Bachmann invokes nostalgia for Reagan, Thatcherby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Congresswoman Michele Bachmann spoke about national security to veterans in Minneapolis this morning.
Speaking at the American Legion's national convention Bachmann cited former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and called for a return to Ronald Reagan-styled economic and foreign policy.
Although technically not a stop on her presidential campaign, but Bachmann delivered a political speech on broad policy issues.
She had harsh words for President Obama's handing of the economy and foreign policy, accusing Obama of "leading from behind." Bachmann pledged to maintain the US as the pre-eminent military power in the world if she becomes president and she harkened back to the tough talking Cold War foreign policy era of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
"We find ourselves today in search of another Margaret Thatcher to restore our great country to the thriving nation that I believe we can be again and as the leader for global peace, and through its resolute strength. But the good news is we can take our country back."
Since Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the presidential race a few weeks ago, Bachmann's standing in most national polls has dropped. She had been running second to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Now she's a distant third behind Perry and Romney, or fourth if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is counted among the possible candidates.
On the last day of the American Legion convention, Bachmann's audience was a fraction of the turnout of several thousand who listened to President Obama Tuesday from the same podium. Bachmann read from a script, and repeatedly tripped up, but her message seemed resonate with those who were there, many of them senior citizens.
Focusing on national security gives Bachmann a chance to appeal to Republicans who believe the president is weak on defense, said University of Minnesota Political Science Professor Larry Jacobs. It also allows Bachmann to distinguish herself from Rick Perry, Jacobs said.
Although Perry is a sitting governor, he lacks the limited foreign policy experience Bachmann can claim though her position on the House permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence.
It is noteworthy that Bachmann promotes a Reagan-Thatcher approach to foreign policy as she criticizes the Obama administration's multi-lateral, negotiations-centered strategy, Jacobs said.
"What Bachmann is saying is that America has not been aggressive enough in projecting its military power. Bachmann is suggesting a very sharp change in direction on national security."
The heavy-handed, tough-guy approach Bachmann is promoting is unlikely to be as effective in 2011 as it was when the US won the cold war more than 20 years ago, Washington University Political Science Professor Steven Smith said.
"The context has changed enormously."
Rather than facing another military superpower, the US now confronts regional problems that require an entirely different strategy," Smith said.
"We cannot be seen as the bad guy in these areas and succeed. To the contrary," Smith said. "If we're there by ourselves and looking like we're operating strictly in our own economic and political interest then we have that much more difficulty in succeeding and achieving our objectives."
Following her 20 minute speech Bachmann avoided reporters who sought clarification to her Reagan-Thatcher references.
Before being whisked away, Bachmann said, "We're in a similar time period and we need to have strong viable leadership, to see that return again today both with the military and with our economy, they're both tremendous examples."
Although Bachmann has called for deep government spending cuts, she said any savings that could be found in the Defense Department budget should be redirected to new spending within the department.
- All Things Considered, 09/01/2011, 5:20 p.m.