The Mother of All Candidates

From The New York Times:

STILLWATER, Minn. — Nearly two decades ago, a stay-at-home mother and onetime federal tax lawyer named Michele Bachmann felt a spiritual calling to open her clapboard home here to troubled teenage girls.

“We had our five biological children that God gave to us, and then he called us to take foster children into our home,” Mrs. Bachmann told a Christian audience in 2006. “We thought we were going to take unwed mothers in,” she continued, adding, “We took 23 foster children into our home, and raised them, and launched them off into the world.”

Original DVD cover

In Washington, she has grabbed the spotlight as a staunch fiscal conservative and brash Tea Party leader. But a look at her life here shows that it was her role as a mother, both to her biological children and to her adolescent foster daughters, that spurred her to seek public office.

Mrs. Bachmann’s political awakening began with her deep disenchantment with the public school system. She helped found a charter school that briefly ran afoul of the state when some parents contended that its curriculum was infused with Christian teachings, and her first run for office was a failed bid for the local school board.

Her career has been deeply interwoven with her evangelical Christian beliefs — opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage were central to her agenda as a state legislator.


Mrs. Bachmann has offered few details about her foster children, and for privacy reasons their names have never been made public.


Over time, Mrs. Bachmann’s husband has said, their home on Johnson Drive grew so full that they expanded their kitchen. They have since moved to a larger home and switched churches. Former neighbors and church members say they saw little of the foster children.


Mrs. Bachmann, whose biological children now range in age from 17 to 29, worked until her fourth child was born.


The Bachmanns were licensed by the state from 1992 to 2000 to handle up to three foster children at a time; the last child arrived in 1998. They began by offering short-term care for girls with eating disorders who were treated through a program at the University of Minnesota, said George Hendrickson, the chief executive of PATH Minnesota, the private agency that handled the placements.

While Mrs. Bachmann may have envisioned herself caring for unwed mothers, as she said in 2006, Mr. Hendrickson, who worked with the couple for four years, said that to his knowledge, none were pregnant.

He said the Bachmann home was “technically considered a treatment home,” which offered a higher level of reimbursement. (The current rate is $47 a day, Mr. Hendrickson said.) That designation required a higher standard of care from parents who had the educational and emotional capability to handle “serious mental health issues.” Dr. Bachmann’s training was an asset.

Minnesota law permits foster care records to be destroyed after seven years, and the Bachmanns’ files are gone, so Mr. Hendrickson could not say how many children they took in. Some stayed a few months, others more than a year.

Critics point out that the couple had not “raised” the children, as Mrs. Bachmann has said.


But here in Stillwater, Mrs. Bachmann cut her political teeth on an issue that concerns nearly all mothers: education, beginning with her controversial work with the charter school, New Heights School, established in 1992 by Dennis Meyer, a local religious figure. Mr. Meyer envisioned it, school officials say, as a place for hands-on learning with a back-to-basics curriculum and heavy parent involvement. Mrs. Bachmann, whose own children had been home-schooled, enrolled one child and joined the board.

But soon after the school opened in September 1993, parents were “butting heads,” said Julie Kearney, the office manager. Minutes of the board meetings reflect intense debate: some parents wanted a school “based on godly principles,” while others contended that “the idea to be as close to a Christian school and be public while taking public money is deceit.”

In a vote over whether Mr. Meyer should resign, the minutes show, Mrs. Bachmann sided with Mr. Meyer. Denise Stephens, who led parents in challenging the religious emphasis, said teachers complained to her that they could not teach “Native American spirituality” or even yoga, and that one who wanted to show the Disney movie “Aladdin” was told she could not because it involved magic.

“Christian teaching was allowed,” Ms. Stephens said, “but any other faith was banned.”

The tensions came to a head when state and local school officials warned the school that it was at risk of losing its charter. In December 1993, after a tumultuous public meeting, Ms. Stephens said, Mr. Meyer and Mrs. Bachmann left the school.

By the late 1990s, with her own children enrolled in private Christian schools, Mrs. Bachman was upset by the education her foster children were getting in public school.

