I recently mentioned a few examples of errors made by Michele Bachmann in various speeches — urging people to wish Elvis Presley “happy birthday” on what was actually the anniversary of his death, blaming Democrats for the 1930 Smoot-Hawley (or as she pronounced it, “Hoot-Smalley”) Tariff that in reality drew near-unanimous opposition from Democrats, and so on. I left out plenty of other examples, including her claiming that the Founding Fathers had not rested until they had seen slavery done away with, and then insisting she’d been right because slavery opponent John Quincy Adams, who was only 9 when the country declared independence, had been a Founding Father. Unfortunately, John Quincy Adams also didn’t live to see the end of slavery; he died nearly 20 years too soon. Just two days ago on a radio program she said that “there’s a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union…” (To be clear, she’s talking about today, not decades ago when there still was a Soviet Union.)
Fear not: I’ve no intention of cataloging all her gaffes. But it’s worth noting that Bachmann doesn’t just get confused about history and geography. She says a lot of wildly false things about her political opponents, and in at least some cases it’s hard to believe the mistakes are honest. Chris Matthews has reported that a former Bachmann chief of staff had expressed frustration at her insistence on repeating false statements even after being told they weren’t true. In mid-June Politifact produced an overview of nearly two dozen of Bachmann’s political statements they’d looked into. They rated one true, two half-true, four barely true, and the remaining 16 either false or “pants on fire.”
Later in June, Representative Bachmann was interviewed on Face the Nation (here’s a transcript).
At one point Bob Schieffer asked, “You know, you said on the record there had been only one offshore oil drilling permit during the Obama administration. And in fact, at that time, there had been 270. How do you explain that?”
Rather than answering, Bachmann complained that Obama had not issued enough permits, and “That’s why we’re in the problems we’re in.”
Schieffer pressed her twice more on the discrepancy between one and 270, and not only did she keep trying to evade the question, she introduced yet another bizarre falsehood, namely that “the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve.”
In fact Obama did release some oil from the strategic reserve (which incidentally led to a drop in oil prices), but it wasn’t “all the oil,” it came to just over 4 percent.
Bachmann also insisted, “We are the number one energy-resource-rich nation in the world, according to the Congressional Research Service. But the president of the United States has unfortunately put American energy resources off-limits. We need to open those up so we can bring down the price of gasoline at the pump.” (Elsewhere she declared, “We are the Saudi Arabia of oil!” Makes you wonder what Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of. No, besides sand.) The U.S. does have a lot of coal and natural gas, but at this point very little of the world’s recoverable petroleum, and we’re of course already pumping a lot of what’s left. Moreover, even if we opened up all U.S. coastal waters and the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling tomorrow morning, as a matter of practicality and the limited supply of available equipment, it would be a decade or so before we were pumping enough to affect gas prices — and even then only by a few cent per gallon.
Eventually Schieffer asked her, “Just quickly, though, the original question I asked you is all of these statements that you have made that have later proven to be sort of true or totally false in some cases — what’s your answer when people say that to you? Do you feel you have misled people?”
Bachmann’s reply: “No, I haven’t misled people at all.”