Congressman Steve King (R-Kiron, Iowa) is holding his third annual “Defenders of Freedom Dinner” in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, tonight. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater, Minnesota) is the keynote speaker.
During an interview with King and Bachmann before the program began, I asked Bachmann about the prospect of her running for president in 2012.
“Well right now I’m running for the United States congress. I’ve got a very difficult race. Speaker Pelosi has made me one of her top targets and so I’m running very hard to win, to run for congress again,” Bachman said.
“It is an honor for me to serve with Congressman Steve King. We share some very strong views together one of which is repealing ObamaCare. I think that is the number one issue for people to run on this fall. By a two-to-one margin, people oppose ObamaCare and it’s almost impossible to think a political party would ram through such an unpopular bill and now they’re shocked that people don’t give them standing ovations when they come home and talk to their constituents about it. As a matter of fact, a lot of Democrats refuse to even go home and talk to their constituents about the bill but it’s very unpopular and the more people see the 14 new tax increases that are in ObamaCare and how this will take over 18 percent of our economy and really have control over all Americans from cradle to grave. The more people learn about this bill and the fact that 16,500 IRS agents are the new enforcers of ObamaCare, that alone should make people run screaming for the hills when they find out.
“So I think will be an actually an easy bill, in one sense, to repeal because it’s so unpopular, but it’s also I think a function of what Congressman King said. All Republicans need to be together on this page: repeal first and then we reform second.”
Next question: What do you say Republican who want a candidate to emerge to be an alternative voice to the Obama Administration?
“Well we need to have an alternative voice,” Bachman replied. “I truly believe that President Obama will be a one-term president. I have no doubt. I’ve talked to Steve King many times and I’ve told Steve King, ‘Why don’t you run for president of the United States?’
“I don’t know that our candidate has emerged yet for 2012. The one thing I do know: we need a rock-solid, bold, courageous, constitutional conservative — no substitute — running for president for 2012 and I think we’ll find that candidate.”
Do you fit that bill?
“I am not running for president,” Bachmann said. “I am running for the United States congress.”
But you are in Iowa and speculation abounds when a potential candidate sets foot in the state.
“Well, I was born in Iowa,” she said. “I am an Iowan and I am here for one reason and one reason only and that’s to support my very good friend Congressman Steve King in his reelection. He’s also a national target because he’s a strong voice against ObamaCare and against so many of the measures that President Obama’s put forward. He has become a lightning rod in a lot of ways and he’s become a national target and so I am here to support him and I want to make sure that Steve King comes back in the next congress as well.”
I read elsewhere that you would like to see a “Draft King” movement.
“Sure. I think that’s a great idea,” Bachmann said. “I would love to see a ‘Draft King’ movement.”
Question directed at King: do you want to be drafted?
“I want to serve my country in the most effective way I can and I don’t know how that is,” King said. “I just know that if I get out of bed every morning and step forward and do all that I can and join up with Michele Bachmann and many of the missions that we’ve gone together on our instincts go right down the same line. The repealing ObamaCare, when you look at the draft that came down, they were within three minutes of each another. We didn’t talk or plan. It happens that way.
“So whatever’s in store for me I want to be as effective as I can be. I want to be as clear a voice as I can be. I know presidential candidates will come to Iowa. Actually, I’m a person that can come to Iowa without starting rumors. I just happened to think of that while you were asking the question. But I know they’re going to come here and they’ll continue to come here and I want to sit down with them. I want to have those conversations. I want provide for them, as much as I can, access to Iowans – Iowa Caucus-goers — and engage in this debate and we’ll see.
“We want to test them out. We want to find out if they’re the rock-ribbed, solid, constitutional conservative that we need. We need someone of the stellar standard of Ronald Reagan and if there’s somebody more stellar than that, let’s find them and make them president of the United States and I’ll be happy to support a candidate like that.”
UPDATE: it’s 7:04 p.m. The meal is over and the program has begun. It starts with a video featuring Michael Reagan who asked the 500 people in the audience to contribute to the Reagan PAC.
Bill Anderson, the emcee for tonight’s event (he’s a candidate for a state senate seat in the Sioux City area), told the crowd King has raised “tens of thousands of dollars” in the past few weeks. The approximately 500 people who are here tonight paid $50 for each ticket.
By 7:11 p.m. King is behind the microphone speaking. “I draw energy from you,” King said. “I hope you draw energy from me,” King told the crowd. According to King, his staff has visited all 286 towns in the 32 counties which comprise Iowa’s fifth congressional district this year.
