COMMENTARY | Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann announced she would not run for another term, citing “term limits” as the reason for not seeking reelection in 2014. In doing so, she joined a list of her state’s politicians who can’t keep their story straight on term limits.
In her announcement, Rep. Bachmann claimed “The law limits anyone from serving as president of the United States for more than eight years, and in my opinion, well, eight years is also long enough for an individual to serve as a representative for a specific Congressional district.”
She insisted it had nothing to do with possibly losing in 2014 in a district that she narrowly won in 2012, or that she was trying to head off an ethics probe into her failed 2012 presidential campaign, or the notion that even Republicans couldn’t stand her anymore.
But Slate Magazine uncovered a quote from Rep. Bachmann in 2011 in a South Carolina town hall meeting, where she said “My opinion has been when it comes to term limits that I think it’s important for voters to make that decision.” She went on to decry Arizona’s term limit system, which she argued helps “empower the bureaucracy,” and that’s a bad thing in her opinion.
Slate Magazine can be known for taking potshots at conservatives, so I decided to do a little additional digging, to see she’s really using term limits as a lame excuse for slipping out of Washington DC under a cloud. And I went to “U.S. Term Limits,” the leading group supporting term limits for Congress.
Though Bachmann’s announcement was front-page news, it was not mentioned anywhere on their site. Not only that, but on their Minnesota page, they showed no evidence that Bachmann had signed the term limits pledge in 2010 or in 2012. Wait…what were those other reasons that she might have not sought reelection?
But Bachmann’s hardly the only one fuzzy on term limits from her state. After 1994, when the GOP recaptured Congress with promises of term limits, a vote was taken the following year. Five of eight House members from Minnesota signed the term limits pledge, promising to serve no more than six house terms (or two Senate terms). Of these, two (Bill Luther and David Minge) were defeated before they could get to the sixth term. But Republicans Gil Gutknecht and Jim Ramstad and Democrat Collin Peterson each served more than six terms. In fact, Rep. Gutknecht lost in 2006 because he broke his pledge, and tried to edit his Wikipedia page to wipe away all traces of that 1995 vote. They shouldn’t feel bad. A lot of the 227 “aye” votes also broke their pledge as well.
Rep. Bachmann did it in reverse, opposing term limits before she was in favor of them, but the end result is the same: not being straight with the voters on the issue.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.
Photo was taken by the author of a Michele Bachmann tie from her 2012 campaign.