Michele Bachmann's decision formally to enter the GOP presidential nomination race has created a Main Stream Media sensation and triggered intense enthusiasm from grassroots Tea Party activists. Without candidate Sarah Palin to obsess about, another attractive female Tea Party heroine with a Minnesota accent in the presidential race has filled the void. As with Palin, the MSM obsess over her words, eager to find "gaffes" and misstatements. Also as with Palin, the sheer cultural hostility that the ruling elite shows towards her has provoked strong instinctive countervailing support in Middle America.
The liberal Establishment's hatred of Palin actually masked her questionable, not to say non-existent, record on immigration. In contrast, Bachmann really does have a solid, if incomplete record, on the issue.
Numbers USA has given Bachmann a B- grade as a presidential candidate. That may not sound impressive. But Numbers is extremely tough in its presidential grading system and punishes candidates for not taking up every single aspect of patriotic immigration reform. The B- is the best grade of any candidate in the GOP race, which range from F (Ron Paul—sigh!) to C+ Tim Pawlenty (who?). Of course, that may say more about the appalling field than about Bachmann herself.
NumbersUSA does gives Bachmann an A career grade for her congressional career, where the grading is not so stringent. She only has one bad vote in her entire career, which was relatively minor issue (the Visa Waiver Program). Bachmann is a member of the Immigration Reform Caucus, formerly headed by Tom Tancredo.
In addition to a strong voting record, Bachmann has cosponsored a great deal of good legislation. This includes the three key pieces of legislation to reduce illegal immigration
The SAVE Act to mandate E-Verify for all employers (with no state preemption—unlike Lamar Smith's bill);
The CLEAR Act that establishes States' Rights on immigration control;
The Birthright Citizenship Act to close the anchor baby loophole.
However, while Bachmann has a near-perfect record on illegal immigration, she has not done a thing on legal immigration. She has never cosponsored any measures to deal with refugees, chain migration, or the diversity lottery, much less called for a moratorium on all legal immigration. Her congressional website includes platitudes like "The United States is a nation founded by immigrants" and "Obtaining the 'American Dream' is an inherent part of our nation's spirit and we should encourage those who enter our country legally to achieve it." "
Bachmann does qualify that we must "curb unfair strain on our country's job markets", although it isn't clear if she is talking about illegal workers or foreign job competition in general. Still, to her great credit, she has not co-sponsored or called for any increase in immigration or increased guest workers.
There are other signs, not directly related to immigration, that Bachmann has some backbone. Along with Steve King (R-Iowa) she was the most vocal opponent of the Pigford black farmers shakedown, calling it "Pure and complete fraud" on the floor of Congress. [LiveLeakVideo, November 30, 2010]
Bachmann's close legislative relationship with King—going as far as sharing staff members—is also encouraging. King is probably among the two or three strongest advocates for patriotic immigration reform in Congress (and his being passed over for immigration subcommittee chairman may yet prove the GOP's fatal mistake). We can only assume he has a good influence on her.
Unfortunately, Bachmann has surrounded herself with some less savory characters for her presidential run. Her campaign manager is veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins who has chaired Ronald Reagan, Ross Perot, and Mike Huckabee's presidential campaigns. This certainly gives her a bit more credibility as a serious candidate. But Rollins has very dubious views on immigration—even apart from his much-disputed ability as a campaign manager. His public statements on immigration have been limited to blaming the Democrats for not really wanting to pass "immigration reform" and criticizing George Bush for not waiting until after the 2006 elections for promoting amnesty. People who have spoken to him privately tell me he supports amnesty and buys into the "Hispanic vote" mythology.
Furthermore, Bachmann's next book will be written with assistance from Wall Street Journal editor and Open Borders enthusiast (but I repeat myself) John Fund. [Bachmann Said to Have Deal For Memoir, By Julie Bosman, NYT Media Decoder, June 16, 2011] This does not mean Fund will necessarily have a strong ideological influence on her—he has assisted with books by other conservative figures, including Rush Limbaugh—but it isn't a good sign.
Whether or not the blame can be put on Rollins and Fund, Bachmann has avoided immigration in 2011. Bachmann's presidential platform does not even mention immigration, and she has not made any substantive statements on the issue during the campaign.
Moreover, in this Congress she's been conspicuously MIA on tackling even illegal immigration. She has not cosponsored any immigration legislation outside of a bill to defund sanctuary cities. Particularly noticeable is her failure to sign the Birthright Citizenship Act, although it is sponsored by Steve King.
Bachmann will be losing a huge opportunity if she maintains her silence. With a completely lackluster field of candidates, she could easily distinguish herself. Of course, the political elite will react hysterically—but they've already done that.
And whatever conventional Beltway professionals say, patriotic immigration reform is a winning issue with the voters. Republican voters support ending birthright citizenship by a 5-1 margin and want to support Arizona's immigration law by a 7-1 margin. And I can promise you that the 15-20% minority on these issues won't be supporting Bachmann anyway.
Other candidates may very well take up patriotic immigration reform as well. (Look at Mike Huckabee's amazing patriotic flip-flop in 2008). But with a solid congressional record, Bachmann will have the most credibility.
We must keep our eye on her.
"Washington Watcher" [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.