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Bachmann brandishes ‘Iowa nice’ cred at Family Leader confab

IOWA CITY, IA. — For weeks Rep. Michele Bachmann, a potential and popular 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, has been reminding Iowans that she is one of them. During an appearance on behalf of the socially conservative The Family Leader organization Monday night she invoked “Iowa nice” to prove her point.

Heckled by a small group of young demonstrators while presenting public remarks on the University of Iowa campus, Bachmann at first ignored the shouts and then directly addressed them. “If you’d like to ask a question later, I’d be more than happy to have you do that,” she said, gesturing toward a woman, Jenny Watkins, who was disrupting the speech. “I would ask that you observe the rules of decorum of this event.”

The demonstrators had brought a handmade sign that read, “Desensitized Homosexual,” a reference to 2004 speech by Bachmann at the EdWatch National Education Conference in which she claims a “normalization” of homosexuality is occurring in school districts through “desensitization” of the sexual preference — something she equated at the time to child abuse.

“You have a teacher talking about his gayness. (The elementary student) goes home then and says, ‘Mom, what’s gayness? We had a teacher talking about this today.’ The mother says, ‘Well, that’s when a man likes other men, and they don’t like girls.’ The boy is eight. He’s thinking, ‘Hmmm. I don’t like girls. I like boys. Maybe I’m gay.’

“And you think, ‘Oh, that’s, that’s way out there. The kid isn’t going to think that.” Are you kidding? That happens all the time. You don’t think that this is intentional, the message that’s being given to these kids? That’s child abuse.”

But rather than allowing the heckling to fracture her thoughts on President Barack Obama‘s foreign policy decisions in relation to Libya, or to allow the subject to be changed to her previous controversial rhetoric toward homosexuality, Bachmann effectively diffused the situation and, as a result, scored points with the Iowans in attendance.

“I don’t know who they were or what they wanted,” Mount Vernon resident and GOP activist Emma Nemecek said following the event. “But I thought what they did was rude — trying to shout [Bachmann] down. She handled it wonderfully.”

And, although audience members had been asked to submit questions in writing prior to the start of the speech, Bachmann remained true to her word. Having completed her public remarks, she immediately gestured for Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats to call upon the demonstrators to ask whatever question they wished. Given the opportunity, however, the demonstrators’ response seemed fractured and without a true focus. It began with a reference to the incident of rape in Middle Eastern nations and ended with “and how much oil do you want?”

Bachman chose to answer the last direct question: “I want a lot more than what we have now. … But I don’t want oil coming from the Middle East. I want it coming from the United States.”

Rapes that have occurred overseas, Bachmann said, “are a terrible thing.” She questioned the involvement of U.S. forces in Libya, and said the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan is “also a very serious concern” because “we are not seeing the type of progress we would like to see” and, in certain situations, “we are hurting rather than helping.”

“I think we need to move on,” Bachmann said. “We learn lessons, whether it is in Iraq or Afghanistan. I think we’ve learned lessons — and I think we’ve learned lessons that should have kept us out of Libya. Because, again, these tragedies and these travesties that you are referring to didn’t just start because of this war effort. They were happening before.”

It’s All Connected

Demonstrators aside, if the main thrust of Bachmann’s trip was to adopt a more controlled style in hopes of appealing to both fiscal and social conservative wings of the Iowa Republican Party, her mission was accomplished.

What Bachmann presented in Iowa was a more politically-polished persona. There is no mistaking that she continues to hold firm passions about what is best for society, and she speaks openly of her Christian faith as the backdrop for such passions. Yet, instead of dwelling on the most controversial topics and drawing hard-line stances — arguably the very personality traits that have elevated her to the national stage — Bachmann focused on accentuating the positive.

The budget document dubbed a “Path to Prosperity” and announced by House Committee on the Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for instance, is “an aspirational document,” according to Bachmann.

“In other words,” she told reporters prior to her public remarks, “it is a set of statements and goals and desires. It’s not a piece of legislation.”

Being pro-family, she said, translates into lawmakers who want to cut government spending. “We’ve got to make sure that government spends less so that families can have more,” Bachmann said. “Because the higher the government rate of spending is, the higher taxes will have to be. That means that families will get to keep less.”

During public remarks, she noted that the rate of children born out of wedlock has increased over the past four decades. She quickly added that she wasn’t bringing up such statistic to “condemn anyone born in that type of situation,” but to make clear that “there will be far greater societal financial supports that will be required for inputs into that child’s life.”

“That’s why I think it can be said that social conservatism is fiscal conservatism,” said Bachmann, as the audience applauded its approval.

“We need to have a strong, three-legged stool in the United States. We need to uphold marriage, uphold human life and we need to uphold family life. That’s one of the legs on the three-legged stool. Another is the economy. … You can’t have a strong nation unless you have a strong, vibrant economy.” Bachmann’s third leg is “strong national security.”

When it comes to immigration policy, Bachmann told the audience that she agrees whole-heartedly with U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that the nation’s existing immigration laws need to be enforced and that a wall needs to be built to protect the country from terrorists.

“That may be perceived as the negative side,” she said. “So, let me give you the positive side. We have so many Hispanic Americans, which are great citizens of this country. … I do not fear Hispanics coming into this country, but they should come under the same conditions that my in-laws came in (under an agreement to be self-sustaining and learn English) and they’ll be wonderful citizens of this country.”

Same-sex marriage? That should not be up to “black-robed masters,” but left to the popular decision of the people of a state, she said, again earning applause from the largely social conservative audience.

“It is not the purpose of a court to impose their morality on us,” she said.

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