Bachmann gives students a 101 on issues, then gets lectured
November 17th, 2011
03:49 PM ET
11 years ago

Bachmann gives students a 101 on issues, then gets lectured

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) - With the air of a college instructor, Michele Bachmann essentially gave college students a Conservative 101 on the economy, national and foreign affairs and other important issues on Thursday in Iowa. But when the Republican presidential candidate took questions, some students turned the tables on their lecturer, peppering her with tough questions.

The Minnesota congresswoman appeared at a town hall at Drake University in Des Moines. Campus Republicans sponsored the event and helped pack the room.

But a few students who support President Barack Obama spotted in the crowd before the event began foretold of tense exchanges ahead. At least two of them sat onstage just inches away from Bachmann - one of them wearing a T-shirt with the president's image.

Throughout her comments, Bachmann tailored her delivery seemingly to suit her young audience.

"How many of you, this will be your very first presidential election to vote in? Let me see your hands," the candidate asked, receiving several raised arms from the students.

"What do you think so far?" Bachmann asked.

Among the replies: "chaotic," "roller coaster" and "circus."

Bachmann proceeded to tackle big issues, frequently explaining them first - not assuming the students were already familiar or understood critical details.

"Have you heard about the super committee?" Bachmann asked. After explaining Congress' role in passing spending bills and recent problems over the negotiations, Bachmann warned that raising taxes could cause another recession.

"In other words, very difficult for job prospects for all of you when you leave Drake," she said.

"We could either have tax increases, which I and a number of my colleagues have pledged we won't raise taxes. The other alternative will be dramatic cuts," Bachmann added.

The candidate specifically criticized the potential for massive cuts to the defense budget.

"We just heard that some of the cuts would mean the military, which just took $400 billion in cuts, would take another $600 billion in cuts," Bachmann said.

"The current Defense Secretary [Leon] Panetta said that would be like taking a bullet to the head."

Bachmann also discussed the national debt.

"Why would you care? Because you're the people that are expected to pay off that debt," she said.

On taxes, Bachmann criticized the number of Americans who don't pay taxes - and referenced the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"Today, 47% of Americans pay zero federal income taxes," Bachmann said. "And the top 1% of income earners in the United States, that you hear so much about with Occupy Wall Street, the top 1% of income earners pay 40% of all the federal income taxes."

"So I want to change the tax code, so that it is fair and so that everybody pays something."

And the congresswoman lectured the students about the work world that lies ahead.

Mentioning her own personal financial struggles, Bachmann said: "It's an animating principle of the United States - it's the fact that nobody owes you a living. Now maybe your parents said that to you."

When Bachmann opened the session to questions, some students asked relatively tame questions on what the U.S. position on Syria should be and where Bachmann stood on campaign finance reform. Some others pounced.

"You used the line of 'bullet to the head' for the American military," one student said.

"Part of the super committee, is that there would be mandatory cuts on either side - on entitlement programs and the military spending aspect of it. I would classify it as a bullet to the American family's head if our entitlement programs in this country were cut drastically," the student added. "For the people who depend on that - that are in an unemployed situation where they need federal aid, they're the most vulnerable."

Bachmann responded by reiterating that the nation is spending too much.

Another student asked: "You said that you wanted to increase offshore drilling and just drilling in general for oil. So that you could decrease the price of oil in the near future. Don't you think that would kind of just be beating a dead horse instead of trying to find a reasonable solution for the long term?"

Bachmann reiterated her stance that the U.S. has tremendous energy resources, "But the problem is, even our own Department of Energy, won't let us access them."

Another student questioned Bachmann on national service programs, such as AmeriCorps: "You've gone on record as opposing those. So just wondering, if elected president, you might make that a part of your agenda? And if you think it's a good idea, during this economy, to take away opportunities for young people to serve their country?"

"Well it isn't the idea of young people not serving their country," Bachmann said. "The point is, we're broke. I don't know if you all have gotten that message yet from me this morning," Bachmann said.

Arguably the most tense exchange came as Bachmann restated her opposition to "Obamacare."

As she criticized specifics of the nation's health care law, one student shouted: "So screw the sick and homeless?"

"Who said that?" Bachmann asked.

"You have," the student said.

"You could not be further from the truth," Bachmann shot back. "You're looking at someone who lived below poverty. Have you ever lived at that?"

