Profiles of Michele Bachmann have been plentiful since the congresswoman became a legitimate contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And now, in the latest issue of The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza delivers a "terrific" and "disturbing" look at Bachmann's worldview, intellectual influences, and life history. Granted unprecedented access to Bachmann and her campaign, Lizza explores the roots of Bachmann's beliefs. Here, six of The New Yorker's best revelations:
1. Bachmann's beliefs were shaped by an evangelical filmmaker
Bachmann calls the film series How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer — who was very influential in the 1970s and '80s — "life-altering," Lizza writes. The films trace the influence of Christianity on Western culture, beginning with ancient Rome and spanning through modern abortion battles. Essentially, Lizza writes, the movies "condemn the influence of the Italian Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Darwin, secular humanism, and postmodernism" because those movements removed God from the center of life.
2. And a controversial professor influenced her politics
While at Oral Roberts University, Bachmann worked as a research assistant for a fundamentalist law professor named John Eidsmoe as he wrote his 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution. Eidsmoe preached that "when Biblical law conflicted with American law," people should "work through legal and political means to get it changed." Over the years, Eidsmoe has fallen out of favor for appearing at a convention held by the white-pride Council of Conservative Citizens, and for supporting Alabama's Secession Day. Bachmann hasn't distanced herself from him, however, telling an Iowa audience last spring that Eidsmoe is still one of her greatest influences.
3. She's endorsed some strange Civil War theories
During her state Senate campaign several years ago, Bachmann recommended on her website a biography of Robert E. Lee written by Steven Wilkins, who claims that African slaves brought to America were "lucky," treated with respect, and fortunate to experience the "sanctifying effects of Christianity." This proves, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, that Bachmann's historical "mistakes" on the issue of slavery — she was pilloried for saying the Founders worked hard to end slavery — "aren't evidence of ignorance," but instead "evidence of a worldview that is very different from what most Americans encounter in their daily lives."
4. She's revised her personal history while campaigning
Lizza also explains how Bachmann "touched up her image for a national campaign," says Noreen Malone at New York. His profile notes that while the official biography for her first congressional campaign in 2006 said that she "grew up in a broken home in Anoka, Minnesota," she now makes a point of telling supporters that she grew up in Iowa. (Bachmann was indeed born in Iowa, which hosts critical first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses). And while Bachmann says her experience as a former IRS tax litigation attorney makes her a tax-policy expert, former colleagues tell Lizza that she spent much of her time at the IRS on maternity leave.
5. Bachmann flies on a "Barbie jet"
The Tea Party darling dubbed her campaign plane the "Barbie jet," Lizza writes, describing a jovial atmosphere in which Bachmann seems genuinely in awe of the aircraft's extravagance. There is one steadfast rule, however: Journalists are not allowed to photograph Bachmann in her casual clothing. At one point, Bachmann faces the press while holding a newspaper with the headline "ROMNEY, BACHMANN LEAD REPUBLICAN PACK," which Lizza calls "the perfect shot." Once the press saw that Bachmann was wearing her cargo pants, however, "nobody took a picture."
6. Her husband is a "silver fox"
Bachmann's husband, Marcus, shows up in the profile in some "amusing conversations," says Malone. During one, he relays to Lizza that Newsweek had referred to him as a "silver fox," and was worried that it implied that he was homosexual. When Lizza explained that it was just a reference to his gray hair, Marcus Bachmann replied, "O.K., I can handle that." There's also a scene in which he attempts to psychoanalyze Lizza, and refers to himself as the most "high-maintenance" traveler on his wife's campaign jet.