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Fact-checking Michele Bachmann: What good is it?

BachI know I'm late weighing in on this, but watching Michele Bachmann's officially unsanctioned State of the Union response Tuesday night, I was reminded of a quip by Dodgers announcer Vin Scully: "Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination." The Minnesota congresswoman wielded the frightening words -- "billion" and "trillion" -- that turn "tea partyers" red in the face. She stood in front of charts showing dramatic increases in something or under the Obama presidency, stage props that have proved effective for fellow tea party mogul Glenn Beck. Also like Beck, she invoked the wisdom of the Founding Fathers. But unlike Beck, she refrained from making veiled comparisons between the White House and Nazi Germany; she used Imperial Japan instead.

Which brings me to my point: Though fact-checking Bachmann's (or Beck's, or Sarah Palin's, or any tea party mogul's) historical references provides her critics a certain level of schadenfreude, does it do any good? Before acting as the tea party spokeswoman Tuesday night, Bachmann told a group of anti-tax Iowans  that the founders who wrote the Constitution worked tirelessly to fix their error and eradicate slavery, "men like John Quincy Adams" -- the son of a founder -- "who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country." A chorus of critics called her out for the glaring factual error, a rightful shaming that would cause any honest commentator to pause before asserting so confidently that history is on her side.

But Bachmann was right there Tuesday night, having weathered another round of left-wing hand-wringing, characteristically comparing the Obama administration to the "totalitarian aggressor" U.S. Marines fought on Iwo Jima. And CNN, whose own Anderson Cooper has previously chastised Bachmann for unapologetically flubbing American history, later aired the congresswoman's cliched invocations of the Founding Fathers and constitutional originalism, remarks that were ostensibly intended for her narrow tea party audience.

The problem is that Bachmann is a sought-after pundit in the first place. Much of her brand is bombast, which brings with it a less-than-wholesome treatment of the truth. Getting into a tizzy over her untrue, yet confident, utterances gives her more airtime than her intellectual heft deserves. Of course, this means the non-Fox News broadcasters would have to resist the temptation to invite her on as a commentator. No objections here.

RELATED:

The Conversation: Mixed reaction to Obama's State of the Union address

State of the Union bingo!

How memorable is any State of the Union address?

-- Paul Thornton

Photo: In this screen grab taken from video, Bachmann delivers her response to  Obama's State of the Union address. Credit: Associated Press

 

Comments () | Archives (43)

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Gerald J. Miller

It would be easier to fact-check it in reverse: assume that everything she says is wrong, and report it as news if she somehow guesses right.

mds

The TPers remind me of people who are somewhat crazy--one sign is that they are unaware of "pragmatics," that is, the ordinary give-and-take which would cause a less crazy person to pause when they committed a social faux pas. In lecturing their posse of true believers, they are really unaware of how nuts they look to the outside world. This goes double to people from outside the US, who are a bit less tolerant of typical american rants--to them it looks as if our media has lost it because they are giving equal time to wingnuts.

mansterEZ1

Bachmann has a law degree. I'd bet that she could get a good deal for even the most egregious of criminals although her background is immersed in fundamentalist Christianity. It is interesting to note that she is totally against earmarks and out-of-control spending, but her family farm has received more than $1/4 million in dairy and corn subsidies from the federal gov't since 1995.

Effin hypocrite.

Bob in Berkeley

"CNN....later aired the congresswoman's cliched invocations of the Founding Fathers and constitutional originalism, remarks that were ostensibly intended for her narrow tea party audience."
----------------------------------------
These remarks were only intended for her tea party audience? They just HAPPENED to be aired to a national audience after the GOP response to the SOTU speech? CNN (and Bachmann) didn't promote her post-SOTU speech "comments" for days prior to the actual event?

Look, I'm pretty gullible, but this sure looked like an orchestrated political event promoted and executed for a specific purpose – and if I had to guess, that purpose was to expose Michelle and her philosophy to a national audience in the hope that said audience would go wild for Michelle.

Sophie

I agree with Gerald J. Miller. When I listen to any Tea Party loser or right wing nut, I disbelieve everything they say, because they spew nothing but ideological rhetoric so ridiculously extreme that any facts they happen to throw in there seem pretty irrelevant.

oldtimer

Not since Newt Gingrich denied sodomizing a young male Senate Page have the "Facts" been so non-factual.

eMan

This woman is a lunatic, pathological liar, and evil persona... Dumb as sin too. Republicans n Tea Partyers don't need the truth... They LIE to get what they want...