From Rolling Stone:

Anyone wanting to understand how President Bachmann might behave should pay close attention to what happened at New Heights. Because the school took government money, like other charter schools, it had to maintain a separation of church and state, and Bachmann was reportedly careful to keep God out of the initial outlines of the school’s curriculum. But before long, parents began to complain that Bachmann and her cronies were trying to bombard the students with Christian dogma — advocating the inclusion of something called the “12 Biblical Principles” into the curriculum, pushing the teaching of creationism and banning the showing of the Disney movie Aladdin because it promoted witchcraft.

“One member of Michele’s entourage talked about how he had visions, and that God spoke to him directly,” recalled Denise Stephens, a parent who was opposed to the religious curriculum at New Heights. “He told us that as Christians we had to lay our lives down for it. I remember getting in the car with my husband afterward and telling him, ‘This is a cult.'”

Under pressure from parents, Bachmann resigned from New Heights. But the experience left her with a hang-up about the role of the state in public education. She was soon mobilizing against an educational-standards program called Profile of Learning, an early precursor to No Child Left Behind. Under the program, state educators and local businesses teamed up to craft a curriculum that would help young people prepare for the work force — but Bachmann saw through their devious scheme. “She thought it was a socialist plot to turn our children into little worker-automatons,” says Bill Prendergast, a Stillwater resident who wrote for the town’s newspaper and has documented every step of Bachmann’s career.

The theme of socialists scheming to herd children into a factorylike system of predetermined occupations still comes up often in Bachmann’s rhetoric.


[…] Bachmann joined up with a Junior Anti-Sex League-type outfit called the Maple River Education Coalition, which was largely composed of Christian conservatives rallying against educational standards. The group met in a church, and its sessions resembled old-time religious revivals, complete with whooping and hollering. “There were enormous amounts of ‘amens,'” recalls Mary Cecconi, a Stillwater resident who attended an early meeting of Maple River. “It’s like a mission from God with those people.” Maple River was so out there that Minnesota’s then-governor, Jesse Ventura, no slouch in the batshit-conspiracy department, dismissed the group as nothing but a bunch of people who “think UFOs are landing next month.”

Maple River eventually morphed into an organization called EdWatch, which railed against various dystopian indoctrination plans, including the U.N.-inspired International Baccalaureate program, offered in some American high schools. Bachmannites despise IB because its “universal” curriculum refuses to recognize the superiority of Christianity to other religions. You and I might have thought William Butler Yeats, for example, was a great poet who died half a century before the Age of Aquarius, but EdWatch calls him a “New-Age Pantheism Guru” who was aggressively “undermining Christianity.”

Bachmann’s anti-standards crusade led her to her first political run. In 1999, she joined four other Republicans in Stillwater in an attempt to seize control of the school board. The “Slate of Five” proved unpopular: The GOP candidates finished dead last. Bachmann learned her lesson. “Since then, she has never abdicated control of her campaign or her message to anyone,” says Cecconi, who defeated Bachmann in the race — which remains the only election Bachmann has ever lost.

The slate of five had been put together by a local Republican kingpin named Bill Pulkrabek, who this spring was jailed for domestic assault after he allegedly pulled his mistress down a set of stairs by her hair. According to Pulkrabek, Bachmann initially came to him asking for advice on how to defeat Gary Laidig, a moderate Republican state senator, but he advised her to run for the school board first. “We talked about knocking Gary off later,” Pulkrabek recalled. And indeed, right after the school-board fiasco, Bachmann decided to take on Laidig.

In her later telling of the story, however, Bachmann substituted a higher authority than Bill Pulkrabek. It was God, she insisted, not a girlfriend-abusing politician, who instructed her to get involved in politics.


In another version of the story told by Bachmann, she ran against Laidig only because a GOP endorsing convention in April of that year spontaneously selected her, prompting yet another Home Alone extreme-surprise moment. “I came in wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and moccasins, and I had no makeup on at all,” she said. “I had made not one phone call, and spent not five cents, and I did not solicit a vote.” Laidig, who calls Bachmann a “cold and calculating” person, didn’t buy it. “Absolute bullshit,” he told reporters. “She planned this all along.”


