By Joshua Madden
During the recent Republican presidential debate on Fox News, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty criticized Rep. Michele Bachmann, saying if she considered her recent actions to be definitive of leadership, she needed to stop trying to lead.
After Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll, with Pawlenty coming in a distant third to both her and Rep. Ron Paul, who placed a close second, Pawlenty dropped out of the race, and many pundits quickly zeroed in on the fact that his performances in the debates had been relatively lackluster.
Except that they seemed to forget one thing: He was right.
In my opinion, Bachmann’s leadership experience is minimal and her accomplishments are few. To quote a famous film called “Reservoir Dogs,” someone should probably ask Bachmann this question: “Are you going to bark all day, little doggy, or are you going to bite?”
Bachmann’s record is one of astounding rhetoric – labeled by many as extreme, whether or not that’s fair is up to you – and yet her accomplishments simply do not measure up. The experience that Bachmann touted in response to Pawlenty’s criticism was her authorship of the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.
Call me crazy, but in a Congress that passed historic legislation on at least a monthly basis and where others, like Rep. Paul Ryan, are proposing budgets that could make a huge difference to our nation – good or bad, I’ll let others decide – it just does not seem to me that proposing light bulb choice-related legislation is that big of a deal.
It’s certainly not something that should be boasted about on a resume, particularly if the job you’re applying for is president of the United States.
And as for other accomplishments, they’re pretty much non-existent. Bachmann has not authored major legislation that has actually passed, nor does she have any significant executive experience under her belt. She takes a great deal of hard stances – like voting against the budget compromise and against raising the debt ceiling – but then fails to present alternative plans.
I’m all for taking controversial stances in politics. I think it’s something that we do not see enough of right now. But taking controversial stances does not absolve one of the need to provide solutions to problems, particularly in any position of public leadership.
Being a member of Congress makes you a de facto leader in our nation, whether you like it or not. And, unlike Bachmann, others seem to be taking this seriously and proposing legislation that matters.
In addition to Ryan mentioned above, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky often takes very controversial stances on budget issues and yet he has actually proposed budgets for the Senate to consider.
These proposals may not have a serious chance of ever becoming law, but unlike most of what Bachmann does, it is more than mere rhetoric. It is also more wide-sweeping than the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act in that it would impact things beyond, well, light bulbs.
If Bachmann is proposing serious budgets, she certainly is not advertising them very much. She seems perfectly content to stand back and yell from the mountaintops while others do the labor of actually drafting legislation to solve problems. That’s not leadership – in fact, that’s not even really being much of a legislator – it’s just kind of sad.
Bachmann’s lack of executive experience makes the lack of notable legislation all the more serious. It’s one thing for a governor to have never written anything important. It’s quite another for someone who is only famous as a member of Congress.
So while Pawlenty may have been forced out of the race because of poor performance in early polling, it seems like the loss of Pawlenty is also the loss of the one voice that will actually tell potential Bachmann voters what they need to hear. Rhetoric is one thing, but successful leadership is another.
Joshua Madden is a graduate student in information systems from Kansas City, Mo., and the Lariat’s A&E Editor.