Zandar the rebel alien

Stepford wife. Nuff sed.

Kelly

Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin-The Tea Party pin-up girls.

vonBeavis

Re: Bachmann per Forest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does." And wow, is she ever stupid!

Then again and with another movie line, per Obi Wan Kenobi, "Whose worse, the fool or the fool who follows the fool?" I'm lookin' at you, teabaggers.

TB

As Keith Olbermann would say: "That woman is an idiot!!!!!!!!!"

Bernard Webb

I have noticed three characteristics common to the far-right conservatives that are currently plaguing the nation:

1. Strong opinions
2. Absolute certainty
3. Total ignorance

All three were on full display in Bachmann's absurd speech, and indeed in every goofball thing she says these days. How did we get to the point where someone like this is given a national platform for her lunacy?

Chuck Reutter

Why wasn't the Green Party invited to respond to the President's state of the union speech?

Mitchell Young

The Left has its own ignorant dogmas that seem impervious to facts or logic. Indeed right in the linked article, the guy criticizing (rightly) Bachman's historical error makes one himself. He invokes the three fifths compromise as some sort of denial of the humanity of African (or African descended) slaves. But a moment's thought, or some reading, would tell him that the people pushing for apportioning representation based on the full number of slaves were the slave holders themselves. In contrast the people pushing for not counting slaves at all -- according to the 'logic' above, totally denying their humanity -- were the non-slave holding states. In short, the three fifths compromise limited slave-holder power, presumably a good thing. Had the Founders adopted a policy which met the modern sensibility (counting the total number of slaves), slave state power would have been greater than it already was. Criticize the compromise in maintaining slavery at all, but using the three fifths thing as some specially egregious example of those evil white Founders views of blacks is historically ignorant.

Raul, Los Angeles CA

enough said on MB.

tclow

mansterEZ1-"her family farm has received more than $1/4 million in dairy and corn subsidies from the federal gov't since 1995. Effin hypocrite."

Do you know how much it costs to manage a farm these days? There is NO farm out there that would survive without government subsidies. Wow! A 1/4 million since 1995? That's 15 years. Divided out thats just $16,000 a year. I'd hardly call her family effin hypocrites.

tclow

I looked it up, and it was from 1995 to 2006, so that's 16 years to get the $250,000. That's $22,727 a year.
I've also seen articles of her "obscene" income of $50,000 from said farm. I've noticed that in all the articles the word "income" is used and not "profits". So, I'm going to assume that it is in fact "income" - which means there are still overhead costs to pay for the farm maintenance. If we knew her profits for the farm, then it would probably be a lot less impressive.

niki

Bachman is another Palin, like a twin. Now we have two similar looking women with similar ideologies and drive to be in people's faces. I think both will eventually fizzle since neither one has any substance, or capability. They simply thrive on attention as any station becomes a foothold. They will fail. Palin already has.

Jeff Davis

She's a dolt. I'm astonished anyone listens to her or even, as in this case, gives her any media time. We have serious issues breathing down our neck, and clueless harpies are not one of our serious issues. Unemployment, poverty, hunger, uneducated young people, serious inequities in our tax structure, monumental debt--these are serious issues. If you pundits would focus on the real issues instead of these little gnats, it might help to raise the level of the national conversation to something resembling necessity.

JA

The reason that we on the intelligent left become so outraged by these people (Bachmann, Beck, Palin, et al) is that we are well informed enough to instantly know that most of what they say is incorrect, they are lying, and that their entire empire is based on leveraging the stupidity, intellectual incuriousity and gullibility of a wide swath of Americans.

We need to realize, that a large percentage of our fellow Americans are indeed really stupid, intellectually incurious, and gullible, and that it is completely legal for organizations like the Tea party, the Republican party and most organized religions to leverage that stupidity for their gain.

Time to stop losing sleep over it. Deep breath, repeat after me, "America is largely a really, really stupid country, and there's nothing I can do about it".
Ahhhh, just feels better to say it out loud, doesn't it?

Jim

When I hear someone attack Sara Palin or Michele Bachmann I want to come to their defense, then I listen to what they have to say and realize no defense is possible.

jme

Since she uses false history as political premise and then draws wrong conclusions, it is very important that she be fact-checked because there are people who believe her.

zaglossus

Two more recent Bachmann wh0ppers: (1) she said the Marines on Iwo Jima fought against overwhelming odds. Not true. The Japanese put up a stiff resistance but they were surrounded, so to speak. (2) Carbon makes up 3 % of the atmosphere. Actually it is much less (300 parts per million)

lois eisenberg

Why bother to figure out Michele Bachmann?? She is what she is!! Her rhetoric is only going to get more outrageous!! Michele puts her " foot in her mouth" whenever she opens her mouth!! Let her continue her ranting and raving. Michele and Sarah are the best things that have happened to the Democratics since the Republicans took over the House. Both girls and the Republican Party and the Tea Party are going to trip over themselves in due time!!!