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35 responses to “The Mother of All Candidates

  1. A devious, conniving shit bag.

  2. “No wire hangers!”

    Yeah, they could be used for abortions if Bachmann has her way.

  3. johncerickson

    Well, of course “Aladdin” is a horrible influence. Look at me! I played D&D throughout college, and read Tolkien and other fantasy authors in high school. Now, I’m a well-educated. respected member of my community, liked by the police because I chase off trouble-making teen vandals, and embraced as a member of a church I have never attended in my life.
    Um….I’m sorry, what was the point of all this again? 😀
    I’d really like to know what that “Rogue” troll thought was so great about ol’ BBB. Was it her deceit, her narrow-minded religious outlook, or the fact that her playbook was written by the Spanish inquisition? “The world wonders….”

    • i have an aladdin dvd in the other room. i guess that makes me a devil-worshipper or something. 😈 what gets me about people like botox batshit bachmann is not so much their religiosity, but their absolute certainty. there’s never a shred of doubt. i think the tiniest chink in the armor would make the entire mental house of cards to collapse, and then they’d have nothing left.

  4. johncerickson

    By the by, is it just me, or does Nonnie’s poster give you “Rocky Horror” flashbacks? (Yeah, I know, it’s me. 😉 )

  5. Taking in foster children is praiseworthy, but having done something praiseworthy does not entitle her to restrict other people’s reproductive freedom or marriage rights, or to otherwise use the power of the state to enforce the taboos of her personal religion.

    More hypocrisy here.

    I’m hopeful that a Presidential run will bring the disinfectant of publicity to bear on her past. Don’t forget, there are Republicans who will want to bring her down, too — because they think they’ll have a better chance in the general election with Romney than with her.

    The poster actually didn’t put me in mind of Rocky Horror so much as of the Borg, for some reason.

    • taking in foster kids is praiseworthy, if done for the right reasons. by that, i mean a love for children and wanting them to have a safe and loving home. there are plenty of foster parents who take kids in for the wrong reasons–proselytizing, money, or to have live-in babysitters for their own kids. maybe botox batshit bachmann did it for all the right reasons. i just wonder, with 23 kids under her foster parent belt, where are they all? there’s not even one who will come out to sing her praises? maybe that’s unfair, maybe it’s not. in either case, the number of children one has does not qualify you to be president.

      the raisin was all over the pork story as well as botox batshit bachmann’s family accepting tons of money in socialist farm subsidies.

      • jean-philippe

        The number seems to point out it was a money thing. Like… being… a… Republican…

        • i’m thinking they needed a series of babysitters. the girls they took in had eating disorders, so they could keep all the money the state gave them, because they didn’t have to spend it on food. they were getting paid to have free babysitters. what a deal!

  6. jean-philippe

    Obviously, a great mother like Bachmann would be a perfect leader…

  7. Oh she’s a Muther’ alright.
    For what it’s worth Batshit is up there in the polls w Romney.
    You have to wonder what freak sideshow this will inspire Palin to put on.

    Candidates proclaiming “god” told them to run???
    People buying that????
    How low can things go?

    • i think princess sarah is frantically pacing up in wasilla trying to figure out how to relevant again. she’s already dissed faux news, faux news is no longer rallying around her, and bbb has stolen her thunder. i think princess is just trying to figure out a good excuse to use as to why she’s not running for president (even though she never was going to run). those kids will come in handy. she’ll probably say trig needs her (even though he’s lived this long being completely ignored by her).

      • She can always play the “god card”… saying god told her not to run, but to have someone else write books for her & make more $$$ that way.
        Or she can say god is not sure… he advised her to milk the Sara PAC for all the $$$ she can, while he decides what she should do next.
        Maybe the teen kids & friends will vandalize the Sarah mobile & spray paint FRAUD over her gynormic signature??

        A part of me wonders if she is only interested in being president for the free childcare?

        But Bachmann has a creepy factor all her own.
        The fact she is currently a contender at all scares the hell out of me.
        She’s a big anti gay marriage hater. Wants the man & woman verbiage in the constitution!

        Basic civil rights & equality for some!

