Presidential candidates carve public images and carefully edit their stories to appeal to voters. But Michele Bachmann, the only female candidate among the GOP presidential hopefuls, shares intimate details about her life, including her parents' divorce and her own miscarriage, in Core of Conviction: My Story. The representative from Minnesota's Sixth District says she wants people to know about her struggles because they have shaped her beliefs and motivations. Bachmann recently spoke with U.S. News about some of the challenges she experienced in her youth, her views of the Obama administration, and what it's like to run for president as a woman. Excerpts:
Why did you write this book?
So people could have an unfiltered, three-dimensional view of who I am, what my motivations are, what my life story is. Why it is that I have the core convictions that I have today. And I want people to see that I have led a consistent life based upon those core convictions.
What would surprise readers?
I think people are unaware that I come out of a middle-class background and my family went to below poverty virtually overnight after my parents divorced. And when I was a fairly young teenage girl, I had to start getting jobs baby-sitting so I could help buy my glasses and my clothing. And during those years, which were very challenging times financially, a lot of my core convictions were forged.
The belief that no one owes you a living. And that it's an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Those are just some basic American values.
You recount praying throughout the book. How important is this?
I think that the American people are curious about who a candidate is, what their background is, who their family is, what their faith experience has been, their education, their work experience. All of those are factors that voters look at because they want to take a measure of the individual. And I think that's one more factor that people will consider and I'm not ashamed of my faith and I speak about it openly in the book.
What do you mean when you say America has a "gangster government"?
It's the concept of crony capitalism. Of politicians taking donations for their election campaigns and then in turn paying off those donors either through legislation that rewards the donor or their company or the donor's interests.
And this applies to the current administration?
Perhaps no other example of crony capitalism is more of a poster child than that of Solyndra. Clearly that was a political donor. President Obama in turn placed one of his fundraisers into the Department of Energy to specifically identify the requests for loan guarantees that were made by political donors. And in turn the Solyndra grant was made to a political donor with interest in the process.
There is an anecdote in your book about the president's intentions to end Medicare.
Yes. Last summer the [House] Republicans were invited to the White House and during the time that we were there we asked the president what his solution was to fixing Medicare. He really didn't give an answer the first two times, and the third time we asked the question, he essentially mumbled Obamacare. The implication is that senior citizens would fall from Medicare into Obamacare.
Which Democrats do you enjoy working with?
I've gone on trips internationally with [Reps.] Shelley Berkley, with Eliot Engel, and also with [Sen.] Kirsten Gillibrand. And we've had very nice, cordial relationships and we shared a goal of standing up for our ally Israel and also making sure that our soldiers are fully resourced.
Do you see any parallels between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements?
They seem to be complete polar opposites. The Tea Party movement was rested on three distinct principles. That the American people are taxed enough already, that the government shouldn't spend more money than it takes in, and the belief that the government should follow the constraints of the Constitution. Occupy Wall Street seems to stand for one proposition, and it's people demanding that other people pay for their stuff.
What's it like being a female presidential candidate?
I think it's still somewhat of a novelty to have women run for the highest office in the land. A man can do a television interview and roll out of bed 15 minutes before; it's just not the same for a woman. A woman has to pay attention to her hair, makeup, clothing, and jewelry choices.
Is this a fair standard?
It's just part of what goes along with it and it's nothing to complain about. After all, I'm vying to be the next leader of the free world and a part of that is representing the nation well and professionally. And so it's important to have an appearance in sync with the office that I'm seeking.
- Read the U.S. News debate on whether Occupy Wall Street is the Next Tea Party.
- See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates
- Read about Michele Bachmann's Thanksgiving.