JayCeezy

"Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination." This quote is attributed to Andrew Lang, a Scottish poet. It is not a quip "by" Vin Scully.

"Opinion journalist" Paul Thornton, check your own facts. And don't cry about it when you try to act smart and wind up looking stupid. The LAT has plenty of errors to be ashamed of.

hb

It is sad that my own congressman is using the same sort of skewed, manipulated statistics, via a taxpayer funded mailing, no less--showing an explosion in deficit spending without mentioning the Bush unpaid-for expansion of Medicare, the "off budget" Iraq war spending, and the collapse of revenue due to the popping of the housing bubble. Not to mention the blatant hypocrisy of paying no attention to the exploding deficit when Bush was in office.

Adams

It amazes me when liberals attack conservatives for saying things they have never said. This opinion piece is a case in point. Bachmann did not say that "the founders" worked tirelessly to end slavery. She said that "our forebearers, like John Quincy Adams" worked tirelessly to end slavery. Are liberals that ignorant of the English language as to suggest that "founders" and "forebearers" are synonyms? Her quote is 100% accurate.

Mitchell Young

AC360 also mentioned the 'No Irish Need Apply' signs that have been pretty well debunked --such advertisements were very few.

http://tigger.uic.edu/~rjensen/no-irish.htm

ROLEN

The farm subsidy isn't the issue it's calling whatever the President proposes government handout Socialism while accepting a government handout.

BigRez

"more airtime than her intellectual heft deserves"
How very pompus of you. I feel so glad to have such a well informed arbiter of whose views should be aired. And where do you draw the line? But you sure are a First Ammendment fan, arent you? An attack of her points would serve you better with most than an attack on her intellect. It makes you seem smug and self important. Lefties will cheer you along, but you will hurt your cause in the end. Obama has begun figuring this out.

Dave Fairburn

Lets see, John Adams (father) was born in 1735, whereas his son, John Quincy Adams was born in July 1767. The Declaration in Independence was drawn up in 1776. JQ Adams must of been a child genius.

Bachmann had to be reading off of Sarah's hand during here speech since here eyes were looking to right or maybe there was a nude picture of Andy Dick.

JT

@Adams, who wrote: Bachmann did not say that "the founders" worked tirelessly to end slavery. She said that "our forebearers, like John Quincy Adams" worked tirelessly to end slavery. Are liberals that ignorant of the English language as to suggest that "founders" and "forebearers" are synonyms? Her quote is 100% accurate.

I wouldn't lecture anyone else about ignorance of the English language if I were using a word such as "forebearers," which does not exist.

Jay Adler Comment

Now that the Left Wing and Liberal factions are coming to the conclusion that as the President rotates to the centrist area of the dial, they will be jettisoned from the center ring. Sarah Palin who in the most disrespectful and rude dispositions has been insulted continuously for years by Internet non-exercisers, cable comedians and even a Left anchor who as a grown man claims something shoots up his leg when he sees Obama, witnessed Ms. Palin doing very well in New Hamphire polls just conducted. I think the wannabe bloggers are kids who cannot vote. Going after Michele Bachmann in a modus operandi that clearly defies President Obama's cry for civility is throwing the cue ball against the rail-cheap pool. These detractors are creating a Palin alternative when they better start concentrating on winning 2012, better time spent.

George

Speaking of fact checking ... Did you fact check your opinion piece? She referenced the Mayflower Compact, the founders, and then said this:

"And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly - men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country." [source, text of speech]

She was clearly building a chronology and referring to JQ Adams as a "forebearer" not a "founder."

Its an easy mistake to make but to compound the irony, I did not see a post among those at the bottom that bothered to check your facts either. They just mindlessly agreed, the same thing they accuse the right of doing.

krvonl

Bachmann does not let facts get in the way of her opinions. Just because she has a law degree doesn't mean a thing. Obama, G. W. Bush, and B. Clinton all have law degrees, and look at the disasters they have all been.