Bachmann continued: "I know what I had to do. I got a job. That's what you need to do. You need to figure out how to get a job and make your way."

- Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Also see:

Perry says 'privileged' Obama can't relate

Santorum: Republicans 'ignore some realities' on economy

Cain: How do you say that in 'Cuban?'

Gingrich faces more questions about Freddie Mac

Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Michele Bachmann
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    Bachmann has an utterly reactive frame of mind. Its no wonder she got the crap kicked out her by a group of college kids, since she can only make snarky comments. There is no "Bachmann Doctrine" on anything, only arrogance and derision. Nice job, kids. Its Bachmann who is painfully lacking in knowledge, and we've paid her over $850,000 since she entered Congress: she's a lousy return on investment.

    November 17, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. Dee

    So, is Ms. Bachman saying that all the folks in our country out of work now have never figured out how to go out and get a job?

    November 17, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "If the student-posed questions quoted in the article are any indication of the audience's level of understanding of issues, she should have dumbed her speech down quite a bit more"

    Really? Defend that with a cogent analysis instead of simply making a conclusory statement. THose students pointed out her bias and flaws in her reasoning and expressed their concerns (albeit one of them did so rudely) about the issues in a very effective manner. The first one pionted out quite effectively how lopsided her position in on "bullet in the head to the military" when similar cuts int he triggering mechanism would be a bullet in the head to the middle-class...and her answer revealed shallow, talking point styled reasoning that "we don't have the money" for one but have the money for the one she prefers. The second student correctly opinted out that her and the GOP's answer to energy prices and supply, i.e., drill baby drill, is a short-term, near-sighted fix that would create no viable long-term solution and would deplete supply even faster....and her answer was unresponsive and irrelevant to the question asked, blaming the Dept. of Energy for not letting us do what she wants to do instead of explaining why what she wants to do is a good idea in the first place. The next student accurateluy pionted out that her opposition to Americorp is counter to her claims that she cares about the next generation and wants to see them employed. Even the kid who was rude to her raised a valid point, albeit by simply expressing outrage that the GOP/Teatrolls are so focused on repealing something that will and is helping the poor and sick obtain health care. Reality is, those students embarassed the crap out of her and made her look infinitely stupid, and she helped them by failing miserably at addressing the questinos and issues posed to her.

    November 17, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  4. Stacey

    Michelle Bachmann – What an idiot! The kids peppering her with questions are more qualified to run for POTUS than Bachmann and most of the GOP candidates are! At least Bachmann was truthful with her opinion on poor people – "Screw the poor" – that's Bachmann's moto. I pray the poor come out in droves to vote in 2012 so that none of these hateful, mean-sprited, so-called "Christian" candidates get anywhere near the Oval Office. God help us all.

    November 17, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Sean Russell

    Awesome! Goes in, thinking she can look smarter than college students. Then, when they actually ask the tough questions, she gives no answers. She just goes back to her talking points.

    Lecture FAIL!

    November 17, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "Bachmann must know she is wasting her time running for president."

    Bachmann must know she is wasting OUR time running for president.

    Fixed 🙂

    November 17, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. RINO Bil

    Bachmann is sooooo out of touch with average American voters ... and, apparently, with first-time voters.

    Bottom line, Michele Bachmann should be going to college, not speaking at them.

    November 17, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Stacey

    If the student-posed questions quoted in the article are any indication of the audience's level of understanding of issues, she should have dumbed her speech down quite a bit more, perhaps to about the third grade level. Have you had a conversation with a college student or recent graduate lately? Disturbing to say the least.

    LOL! Yet it was Bachmann who sounded like a second grader without a clue! That's disburbing. Priceless!

    November 17, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. Jake

    and Bachmann is still going strong with roughly 2% of the GOP vote!

    November 17, 2011 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  10. Woman In California

    Add young people to those who will NOT be voting for the republicans next year. Being the stupid person she is – did it not occur to her that some of the students may have a family member or a friend active in the movement BEFORE she critized the movement? She is so used to being the TP queen she doesn't know how to address people who may not share her views (whatever that may be). I'm glad the students showed us once again how UNqualified she is.

    November 17, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    It is interesting to note that the story DOES NOT say that the "tough" questions were asked by those students which support President Obama. However,if one is a careless reader you would possibly jump to that conclusion.

