WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann told Floridians Sunday that Hurricane Irene and the earthquake felt along much of the East Coast last week were messages from God to warn "politicians" to start heeding divine guidance, which she suggested is being channeled through small government conservatives.
"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?'" Bachmann, a third-term Minnesota representative, told a crowd in Sarasota that the St. Petersburg Times estimated contained around 1,000 people.
"Listen to the American people, because the American people are roaring right now," Bachmann continued. "They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."
Her comments appear to link God's will with those who believe the U.S. government is too large and intrudes too much on people's lives. A Bachmann spokeswoman has not responded to a request for clarification of the congresswoman's comments.
Bachmann's comments come on the heels of remarks that Glenn Beck, the former Fox News personality, made on his radio program last week. Beck said the hurricane and earthquake were warnings to a different group: the American people. In essence, Beck said, the weather events were a dry run for people to prepare themselves for future disasters.
"How many warnings do you think you’re going to get, and how many warnings do you deserve? This hurricane that is coming through the East Coast, for anyone who’s in the East Coast and has been listening to me say ‘Food storage!’ ‘Be prepared!’" Beck said. "If you’ve waited, this hurricane is a blessing. It is a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you you’re not in control."
Both Bachmann and Beck appear to be tapping into a deep but often unspoken fear in many Americans –- many of them, but not all, in the conservative grassroots –- that the country is crumbling from within, financially and morally, and increasingly vulnerable to outside aggressors or to internal disorder.
UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. -- Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart said Monday morning that the candidate was joking and that her comments weren't serious. "Obviously she was saying it in jest," Stewart told Talking Points Memo. Politico posted a short clip of Bachmann's comments from a different portion of the speech, where her tone is on the lighter side.
UPDATE: 2:30 p.m. -- The Huffington Post sought clarification as to why the video clip linked at Politico showed Bachmann making comments about the hurricane and earthquake that were different than the quotes attributed to her in the St. Petersburg Times. Bachmann appears to be wearing a different outfit in the video than the one she wore at the Sunday event, based on wire service photos of her appearance there. That would mean she made the comment about God sending a message through natural disasters at more than one event during her swing through Florida. An inquiry is pending with the Bachmann campaign.
UPDATE: 2:45 p.m. -- Patch's William Mansell has video of the actual comments that drew attention on Sunday in Sarasota. The full quote is below, and the context does suggest that Bachmann is making the comment about the hurricane and earthquake for effect, rather than to be taken literally. Nonetheless, there is a suggestion in her comment that God wants what small government conservatives want.