King tells the crowd it was Congresswoman Bachmann’s birthday this past Tuesday and today it is her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann’s birthday. King gave the couple a piece of patriotic artwork created by artist Bubba Sorenson. “That’s cool,” the congresswoman said.
King then handed the microphone over to the congresswoman to lead the crowd in singing the birthday song. “Happy birthday dear Bachmanns, happy birthday to you,” she sang.
There’s a cake, too. “And the color code matches the painting.” King said of the frosting.
King told the crowd there is a “live Internet feed” of tonight’s event. “This is real-time stuff and it’s what we need to do if we’re going to take that other side on,” King said.
King described Bachmann as a “bright light” and a “young lady with a natural instinct.”
“…We’ve got to shoot from the hip sometimes,” King said. “It’s not always ready, aim, fire. Sometimes it’s just time to fire and you’d better have good instincts so that you can shoot and it might look later like you didn’t shoot from the hip, but you took careful aim. That’s ’cause you instincts brought that about. That’s trick shooting and that’s good instincts in politics and that’s what Michele Bachmann has.”
At 7:27 p.m. King wraps up his introduction and Bachmann gets the microphone. The Tom Jones song “She’s a Lady” booms over the sound system and the crowd claps along in time.
“That’s kind of my new theme song,” Bachmann said, mentioning her recent dust-up with Arlen Specter.
“I’m an Iowan…I was born in Iowa,” she began. “My mother was from Mason City and my parents graduated from East High School in Waterloo, Iowa…I grew up in Waterloo and Cedar Falls.”
Bachmann said she cried as a sixth grader when her dad took a job in Minnesota and the family had to move. “The tears came down my cheeks and I said, ‘I just don’t want to leave Iowa,’” she said as she recounted the story. “…My tears had no effect on my parents. We moved anyway, but I’m back today.”
Next up, an homage to Iowa’s Caucuses. “Just a great state (with) the best people, the most down home people, family people and I think that’s why the caucuses, the political caucuses, need to always start here in Iowa because it’s kind of the center of the nation, but it’s also the heartbeat of the nation where the real people in this country are really at, what the real people think about Washington, D.C. is thinking. Don’t you think that’s true?” Bachmann asked the crowd. “I think Iowa gets it. I think Iowa people get it.”
Bachmann described King as her “best friend in congress. We get into all kinds of trouble in Washington.”
Bachmann described King as the king of late-night TV — for his speeches on the House floor which are broadcast on C-SPAN. “Who watches Steve King at night?…The King of words.”
She discussed the health care reform plan. Mentioned her oldest biological child graduated from medical school today. (The couple have taken in 23 foster kids, too.)
She quoted a Bible verse: “Let not your heart be troubled.”
“This is our country. We own this country. Isn’t this wonderful? It’s ours,” Bachmann said. “…It doesn’t just belong to six people who think that maybe we should look like western Europe…We have November to look forward to because in November the whole game changes. Everything changes. Yes!” (The crowd applauds)
“The new normal is Nancy Pelosi is having that gavel taken out of her hand this November and the other new normal is having Harry Reid join the unemployment line and come November we are just hitting our stride,” she said. The crowd applauded loudest for the Pelosi line. The crowd got to its feet with the next line, in which Bachmann said Barack Obama would be a “one-term president.”
Bachmann said repeal of health care reform would be just “the opening salvo” from congress in 2011 if it’s led by Republicans, promising deficit reduction.
“We are witnessing the greatest degredation of the greatest country in the world,” Bachmann said of the 14-plus months of the Obama Administration. “…We’ve suffered repeated terrorist attacks here on American soil…It’s time we face up to this enemy that we are facing and take him on.”
The “biggest story” of the last 18 months, according to Bachmann, was the Wall Street bailout, then she added on the Detroit bailout and the health care reform plan to the “biggest story” category. “This we cannot abide,” she said. “This we will not abide.”
Bachmann tells the crowd she’s working on an autobiography of Andy Jackson. “Every generation has faced a challenge, none quite like this,” Bachmann said. ”…I choose liberty…This is our time. This is our election….We simply must do it…We have to stop the wheels of socialism now…and we have to take that presidency two years from now.” Bachmann added she has “no doubt” Republicans will win the presidency in 2012.
At 8: 11 p.m. Bachmann wrapped up her speech. A few dozen people leave as King takes the stage to begin his remarks.