        I guess Batshit formally announces her candidacy today.
        Will she …. play the god card & announce god told HER to run?
        I’m gonna bet she throws some god element into her blather, I mean speech.

        • how could i have forgotten the g-d card? that’s always on top of the deck.

          you were right about botox batshit bachmann. it’s all g-d all the time with that bimbo.

  8. While waiting for the Sonoma race to start this morning, I got to see BB on Face the Nation giving mundane notions about things, very boring. Scheifer tried to pin her down on a survey done of eighteen talking points she uses, only one rated a true, many half-true, five rated “pants on fire”, and he quoted one to get her reaction: “You claim Obama has issued only one deep drilling permit in the gulf, yet at the time you said it, 270 had been issued and the number now is around 300….” And she hemed, and when pressed why she keeps saying this, she hawed. Never answered the question. What a maroon. (where’s the troll?)

    • i missed her performance. the only thing i can give her credit for, at least so far, is that she hasn’t barricaded herself in the safety of faux news. princess sarah would never do that.

      the troll can be found here.

  9. elizabeth3hersh

    After being raised by an alcoholic mother and abusive father, I have a soft spot for nurturing women. I revere, respect and adore them and only wish I had been the recipient of this kind of care and attention. Their motives are irrelevant and a child or teen seeking refuge and being treated kindly are not going to scrutinize motives (by the way, as a mother I can’t believe anyone would do what she did for ‘the money’ [it’s too damn hard!] and if there was any mistreatment, believe me, they wouldn’t keep quiet). No, I suspect her motives are pure even if proselytizing is part and parcel of the Bachmann foster arrangement. I’ve said it before in another post: Bachmann, Palin, et al would have turned out differently if they had been raised by Berkeley professors. People are a product of their (batshitty) environment and upbringing. Thomas Friedman recently published an article titled “100 Days.” You can find it here: It sums up exactly my feelings on politics of late and the upcoming election. Astonishingly, in this column he is advocating a third party! Thomas Friedman! Yes, people are disgusted with both parties. I’m changing my party affiliation to Independent the first chance I get. My oldest daughter says we are timing our trip to London for the summer of 2012 and not coming back until the election is over (and not coming back at all if Bachmann is elected!).

    • i have a soft spot for nurturing women and men, too, for that matter. however, i don’t have a soft spot for phonies. i know that princess sarah is a phony. i don’t think botox batshit bachmann is a total phony, because i think she actually believes the shit she tells herself. i also don’t think that’s she’s nurturing. the reason i say that is that she has a half-sister she grew up with. that half-sister is a lesbian, and bbb has shut her out of her life. to me, that says she’s only loving to those who are not inconvenient to her.

      thomas friedman isn’t saying anything that a lot of people, including some raisinettes, haven’t said before. we are long overdue for a real and viable third party. however, with the supreme court kissing the asses of corporations, that won’t happen, because there’s not enough money to start a third party.

      p.s. if bbb is elected, please let us know where you are in london. we might want to rent out a room.

      • johncerickson

        “…i think she actually believes the shit she tells herself”. Those are the type that scare me the most. Ones like Palin know they’re full of it, and will eventually fold. Ones like Bachmann are just like Hitler in the bunker. They’ll convince themselves of whatever reality justifies them – even if it involves tearing an entire country apart. Forced to choose between the two, I’ll stick with Palin, but only if FORCED!

  10. I was an independent for a short while, but then realized I could not participate in Dem primary elections.
    I’d rather be registered in one party or another.
    A friend registered as a repug, just to see what they were up to AND to sabotage their primary elections!
    But alas, she could not stand the hateful propaganda & had to bail.

    • that’s why i don’t become an independent. i’d like to have some say in who the candidate should be. on the other hand, it seems that independents are the only ones listened to, so maybe that’s the way to go.

  11. and on a lighter note, even the usually staid AP couldn’t resist this one:
    ….’she flubbed her hometown history when declaring “John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa,” and “that’s the kind of spirit that I have, too,” in running for president.
    The actor was born nearly 150 miles away. It was the serial killer John Wayne Gacy Jr. who lived, for a time, in Waterloo.’