When I interviewed Rep. Michele Bachmann last year for MSNBC, I quite frankly didn’t know what to expect. From some of her comments that I had previously heard, I thought we would have nothing in common and that she represented a side of the party that does not accept me. I went so far as to call her “the poor man’s Sarah Palin,” a comment I’ve truly regretted and since apologized publicly for. Although the congresswoman and I differ on social issues—she is against gay marriage, I am a staunch advocate—she is an incredibly strong, independent woman who, like Hillary Clinton, has shattered the glass ceiling for women everywhere. Bachmann is the first woman to win the Iowa Straw Poll and the only Republican female presidential candidate to win a delegate since 1964. Since coming off the presidential trail, Bachmann has returned to Capitol Hill, where she’s been fighting against Obamacare. She talked to me about how Mitt Romney can beat President Obama, whether she would accept a vice presidential offer, sexism in politics, and Rock of Ages.
Hi, congresswoman. Thank you so much for taking the time. How are you doing?
I’m getting back into congressional life and also looking at this national election and seeing that there is more than a chance, I think, for our Republican nominee to take it this time. Or at least I hope and pray Romney will be our next president.
What do you think Romney needs to do to beat Obama?
Well, clearly the No. 1 issue on the minds of the American people is: what will you do to turn the economy around? They know they can’t trust Obama. We know his plan is one for failure; it is all we’ve seen in the last 3 1/2 years. Romney is very smart, very savvy, he has an optimistic message, and he can be trusted on handling the economy, unlike Obama, who has virtually no experience in the private sector. Mitt Romney understands the private sector, he understands how profit is created, and he isn’t embarrassed by it. He needs to continue to let the people know they have a clear choice between someone who knows how to create jobs versus someone who knows how to destroy jobs, Barack Obama. It is that simple. If Mitt Romney can make that case, we will run away with this election.
What would you do if he asked you to be his running mate?
Well, obviously if he asks me, I would pray long and hard about that, but I would do everything I could to help the country succeed. But clearly that won’t be my decision. That will be Gov. Romney’s decision, and one thing we know from Romney is that he has a lifetime of good decisions. Whomever he chooses, I think we know he will make a very wise judgment.
I want to talk to you about the primary a little, because it was so historic. You are the first female Republican candidate since 1964 to win a delegate. What did you think after you won the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames?
Well, I was gratified. No woman had every won the Iowa Straw Poll before. It was a tremendous day in our lives. I saw that there was a path forward because the American people wanted an authentic voice who would stand up for common sense principles. I come from a very modest background, and I felt I was able to connect and make that case with people. I know that even though I didn’t win the nomination for the Republican Party, I made a distinct contribution in the election. I brought to the forefront the idea that Obamacare had to be repealed. Mitt Romney had a different view when he began his race for the presidency and during the course of the election, I think my contribution was to help Romney see how important full-scale repeal of Obamacare is, and he’s now fully embraced that position. He has assured me of that on multiple occasions. I am confident he will stand for full repeal of Obamacare. I am proud of the fact that the Republican Party had a woman on stage and an African-American on stage during the course of the primary, and I think that was a very positive image for our party.
But was it ever hard for you? I see what women are going through in politics right now, and I do think politics is sexist, especially when I see what you were through along with Ann Romney, Sarah Palin, and Hillary Clinton. Would you want your daughters to grow up and run for office?
Sure I would, if that’s what they wanted to do. But they also need to have what I often refer to as a titanium spine, and you have to have alligator skin to be able to go through it. For me, I knew who I was before I went into politics and I didn’t go into politics for my own ego. That freed me. But also what freed me was I knew what I was running for, the principles of our party, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. I don’t think they’re optional. Too often, we don’t hear Barack Obama standing up and being a champion of American values. I think that’s what the American people are hungering for, someone who can stand up and, whether you’re a woman or a man, be that champion. If you’re a conservative woman, you have a tougher time because, because we have a hair and makeup standard and a clothing standard that we have to pass through at very different gauntlets. We can’t be shrill, but yet we have to be tough.
From your point of view, do you think politics is sexist?
I think that there is a different standard for women. I made a decision when I ran for president that I wouldn’t whine about my coverage in the media, and I never did. I wanted this to be a merit-based election, and I think that it had more to do with the fact that the left and center media sources don’t want to see strong conservative women be a role model. I had an objective to show women that you can be feminine, you can be a conservative, and you can have a positive message.
Do you think a woman will be a president in our lifetime?
Without a doubt, absolutely, a woman will be a president, and probably sooner rather than later. I am excited about that, and if what I did serves as a steppingstone for another woman down the course, I am very grateful to have had that chance.
Do you think this woman will be a Democrat or Republican?
Oh, I hope a Republican.
What are your other major objectives now that you’re back to daily congressional life?
Well, I have been very grateful to come back, and I have spent a lot of time in my congressional district. We had the longest unfinished bridge project in the history of the United States and were able to get it through in a bipartisan way, which doesn’t happen very often around here, and that was a tremendous victory. I have also been working on a national issue, and that is the fraud that has been happening in Medicare, because under Obamacare we are going to see a rapid expansion of Medicare. I have been on the phone with a number of Tea Party leaders, and we’re looking at uniting our voice, because it was the Tea Party that had delivered the victory in 2010 to stop the Obama agenda. I also sit on the House Intelligence Committee. The one thing that has shocked me, Meghan, is that when you look at the polling data, the No. 1 area of approval for Obama is his handling of national security intelligence. Well, he’s not from my point of view. He’s the most dangerous president we have ever had on national security.
Why do you think he’s dangerous?
I think the most obvious is that no president has ever revealed the methodologies we use, particularly in the case of bin Laden two week ago, when he was revealing even more of our national security secrets. Then we find out David Axelrod is in the White House on what they call “Terror Tuesdays,” in which they choose who they are going to kill today from the terrorist list. This is absolutely shocking, and here is the president beating his chest and trying to take advantage of that by going to The New York Times. Plus, the fact that we learn the president has been ordering censoring of government documents. He’s been purging the FBI files of anything that could be considered anti-Islamic. These decisions aren’t making us safer; they’re making us more vulnerable, and I am very concerned.
I won’t take up any more of your time. I just have one last question. I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but Catherine Zeta-Jones recently said she based her character in Rock of Ages on you, and the movie completely bombed at the box office.
I didn’t. I read the movie did not do well at the box office, and I am sorry, I don’t even know what the movie is about. I haven’t seen the movie, so it is hard for me to comment. She is an absolutely beautiful woman, Catherine Zeta-Jones. She is very beautiful, so I wish her and her family all the best.
Her character is a conservative politician’s wife who tries to outlaw rock and roll.
Oh, all right. I’ll have to go see the movie, I guess.