McCarthyism Has A New Face – Rep. Michelle Bachmann UPDATED

October 23, 2008


Local paper Minnesota Star Tribune has kept up with this, and given light to some of the response and fallout. As to Bachmann’s response: she blames Matthew’s tactics, the using of “only clips of my interview”, denies she said what she said, and states that they (Matthews and liberal blogs) are “motivated entirely by their hatred of me and my conservative beliefs.” My response? If you are that easily tricked by a journalist, you do not need to be representing anyone at a federal level. Congress debates legislation, and votes according to the persuasiveness of the debate and examination of the factors involved. If you can be that easily tricked into saying something, I don’t want you arguing on anyones behalf. Even if you don’t share my views and it would be beneficial to me to have you as an opponent to them. On to the fallout: the candidate who opposes her has raised $1.3 million since her comments, and the GOP has pulled national funding for commercials for her. And that gives me hope that this interweb device of ours might just be able to change the landscape of politics, and allow the populous to hold the elected representatives of this country accountable for their words.

Just recently saw the following interview with Michelle Bachmann. From this point forward, I will refuse to call her representative, because the views she puts forth are by no means representative of anything which I, or any who believe in the importance of thought, can believe. For those who wish to read first, please look past the video – I will quote relevant segments for support of arguments. Either way, please watch the video and decide for yourself, whether before or after reading.


Ok, so what’s the deal here? How can I suggest that this is a form of McCarthyism? 

Bachmann: “usually, we associate with people who have similar ideas to us, and it seems that it calls into question what Barack Obama’s true beliefs, and values, and thoughts are.”

Point one for McCarthyism! McCarthy used the same kind of tactic. In his case, it was “give me the name of 3 communists you’ve associated with, or admit you are a communist”. This is simply ridiculous. I associate with many people who I do not have similar thoughts to, including those who are far more radical than I am in both conservative and liberal spectrums. I respect their thoughts and ideology, even if I do not agree with their conclusions. I call it keeping an open mind. My thoughts, values, and beliefs are my own, and no one else’s. It is just this kind of attack on intellectual freedom that people as respected as Albert Einstein (as the American Museum of Natural History points out) spoke out against.

Bachmann: “calls into question not only his judgement, but also what Barack Obama really believes, and we know that he’s the most liberal senator in the United States Senate, and that’s just after one year after being there, he’s the most liberal, Joe Biden is the third most liberal, you’ve got Harry Reid who’s liberal, Nancy Pelosi who’s liberal…”

Point two for McCarthyism! In the same horribly phrased run on sentence, Bachmann links Obama’s association with a former domestic terrorist to his liberal beliefs (although the study she uses disagrees with two others), and then to other liberal senators. Here, not only does she imply guilt by association, but she extends that guilt to other members of the US Senate.

Bachmann: “Most Americans, Chris, are WILD about America, and they’re very concerned to have a president who doesn’t share those values.”

Point three, McCarthy! This attacks intellectual freedom once again. Personally, I would not describe myself as being “wild about America”. Don’t get me wrong here…I love this country, and the freedom and ideals that it was founded upon. But I also am pragmatic enough to admit that there are problems with the current state of Government. There will always be problems with Government. It is up to us to minimize those problems. Honestly, there’s not much I’m really “wild” about. Wild is not the way I want any of my thoughts described…rather, it is something I try and avoid. I prefer my thought to be reasoned. This includes my love of country. There is a reason I love my country, and it’s not wild, it’s rational and based in belief of essential freedoms.

Matthews: “Do you believe that Barack Obama may have anti-American views?”

Bachmann: “Absolutely, I…I…I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views”

McCarthy, point four! McCarthy used a similar tactic to bring people before the public and, while never calling them communist, questioned their loyalty to America based on the fact that they, in essence, associated with Communists. The web just keeps getting bigger and bigger…

Bachmann: “On college campuses…you find people who hate America” 

Woh…McCarthy point five! McCarthy’s downfall was when he began to levy these kinds of charges against intellectuals and teachers, including the eventual accusations against Oppenheimer (yeah, the one who brought us the war-ending atomic bomb). This language attempts to draw into question the entire higher educational system in much the same way McCarthy did. Again, it calls into question the same issues of intellectual freedom that so many used to fight McCarthyism in the first place.

