Michele Bachmann formally announced her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday, just days after she played the race card by accusing President Barack Obama of failing the black community.
Bachmann, a three-term congresswoman from Minnesota, is jumping feet first into racial politics by underscoring the 16.2 percent black unemployment rate – the highest since 1929 – and pointing out that joblessness for black males has risen to 17.5 percent since Obama was elected. Black teen unemployment, she said, has also increased from 36.3 percent to 41 percent.
“The status quo certainly isn’t working for the African-American community, with 16 percent unemployment, or the Hispanic community, with nearly 12 percent unemployment,” Bachmann said last week. “It’s even worse for the youth: For Hispanic youth right now, 26 percent unemployment; for African-American youth, 40 percent unemployment. This president has failed the Hispanic community. He has failed the African-American community. He has failed us all when it comes to jobs.”
At a time when Republican presidential candidates need to distinguish themselves from each other, Bachmann wasted no time going after Obama on the skyrocketing black unemployment rate, a prickly subject for Obama and an issue that has sparked criticism of the president from prominent African-American leaders like Princeton University Professor Cornel West.
Bachmann saw a weakness in Obama’s political armor, and she started to tear into it. But what does Bachmann expect to gain from it? Black voters are not independent minded enough and will certainly not defect from the Obama bandwagon in substantial numbers, but Bachmann’s criticism does keep the issue at the forefront of discussion.
America’s rising black unemployment rate is a flashpoint issue, and Bachmann knows it. She’s not trying to win over the black vote, but she does want to discredit Obama.
Bachmann is using race to telegraph a subtle political message to her GOP base, independents and even some Democrats: If Obama has failed his own people, then what does that mean for you?
“We can’t afford four more years of Barack Obama,” Bachmann said Monday in Iowa. “I seek the presidency not for vanity, but because America is at a crucial moment. I believe that we must make a bold choice if we are to secure the promise of our future.”
“Our problems don’t have an identity of party; they are problems created by both parties,” Bachmann said. “Americans agree that our country is in peril today, and we must act with urgency to save it. Americans aren’t interested in affiliation. They are interested in solutions and leadership that will tell the truth.”
Bachmann didn’t tell the entire truth Monday.
She didn’t talk about how she voted against an $825 billion economic recovery package for Americans in need, many of whom are African-Americans. She didn’t say she voted against a similar stimulus bill for $60 billion. She failed to mention that she voted against revitalizing “severely distressed” public housing. She voted against expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And she didn’t admit that she opposed regulations for subprime mortgage loans, which force black American home buyers to pay higher mortgage rates.
Has Bachmann supported any federal legislation that would benefit African-Americans? During her tenure in Congress, what exactly has Bachmann done to uplift black communities? Not much: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics placed Minnesota’s 2010 black jobless rate at 22 percent – 3.4 times the white rate of 6.4 percent, giving the state the largest gap in the country.
Last weekend, in an interview with Bachmann on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace asked Bachmann one simple question: “Are you a flake?” Wallace has since apologized for his contentious question, and Bachmann said the question was “insulting” was clearly valid. Bachmann recently told New Hampshire voters: “You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world at Lexington and Concord.” That 1775 battle was actually fought in Massachusetts. And here’s a re-cap of a few of Bachmann’s more memorable – and bizarre comments.
– “Not all cultures are equal.”
– “If we took away the minimum wage – if conceivably it was gone – we could potentially wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”
– “I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I’m not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it’s an interesting coincidence.”
– “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.”
– “I don’t know where they’re going to get all this money because we’re running out of rich people in this country.”
Meanwhile, Bachmann is doing well in all major polls. She’s in a virtual tie with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and is well ahead of the pack of GOP candidates, which includes businessman Herman Cain, the only African-American GOP candidate for president.
A recent poll revealed that 82 percent of likely voters said they would vote for a woman for president, and 9 percent said they would not.
“I don’t have anything personal about our president,” Bachmann told the Associated Press. “But he’s just wrong. His policy prescriptions have been wrong.”