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2012 campaign: Defending Michele Bachmann (generically)

August 12, 2011 | 12:35 pm

Tim Pawlenty skewers Michele Bachmann in Iowa
At Thursday's debate among GOP presidential candidates in Iowa, the headline-grabbing moment came when former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty accused Rep. Michele Bachmann of being all talk, no walk. Pawlenty contended that Bachmann had a "nonexistent" record of accomplishments, and when she replied that she's been leading the fight against all things Obama, he pointedly observed that "leading and failing is not the objective."

But Bachmann has spent her entire political career as a legislator, not an executive like Pawlenty. More to the point, she's been a small-government-championing Republican. If your side argues that government is the problem, do you really want a candidate who can tout a bunch of new laws he or she pushed through?

And Bachmann's spent all but the last two years in the minority, first in the Minnesota Senate, then in the House of Representatives. She arguably remains in the minority, affiliated more closely with the "tea party" faction than the GOP leadership that runs the chamber.

Nevertheless, Pawlenty raises an interesting question. What kind of track record do we expect in a presidential candidate, and what standards do we measure it against? It's far easier for governors to tout specific achievements -- jobs created, bad bills blocked, regulations added or removed -- than it is for legislators, whose only unilateral power may be the ability to introduce a bill. Do we care more about someone's ability to make the right decision or to join the right team? Is a good idea more valuable than the ability to transform an idea into law?

We've had some experience recently with a president who was a former lawmaker with no executive experience. (Insert your joke here.) Should that make us more skeptical of Bachmann's background? What do you think? Take our incredibly unscientific poll, leave a comment, or do both!


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