After a last-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Michele Bachmann exited the presidential race just as she entered it, painting “Obamacare” as the socialist undoing of the United States of America.
But it was a real painting, she said, that had urged her into the race in the first place, on the night of March 21, 2010, after health-care reform passed in the House of Representatives.
On that night, she said in her concession speech, the great men depicted in Howard Chandler Christy’s “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” which hangs in the Capitol, seemed to be “staring out” at her beckoningly — in particular Ben Franklin, who’s seated at the center of the work, gazing out at the viewer. (Another interpretation of the look on his face is, “Why is Alexander Hamilton invading my space?”)
As a result, she said, she felt called upon to stop the legislation before most of its provisions go into effect in 2014 by running to replace the president. The law’s “repeal is more than just a cliché for me,’’ she said at a news conference, surrounded by her family. “It’s my Core of Conviction,’’ she said, citing the title of her disarmingly frank campaign-season memoir.
Much of the speech, in which she referred to “Obamacare” 11 times, was an argument against the bill, which she insists against all evidence “includes taxpayer-funded abortion for the first time in the history of our country.” But there was no doubting the sincerity of her insistence that she’s not “motivated in this quest by vainglory,” and felt called by more than that old roué Ben Franklin to run for the country’s top job: “Our principles derive their meaning in the founders’ beliefs, which were rooted in the immutable truths of the Holy Scripture, the Bible.”
Despite winning only 5 percent of Republican caucus-goers in the state where she was born, Bachmann did herself a lot of good in the race, and unlike rock-throwing, score-settling Newt Gingrich, she’s obviously more focused on the unity of her party, where such magnanimity will surely be rewarded.
“While I will not be continuing in this race … I have no regrets, none whatsoever. We never compromised our principles and we can leave this race knowing we ran it with utmost integrity.’’ Not all candidates can say that without deluding themselves, and she’s right to exit with her head high.
I’d be shocked if she suggests that her loss had anything to do with gender, and shocked, too, to see her step off the national stage any time soon.