Terry Coldiron

Whether or not Michele Bachman got her facts right might be a worthy topic for an article. However, the tone of the article is to insult a very popular US congresswoman. I am more interested in the message than being a nitpicker. Anyone that is against out-of-contol deficits, huge government spending, and a proponent of the value of the individual vs. the state is worth listening to. And to show how bright her critics are, here are the actual words used to describe her in the comments above - "crazy", "nuts", "hypocrite", "lunative", "liar", "evil", "dumb", "stupid", "idiot", "goofball", and "dolt". When someone with limited intelligence cannot criticize the message, they attack the person. That's pathetic.

BigDaveH

This isn't really something for the Opinion page, more like the Comics.

Robert Thomas

Watching the spectacle of the Republican party is mind-boggling. I suppose the real action will start soon as would-be Presidents start lining up to take their chances for the Big Prize. Who will step up first?? WATCH in amazement as their gaffe-filled statements draw applause from loyal supporters!! See the MILLIONS of dollars of campaign contributions flooding into their war chests!! Marvel at the STAMINA of public relations flacks who struggle to clothe them in the Majesty of POWER!!! TREMBLE at their ability to reach convincingly for the BUTTON OF DESTRUCTION!!!!
The Democrats, by comparison---kinda' boring. Just a hard-working President pressing forward as best he can.

mansterEZ1

tclow,

Why is there no data on this farm available since 2006? Could it be that she has been a member of Congress and is able to hide the information better? What I'm pointing out is that she expounds upon the evil of earmarks and subsidies, yet personally benefits from these same gov't programs. If that's not hypocrisy, what is it?

Adam R.

The fading hope for American democracy is that the right wing will destroy itself with idiots like Bachman. Indeed, loony candidates are all that prevented their takeover of both houses of Congress in the mid-term elections. We can only hope that Sarah Palin will be their 2012 presidential nominee, providing the ultimate poison pill for wingnuttery in America.

Michael Baldwin

Amazingly, and sadly, I sometimes feel a plant in my garden possesses greater understanding of truth over Michele Bachmann, and most other Tea Party pundits who like to spread lies, fear and divisiveness. It's the new way of Republicans, and a lot of people appear to lack the collective ability to discern what is truth and what it lies and rhetoric.

Apparently, anyone can say whatever they want, without any accountability whatsoever. Like the moron from Arkansas who made the comment about his solution for undocumented workers, "...empty the clip, and that's a good start", or something to that effect. Absolutely appalling and irresponsible, because history shall prove these people the idiots they are.

Sometimes, it appears that Michele Bachmann makes Sarah Palin look like she's an Einstein by comparison. However, Palin refuses to acknowledge facts, too, so that's not saying much at all for Backmann... or Palin, or anyone who spews these hateful lies to foment violent reactions such as what happened in Tucson.

That's right, keep fanning the flames, then state that you assume no responsibility for the damage done by the fire. Now that's true ignorance and lack of accountability and responsibility. When will we as a country demand truth and accountability from our elected officials? When we actually do something with facts, and with those who choose to ignore them and spread lies.

Michael Baldwin

Amazingly, and sadly, I sometimes feel a plant in my garden possesses greater understanding of truth over Michele Bachmann, and most other Tea Party pundits who like to spread lies, fear and divisiveness. It's the new way of Republicans, and a lot of people appear to lack the collective ability to discern what is truth and what it lies and rhetoric.

Apparently, anyone can say whatever they want, without any accountability whatsoever. Like the moron from Arkansas who made the comment about his solution for undocumented workers, "...empty the clip, and that's a good start", or something to that effect. Absolutely appalling and irresponsible, because history shall prove these people the idiots they are.

Sometimes, it appears that Michele Bachmann makes Sarah Palin look like she's an Einstein by comparison. However, Palin refuses to acknowledge facts, too, so that's not saying much at all for Backmann... or Palin, or anyone who spews these hateful lies to foment violent reactions such as what happened in Tucson.

That's right, keep fanning the flames, then state that you assume no responsibility for the damage done by the fire. Now that's true ignorance and lack of accountability and responsibility. When will we as a country demand truth and accountability from our elected officials? When we actually do something with facts, and with those who choose to ignore them and spread lies.

yourstruly1

Well, I can see why people fall head over heels in love with Michele Bachmann, and it's not her looks that do the trick. She has such a warm, motherly charm and such a sweet-sounding voice that she'd be near impossible for anybody to resist and all-too blissfully easy for everyone to believe. So the anti-tax crowd in Iowa turned red in the face during her speech. Gotta ask: Was it from rage, laughter, or embarrassment?


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