Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann is having to play ‘damage control’ after sounding off that the recent 5.8 Virginia earthquake, which shock the nation’s capital all the way up-and-down the east coast, and Hurricane Irena are God’s way of sending a message:
”I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians,” Bachmann told supporters at a Florida rally.
”We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here? Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. Because they know what has to be done. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending’,” she added.
The comments were almost immediately ridiculed and criticized for being politically inept and offensive, with some making unfavorable comparisons to ultra-conservative televangelist Pat Roberton, who has a past of ordaining that natural disasters are God’s wrath for whatever cause Roberton is aligned against.
”Whoops! That wasn’t Pat Robertson ridiculously claiming that God created a (very minor) earthquake and a (relatively unexceptional) hurricane because he was upset about the government’s finances. It was Michele Bachmann. She’s running for president,” New York magazine quipped.
Bachmann was quick to release a statement clarifying her remarks:
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims. This isn’t something that we take lightly. My comments were not meant to be ones that were taken lightly. What I was saying in a humorous vein is there are things happening that politicians need to pay attention to. It isn’t every day we have an earthquake in the United States.”
The East Coast quake was more amusement than life-threatening as no serious injuries or significant structural collapses were reported. Hurricane Irena, in contrast, has left record flooding, devastated homes and dozens of lives lost in its wake.
This incident isn’t Bachmann’s first rhetorical misfire.
Earlier this campaign season, Bachmann erroneously said that the “shot heard around the world” which started the American Revolution was fired in Lexington, New Hampshire, where Bachmann was making a campaign stop. It was Lexington, Massachusetts.
In another incident, Bachmann praised the Founding Fathers for working “tirelessly until slavery was no more.” Many Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves and it took a bloody Civil War almost a century later – one of the defining moments of American history – to make slavery “no more”.
In August, Bachmann wished Happy Birthday to Elvis Presley as she walked on stage to “Promise Land.” August 16 was actually the 34th anniversary of Elvis’ death.
Lastly, speaking on a conservative talk-radio show, Bachmann offered this admonition: “What people recognize is 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 and our loss militarily going forward.” Soviet Union?
Such a growing list may add to the reputation that Bachmann isn’t learned enough, or at least not polished enough as a speaker, to be president. But her supporters are still enamored, much of the Tea Party is energized by her candidacy, and such perceived slights, fair or unfair, and media-crafted labels have never been insurmountable hurdles for other candidates in the past.