Bachmann: “I’m not going to say if they’re anti-American or pro-American.”

McCarthy, point six. This kind of “I don’t know what their views are, I’m just questioning them” logic is exactly the kind of rhetoric McCarthy used. This kind of rhetoric is absolutely inappropriate coming from a seated elected official. It is why Congress eventually held hearings to censure McCarthy.

Mathews: “How many do you suspect of your colleagues as being anti-American?”

Bachmann: “What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look, I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.”

McCarthy, point seven, game, set, match. This is really the kicker, folks. The idea of creating a congressional committee like the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was called by Harry Truman “the most un-American thing in the country today.”, is obviously not going to fly anymore. So, the next best thing is to throw the same type of “investigation” to the media. After all, the media cannot be held accountable in the same ways Congress can. For a Congress-person to call for this investigation, however, is beyond inappropriate; it is scary.

As always, this post is made from a viewpoint that attempts to remove emotion and bias. Please note that I will not comment on the Ayers/Wright/Obama controversy that is already commented on in so many places. Quite frankly, the entire issue is far too overly politicized to be looked at in the context of this blog. However, the comments of Ms. Bachmann are beyond political.

Statements such as these coming from an elected representative are not only harmful, but hearken back to a darker period of the past which, I hope, Americans have learned from. To allow speech like this to continue from our elected officials, regardless of your viewpoint on Sen. Obama’s associations, is to allow the country to drift into a period of unsupported fear that created some of the worst derision of the past, and furthered the derision that created some of the most radical and violent movements of the 1960s and 1970s. This is unacceptable, and should not be allowed.

If we are to learn anything from the past, we must learn that these sort of widespread “guilt by association” attacks that call for investigations based upon only the idea that “I can’t prove that someone is not anti-American, so we must investigate whether they are” have no beneficial effect. They only serve to further divide the country, and foment the anger that has begun to rear its ugly head once again. I urge all thoughtful individuals to speak out against such acts, and request that Ms. Bachmann at the very least retract and apologize for her comments, if not that she be censured by Congress for her comments. We simply cannot stand for this kind of vitriol from people who are elected to positions of power.



  1. […] Here is an excellent analysis of Bachmann’s claims from Intelligent by Design blog. […]

  2. For those who haven’t seen it – there is a petition to call on Congress to censure this spewer of vitriol. Sign it over at http://www.censurebachmann.com. Interesting to note – since I first saw this interview and began this analysis less than 12 hours ago, this petition has gone from 3,000 to 34,000 signatures. We can make a difference.

  3. Hey, IBD, saw your exchange with garychapelhill at the Confluence. Don’t waste your time. He’s a censorious, robotic asshole. And Riverdaughter has become Jeralyn.

  4. My previous comment was deleted, and that’s fine. Just want to give you some support in the face of the poison that any rational comment now excites at that blog, and to acknowledge that your patience is greater than mine. Peace.

  5. Hey Palomino –

    Sorry about being a little slow approving your comments. But…well…I’m a little slow sometimes. 🙂 Thanks for the support. The whole political world seems to have gotten a bit topsy-turvy lately, with a lot of very heated opinion from all sides…a little wacky, eh? I just hope that after the election, people will calm down a little again, and rational debate and reasoned thought will enter into the equation once again.

  6. “I just hope that after the election, people will calm down a little again, and rational debate and reasoned thought will enter into the equation once again.”

    If that happens, IBD, you will be leading the way. Great respect from me for your blog, your intellectual honesty, and your equanimity.

  7. IBD,

    I just found your blog by way of Mudflats and More Light Than Heat.

    Your systematic comparative breakdown of Michelle Bachmanns lunatic rant was spot on. Matthews opened the door of hell for Bachmann and she gladly stepped over the threshold without anyone’s help. She will reap what she sows.

    I recently posted a great article on my blog by Dawn Teo from the Huff Post which talks about use of certain psychological tools that are very reminiscent of McCarthyism. This is a must read.

    Again, I am so pleased to have found you. If you don’t mind I will be putting you on my Blog Roll.


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