Michele Bachmann goes after not only Democrats but also fellow Republicans in her new book, accusing former President George W. Bush and her GOP colleagues in Congress of failing to stay true to conservative, free-market principles when they supported the $700-billion Wall Street bailout.
"The Bush administration … was embracing a kind of 'bailout socialism,' " wrote the Minnesota congresswoman, who is running for the GOP presidential nomination. "It was painful to find out John McCain too favored the TARP bailout. … Here was no ‘maverick’ moment. The same disappointing stance was taken by the Republican leadership in the House."
"I knew there was no way I could vote for it, because I couldn’t find authority for it in the Constitution,” Bachmann continued. “As a constitutional conservative, I put principle over party."
This theme — of bucking the establishment — is woven through Bachmann’s book, "Core of Conviction," from her fights over education reform in Minneapolis to her battles with party leaders in Washington. The book, written with GOP speechwriter and Fox News contributor Jim Pinkerton, comes out Monday as Bachmann seeks to revive a sputtering campaign. She launches a 10-city book tour through Iowa and Minnesota on Friday.
The book, Bachmann’s first, is largely a 206-page version of her stump speech, offering familiar tales of her childhood in Iowa and Minnesota, the pain of her parents’ divorce, which sent her family into poverty; her acceptance of Jesus; her marriage to Marcus Bachmann; her five biological children and 23 foster children; and her accidental foray into politics.
"A lot of my life has been persevering against the odds," Bachmann said in an interview. "Those lessons that were taught to me during those years of deprivation really helped to form this title, this 'Core of Conviction.' That’s one thing people know about me, and I hope they’ll know further through the book — there has been a consistency about who I am. I haven’t deviated over the years. I’ve been the same person, but so much of what I’ve become was forged out of either suffering or adversity, and I think adversity and suffering can be the best tools to shape someone’s life."
The lean years in her teens and the early part of her marriage also led to a lifelong frugality. Bachmann writes that she wore Payless shoes on her wedding day, Marcus picks through newspapers looking for coupons at airports while traveling for the presidential race, and she still buys used clothing.
Pointing to a worn black leather Coach purse by her feet, Bachmann said it is a favorite find but has a broken strap. "I love consignment store shopping," she said.
The book offers some fun political dish, such as when Bush went to Minnesota to headline a 2006 fundraiser for her congressional run. Bachmann’s mother told her she needed to dress like a lady, so she wore a pink suit, pink shoes and pink gloves, and carried a pink purse.
Riding in the presidential limousine, Bush "asked with a crinkly smile: 'Why are you wearing those gloves?' I explained, and he said gently, 'Lose the gloves.' "
Bachmann still has them tucked in a drawer but has not worn them since.
House Speaker John Boehner campaigned for her as well, and as she watched him smoke a cigarette, "I suddenly realized who he reminded me of — the TV singer and movie star Dean Martin!" Bachmann wrote.
Bachmann largely glosses over the controversies that have followed her. For example, she discusses the Christian counseling clinic she and her husband founded, but does not mention that many believe it is engaged in a controversial "pray the gay away" effort to turn gay people straight.
She acknowledges that she has a history of misstating facts.
"I’ve learned the hard way at the national level that any erroneous statement will very quickly be magnified. So, as someone who talks for a living, I’ve learned to check, double-check and triple-check my sources. And yet still I make a mistake or two!” Bachmann wrote.
In discussing her presidential bid, Bachmann says that her rivals tried to use her history of migraines to bring up her gender. She is the only woman in the race.
"While I am reluctant to cite sexism as a political issue, sexism certainly can exist,” she wrote. "When migraines briefly became a campaign issue for me, it appeared that political foes were maybe playing the gender card."
The book concludes with her political resume, notably her opposition to President Obama's "gangster government" and his healthcare law, and her activism in the tea party movement. She argues that if she is the GOP presidential nominee, she can unite disparate factions — voters concerned with the economy, national defense and social issues as well as tea-party adherents — to beat Obama. Although she doesn’t discuss her rivals by name, she appears to take a swipe at former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"I believe that a conventional, play-it-safe campaign will ensure that America has to endure another four years of Barack Obama and his wrecking-crew policies," she wrote. "That is, if the Republican presidential nominee fails to energize key constituencies, or worse, if the nominee is seen as insincere, then we will lose."