went on a long riff about early medieval history, referencing the victory of the Frankish King Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732 over the Muslim Umayyad Caliphate from Spain. She praised this important victory over those she described, with dubious historical accuracy, as “Islamic marauders” and “a Muslim insurgency.” 

The consequences of this battle were certainly great. As Edward Gibbon wrote in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “The Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Quran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.” Needless to say, Bachmann compared the importance of this battle against Muslim invaders with the current political fight over Obamacare, which she said should be more accurately called “Deathcare.”

Bachmann was optimistic, though, that this battle would be as great a triumph as the one fought in France 1,281 years ago Friday. “You see, battles count. You need to know when to fight. This is the time to fight, this is our moment for posterity... to stand up and take on this oppressive president.” In the meantime, the government shutdown is due to hit the 12-day mark on Saturday.