THE BLOG

A Tea Party Tipping Point? Michele Bachmann Returns to the Intelligence Committee

01/14/2013 03:18 pm ET | Updated Mar 16, 2013

The Tea Party ain't over. Case in point: last week, former presidential candidate and unflagging conspiracy theorist Michele Bachmann announced that, despite the understandable outcry, she has been assigned yet again to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the new congressional term.

Today, People For the American Way delivered 178,000 petitions to House Speaker John Boehner urging him to remove Bachmann from the Intelligence Committee. Members of the House Intelligence Committee are entrusted with classified information that affects the safety and security of all Americans," the petition reads. "That information should not be in the hands of anyone with such a disregard for honesty, misunderstanding of national security, and lack of respect for his or her fellow public servants." Boehner should take these concerns seriously. Instead, he has rewarded Bachmann's reckless extremism with continued access to classified information and another term on a powerful committee.

This didn't need to happen and it certainly shouldn't have. More than a few comedians have pointed out the irony of Michele Bachmann being appointed to the "Intelligence" Committee in the first place. But on the Intelligence Committee the Minnesota congresswoman is no joke. Last year, Bachmann went too far, even by her own low standards, when she urged the Defense and Justice Departments to investigate what she alleged were Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin's ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, claiming that the Islamist group had achieved Manchurian Candidate-style "deep penetration" into the U.S. government. Her allegations were supported only by her delusionary distrust of Muslim-Americans and by the rantings of anti-Islam activist Frank Gaffney. Meanwhile, she was rebuked by many of her fellow Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, who called the accusations "an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and a loyal public servant," and Boehner, who said the claims were "pretty dangerous." Even her own former campaign manager Ed Rollins called her attacks "downright vicious" and compared her unhinged witch hunt to that of the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Since then, despite having no evidence, she's hasn't moderated her rhetoric. At September's Values Voter Summit, she claimed that a decision by the FBI to stop using flawed anti-Muslim training materials amounted to President Obama enforcing "Islamic speech codes." In subsequent radio interviews, she claimed that the president wanted to impose Sharia law at home and abroad.

Bachmann of course promotes a wide range of conspiracy theories -- including the theory that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation and that people who fill out the census will end up in concentration camps. But her wild claims about anti-Americanism in the halls of government have a direct bearing on her position on the Intelligence Committee and they're where we should draw the line. Bachmann's often laughable crackpot theories are no longer funny when they involve our national security.

Apparently Speaker Boehner disagrees. While he made headlines last year for condemning Bachmann's dangerous crusade, he has yet to take any action to stop it. Bachmann and the Tea Party have proven time and again that they don't take the business of governing seriously. Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders should stop pretending like they do.