Good News, Liberals: 'Crazy' Michele Bachmann Is Back

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The congresswoman's wild-eyed persona has returned as she sounds the not-quite-factual alarm about a "suicide-bomber conference" on American soil.

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Remember when Michele Bachmann was the crazy right-wing congresswoman liberals loved to hate? The one who could be counted on to make inflammatory, nutty-sounding accusations on a regular basis, like when she said the media should investigate and expose the "anti-American views" of congressional liberals?

Well, good old Michele Bachmann is back.

Her out-there statements once inspired outraged Democrats across the country to send millions in unsolicited donations to her little-known congressional opponent. But then she made a bid for seriousness. As a presidential candidate, she mostly managed to keep the more wild-eyed aspects of her political persona under wraps. In debates, she regularly outshone her more credentialed competitors, and last August, she won the Ames straw poll.

But her presidential campaign ended in tears -- she dropped out after her sixth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses -- and now she appears to be back at her trademark paranoid alarmism. In a speech last week, Bachmann devoted her remarks to raising the alarm about an upcoming "suicide-bomber conference" in Chicago. She called on the president to stop it on the grounds that it was "subversive." She warned the audience, "We could wake up some morning wondering, 'How in the world did America come under sharia law?'"

Bachmann has a long history of this kind of fearmongering, much of it directed at the supposed internal threat from radical Islam. For example, in 2009, she claimed that the so-called "Flying Imams" had been attending the "victory celebration" for her colleague, Rep. Keith Ellison, when the six Muslim men were pulled off a plane at the Minneapolis airport in November 2006. There was a small kernel of truth at the statement's core -- the men had been attending an imams' conference, at which Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is Muslim, gave a talk -- but the claim that there was an election-night party involved was both literally untrue and incredibly inflammatory.

That seems to be the case with Bachmann's "suicide-bomber conference" as well. Bachmann was correct to assert that the group, Hizb ut-Tahrir America -- which was planning its Khilafah, or Caliphate, Conference for June 17 near Chicago -- advocates overthrowing world governments, including that of the U.S., and installing a Muslim caliphate in its place. It does indeed advocate the imposition of sharia law. But it appears to be a small, fringe group; its official position is against violence, and the group has not been directly linked to violence, terrorism, or suicide bombing. Moreover, the conference in question was canceled two weeks ago after the host venue was besieged by calls of protest from followers of the anti-Islamist blogger Pamela Geller. There's also no evidence that sharia law is truly a creeping threat to the American system, though several states have enacted laws against it just to be sure.

But none of this stopped Bachmann from making the conference the centerpiece of her argument that the president has failed to deal adequately with the threat from terrorism. She showed the video advertising the conference during her talk at the Conservative Political Action Conference-Chicago, and angrily called for the president to close it down.

"When you have an organization that is calling for the establishment of a global caliphate, and they want to have dominance of a different system of law, which would be sharia law, over the United States people -- not just themselves, but over the United States people -- that's subversion, and that needs to be shut down," Bachmann said in a press conference after her speech.

Bachmann has little to lose and little to fear these days. Her presidential hopes have been dashed, she has little hope of moving into the leadership of the House (a previous attempt was rebuffed), and she has virtually no prospects of higher office in her blue home state. Her seat in Congress, though, is safely Republican -- even more so since last year's redistricting. And so she is free to make her bid for national attention the best way she knows how: by calling attention to secret, if not quite factual, anti-American plots.

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Molly Ball is a staff writer covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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