Worst Week in Washington
A weekly award honoring inhabitants of Planet Beltway

Who had the worst week in Washington? Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.).

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced her retirement from Congress this past week, and all she got was a series of stories focused on her tendency to bend, and occasionally break, the truth.

Bachmann’s six years in office so far — after this term, she won’t run again — have been a study in high highs and low lows; she hasn’t been the sort of politician who dwells in the middle ground.

Worst Week in Washington

Chris Cillizza grants the award to the Democrat, Republican, West Wing dweller, Capitol Hill insider, K Street dealer, business guru, sports hero, think tank scribblers or other inhabitant of Planet Beltway who experienced the absolute worst week.

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For two months in the summer of 2011, Bachmann emerged as the main alternative to former governor Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race. Everywhere she went, she was mobbed. And when she won the Ames, Iowa, Straw Poll in August 2011, there was a sense that she might be in the top tier to stay.

But the same traits that propelled Bachmann skyward — her innate grasp of what the GOP base cared about, a seat-of-the-pants rhetorical style — also spelled her demise.

Bachmann made errors small (mistaking John Wayne Gacy for John Wayne, wishing Elvis Presley a happy birthday on a day that was, um, the anniversary of his death) and large (claiming that the HPV vaccine leads to “mental retardation”).

Add it all up, and it became clear to anyone paying even a little attention that Bachmann simply wasn’t ready (and might never be) for the national spotlight. Her fade — she finished a dismal sixth in the Iowa caucuses, left the presidential race, barely won reelection to her House seat and fell under investigation after allegations of campaign finance improprieties — was entirely unsurprising. Her retirement announcement was more “huh” than “holy cow.”

Michele Bachmann, for going from conservative hero to has-been, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@washpost.com.

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