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Is Michele Bachmann a Compulsive Liar or Just Clueless?

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When people say factually inaccurate things, you can often tell whether they're deliberately mischaracterizing the truth or whether they just don't know what they're talking about. With Michele Bachmann, I really can't quite tell.

A couple of months ago, CNN's Anderson Cooper put together an amazing montage of Bachmann statements highlighting her addiction to falsehoods, but that did not dissuade her from continuing to blurt out unchecked allegations.

During a CNN-sponsored Republican debate a few weeks ago, Bachmann was predictably drumming up support for war with Iran, and claimed that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "said that if he has a nuclear weapon he will use it to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. He will use it against the United States of America." This could be sound justification for a war, except Bachmann's allegation is completely devoid of truth. As CNN's Truth Squad points out, Iranian leaders never threatened to nuke Israel or the United States, and they couldn't have because they deny pursuing nuclear weapons in the first place.

So how did Bachmann take being corrected? Rather than speak more carefully when she addressed the topic again, she decided to even exaggerate further (and frankly fall off the deep end) during last night's debate when she said:

"We know without a shadow of a doubt Iran will take a nuclear weapon, they will use it to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map. And they've stated that they will use it against the United States of America."


So no longer is she only alleging that Iran said things they actually didn't, but now we know "without a shadow of doubt" that the attack will happen, unless we do something about it. That's the sort of lying that makes the Iraq war propaganda of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld seem like honest straight-talk by comparison. Not content with that much, Bachmann (who, remarkably, sits on the House Intelligence Committee) sparred with Ron Paul over whether the IAEA said Iran was only months from being able to develop nuclear weapons and, sure enough, Bachmann turned out to be wrong.

If all of this doesn't sound absurd enough, consider the mother of all ironic twists: while arguing with Newt Gingrich during the debate about whether her allegations in a previous debate were correct, she cited the fact-checking website PolitiFact as a defense, saying: "after the debate that we had last week, PolitiFact came out and said that everything I said was true." How did PoltiFact react? They immediately tweeted "For the record, we did not say that everything Michele Bachamnn said at last week's debate was true." [stet] Bachmann should certainly listen to David Henry's golden advice: "Bachmann would be wise to avoid directing anyone to her PolitiFact file -- of the 52 Bachmann claims they've tested, 31 have been ruled False or Pants on Fire."

Now, some might be thinking "what's the big deal here, don't all politicians lie?" Well, not exactly. Virtually all politicians bend the truth and commit deliberate errors of omission to win support (certainly dishonest behavior), but they rarely flat out lie. When Gingrich says that the Palestinians are an "invented people" just because they were part of the Ottoman Empire, it's a ridiculous statement because by no consistent standard can the Israeli people be considered any more authentic (there was also no Israel or Israeli people in the Ottoman era). Gingrich's demagoguery is of course dishonest, but dishonesty relating to the murky concept of nationalism is not quite the same as saying something that is a blatant lie on its face.

A mini earthquake must have occurred last night at the site of Orwell's grave when, towards the end of the debate, Bachmann told Gingrich:

"I think it's outrageous to continue to say over and over through the debates that I don't have my facts right, when as a matter of fact, I do. I am a serious candidate for President of the United States and my facts are accurate."


Dear Michele, if you don't want to be accused of getting your facts wrong, there is an easy solution: stop lying. And if you're not lying on purpose, just try to learn the facts before speaking. Seems like a reasonable expectation from someone who thinks they're qualified to run the world's only superpower, no?

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