Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

She began her political career simply, as a Christian mom concerned about the content of school papers her children brought home in their backpacks, but today she has become one of the leading defenders of liberty and conservative principles on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., laughs at her humble start in politics.

“I attended my caucus, not intending to run for office,” Bachmann told WND. “I had on jeans and a sweatshirt with a hole in it and tennis shoes. But the people said, ‘Michele, you need to run,’ and I did.”

Bachmann went on to beat out Minnesota’s longest-sitting state senator in the 2000 Republican primary and then defeated her Democratic opponent in the general election. Six years later, she overcame millions of dollars in Democrat campaign spending to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and, in an exclusive interview with WND, Bachmann hinted her underdog campaigns may even lead to the White House.

Bachmann, a federal tax litigation attorney before serving in elected office, told WND that she is “first and foremost a mother.” In the late 90s, the mother of five and foster mom to another 23 children through the years, grew concerned about what her foster kids were bringing home from the public school.

“Through the Goals 2000 program, the federal government was pushing knowledge, facts and information out of classroom study, substituting them with a study of attitudes, values and beliefs,” she said, “but not necessarily the values that moms and dads would like.”

Using her background as an attorney, she investigated the federal Goals 2000 contracts between Minnesota and the local school districts.

“I discovered that the federal government had effectively federalized all our local public school classrooms,” she said. “We were losing local school authority.”

Bachmann then began a campaign to stir Minnesota’s parents at a grass-roots level to repeal the federal Goals 2000 standards, succeeding to become the only state at the time to reject the federal foray into education and replace it with state standards.

Shortly thereafter parents asked her to run for office, and she’s been battling big government ever since.

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“I started my career in politics believing the federal government should not have a role in the classroom,” Bachmann told WND. “Going forward, we have to pare back dramatically the size, scope and reach of the federal government. It’s extending its hand over almost every area and aspect of people’s lives, and that needs to come back if we are to remain free and prosperous. We can’t be free and prosperous if we go in the direction we’re heading.”

When asked to describe her political convictions, Bachmann responded, “Before party, I’m a conservative first.

“I believe in equality of opportunity, not equality of result, and that’s the big dividing line between liberals and conservatives,” she said. “Conservatives believe that each individual is important and deserves protection of their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“These rights come from our creator,” she continued, “Government neither gives them nor does government have the power to take them away. … I believe my job as a member of Congress is to secure those inalienable rights.

“The heart and soul of who we are as a nation is in the Declaration of Independence; the Constitution is the framework for how we uphold those rights; and the Bill of Rights goes on to secure those rights to the individual, protecting individual rights from big government,” she said.

A conservative in socialism’s court

Bachmann also took time during her interview with WND to blast three areas of massive government expansion that have been proposed over the last several years, even faulting fellow Republicans for the bailouts under President Bush:

“I voted against the bailout, and I worked feverishly within my own caucus, begging, urging Republicans not to vote for it,” she said. “That was a big mistake Republicans made on the bailout last fall. It laid the groundwork for the slide toward socialism that we’ve seen since.”

Nonetheless, Bachmann pledges she’s got more fighting to do, particularly against Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade system for regulating energy use.

“My number one goal is to make sure that the left is not successful in passing their ‘global warming’ tax,” she told WND. “I want to see the United States be producers again, and to do that we need to change our tax environment and open up American energy resources.”

Bachmann also had harsh words for Obama’s proposed health care reform.

“Over the weekend, I read a 1986 book – ‘Destroying Democracy’ by James T. Bennett and Thomas J. Dilorenzo – that talked about ACORN’s agenda, and it was as fresh as everything President Obama has been advancing since he took office,” she said. “Complete nationalization of health care, energy tax, government taking over the economy – now that we have ‘bailout nation,’ the U.S. government owns or controls 30 percent of the American economy. If Obama gets his way and effectively nationalizes 18 percent of the nation’s wealth in health care, that will put 48 percent of our economy controlled or owned by the federal economy. That’s outlandish.