    GOD BLESS OUR YOUTH! And a special shout out to whoever those students were that appeared to be on top of the issues and did NOT allow Batty Bachman to get away with her repertoire of lies and misinformation.


    November 17, 2011 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  12. jamison

    Our previous president makes all of these GOP candidates look like Einstein – and we all know how smart he was. Cain doesn't know anything about Libya even though its been in the news for the last 8 months. Paul has some radical ideas like pulling the plug on the sick if they have no health insurance. Perry is from another planet, and can't remember what he will do if elected. The Newt is a total liar who no one will believe, and Bachman is a total idiot. All of them are mean spirited, uncaring and vindictive. In 2012 I think I will stick with who we have now. At least he has a logical and clear thinking brain and CARES about the common man and not the ones in their ivory towers on Wall St.

    November 17, 2011 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Russ

    OK going to create all those jobs. When there are hundreds applying for almost every available job, most of which don't provide health care, her stance doesn't make sense. It is one of the more stupid comments she's made and she's made a lot of them. So getting a job most likely won't give you health care and those that do won't take people with pre existing conditions without "Obamacare". Get a life FLOP and Michelle. Better yet get a brain.

    November 17, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. funkymonkey

    Bachman has fallen so far behind that she's not even being considered any more in most of the major polls.

    I wonder why the Drake Campus Republicans even decided to have her speak. I guess she must have a relative that goes there.

    November 17, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. ClarasBeau

    Deflecting questions with oblique responses is what she most often does, and it will be her undoing. Most people realize that, when she sidesteps the questions, she offers no solutions! It can be almost maddening to those who are truly paying attention.
    Perfect example:
    Student: "So, screw the sick and homeless?"
    Bachmann: "I know what I had to do. I got a job. That is what you need to do."
    Responding that way only provokes anger and frustration. It also tells the questioner that you are not about to engage in any intelligent discourse with him. These are TERRIBLE leadership qualities. But again, most people have already realized this.

    November 17, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  16. Mike

    Michele, The top 1% pay little or no taxes. Your plan would raise taxes on the middle and lower income households. that is afact and you know it. You want trickle down economics. Let what is left over trickle down to those who have little or nothing. Her statement that the top 1% of earners pay 40% of the taxes may be true. But you have to have an income to pay taxes. When has a wealthy CEO's or business owners ever taken less so people could stay employed? The sacrifice ALWAYS falls on the less fortunate.

    November 17, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Bachman should have "warmed up" by speaking to a group of pre-schoolers.
    I am so encouraged by the questions that were asked by these young men and women, and so very happy to realize that despite the apparent gullibility, mental laziness, and political amnesia of their "adult" GOP counterparts, these young people are paying attention to the political discourse in this country.

    November 17, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. DavidK

    That picture, with the young lady in Obama's t-shirt next to Bachman, will be an enduring memory for me. I am going to pin it in my office.

    November 17, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. v_mag

    Of those 47% who supposedly don't pay income tax (although, they pay lots of other taxes, as we all do), how many would NOT trade places with any of those poor, beaten-down 1%ers?

    Bachmann and her ilk always rant about how much the rich are paying, but they never get around to mentioning how much the rich are KEEPING. It makes very little difference if you pay a million in taxes when you're going home with 9 million.

    November 17, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    So, is Ms. Bachman saying that all the folks in our country out of work now have never figured out how to go out and get a job?
    According to this article and the students, Dee, Ms. Bachman wasn't saying much of anything.

    November 17, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    LacrosseMom(real one)

    @Leigh...... I agree Bachman is nuts!

    November 17, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. jimmy0092

    "Have you had a conversation with a college student or recent graduate lately? Disturbing to say the least."

    Actually yes. They know a lot more about current events than most other people I know. Many of the people I know, both conservative and liberal, start to shut down once they get out of school. Their views never change and they tend to stick with whatever rhetoric is given to them by "their side". I seriously doubt you've talked to a college student. You're a moron that just spouts off whatever the right-wing company line is. Sad.

    November 17, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  23. Tony

    What else can you say about this incident or anything that Michelle Bachman says, except IDIOT!

    November 17, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |

    ....yet another Bachmann fail. LOL!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    November 17, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  25. al in memphis

    These kid have a look on their face like whatever Bachmann got is contagious. Don't worry kids, the ability to make stupid statements is not like a cold or flu, it takes years to be this uninformed and still be willing to shoot off at the mouth.

    November 17, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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