“Americans have got to melt the phone lines of the Democrats on the health care bill,” she continued. “If the president gets his way with nationalized health care, it will be almost impossible to ever turn it back and restore to us our freedom.”

Catching heat for her convictions

Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn.

Bachmann’s determination to defend individual rights from an ever-expanding federal government, however, has sometimes led her out of the mainstream among Washington’s powerful elites to take unusual stands on issues she sees as an affront to personal liberty.

WND reported, for example, on Bachmann’s charge against the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which will begin a ban on incandescent light bulbs over the next few years, requiring Americans to purchase only compact fluorescent bulbs.

“Most Americans, if you ask them, have no idea that the government has already made a choice for them,” Bachmann said in a televised MSNBC interview. “The government has substituted its choice for the American consumer’s choice.”

WND also reported on Bachmann’s defense of the dollar standard and opposition to a global currency.

Bachmann has also taken public stances against abortion, same-sex marriage, Obama’s plans for expansion of public service under the federal AmeriCorps program and the questions on the 2010 Census, which she contends are invasive. Bachmann pledged in a Washington Times interview that when census workers come knocking, she will answer only the question about the number of people in residence, “because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”

To Bachmann, light bulbs, the census and the dollar standard are issues simply because liberty is at stake. To her detractors and political opponents, however, her unorthodox stances are fuel for ridicule.

Bachmann has been labeled across the Internet as “kooky,” MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has named her to his “World’s Worst” list, and, according to Bachmann, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has named Bachmann one of her top eight targets to get rid of in the next election.

The ire has grown so fierce, Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity refers to Bachmann as “the second most hated Republican woman” (after Sarah Palin).

Bachmann, however, is not surprised by the criticism.

“In some ways, it’s an honor, because it means that I must be effective. Otherwise, they’d be ignoring me,” Bachmann told WND. “The other side seems to have two tricks that they pull out of their bag: the Republican is stupid, or the Republican is crazy. … It’s straight out of Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’: they identify their target, then try to marginalize their target.”

Bachmann explained much of the ridicule she endures is because powerful women with conservative views don’t fit liberals’ desired image.

“I’m not afraid to be a social or fiscal conservative, and that doesn’t fit their template,” she told WND. “Democrats see women as yet one more dependency group, but I defy that. I don’t need government programs to succeed. I worked my way through college, my husband and I started our own business, and we didn’t need the government to be the answer.

“I also think they’re upset that I’m willing to go on radio and TV shows and call them out on their policies,” she continued. “They’ve thrown just about everything they can throw at me and they haven’t prevailed yet, and I think that infuriates them.”

Hope for the likeminded?

In the wake of tea party protests, where many fiscal conservatives have blasted Republicans and Democrats alike for supporting federal bailouts, WND asked Bachmann if those who agree with her principles can still look to her party for leadership.

“After the election of 2006, when I was sworn in in 2007,” Bachmann replied, “I was expecting a fairly liberal group of people in Congress. But that’s not what I found. I have been pleasantly surprised by a number of my colleagues, who believe in the founding principles we share.

“Three years ago, the Republican Party had overspent and had been a part of the problem of enhancing the power of government over the power of the individual,” she continued. “And I think the GOP got the comeuppance it deserved at that point in that it had lost fidelity to its founding principles.

“What I have seen birthed out of the hardship of the elections in 2006 and 2008, however, is a winnowing of that mindset that caused the Republican Party to lose so badly,” she said. “There is still a remnant, a strong fighting element in the House Republican Caucus that is more in line with the principles of, say, Mark Levin’s ‘Liberty and Tyranny’ than they are with the principles that cause the GOP to lose.”

Finally, WND asked Bachmann if she could see a day when the candidate who began her political career in jeans and a holey sweatshirt would one day run for the presidency.

“If I felt that’s what the Lord was calling me to do, I would do it,” she answered. “When I have sensed that the Lord is calling me to do something, I’ve said yes to it. But I will not seek a higher office if God is not calling me to do it. That’s really my standard.

“If I am called to serve in that realm I would serve,” she concluded, “but if I am not called, I wouldn’t do it.”

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