Bachmann’s unique understanding of history

As Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann takes on a higher profile role, I suppose it’s only natural that the media would take a closer look at the frequency with which she says ridiculous things. Take her appearance today on “Good Morning America,” for example.

Host George Stephanopoulos began by noting, “In your announcement you said ‘my voice is part of a movement to take back our country.’ From whom?” Bachmann replied, “Well, from the people all across the nation.”

Maybe she didn’t understand the question.

Stephanopoulos went on to note that Politifact has found that Bachmann has “the worst record of making false statements of any of the leading contenders,” and he wanted to give her a chance to “clear up” some of the misstatements. He mentioned, for example, the right-wing lawmaker’s claim that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly to end slavery.” Stephanopoulos explained, “That’s just not true.”

Bachmann: Well if you look at one of our Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, that’s absolutely true. He was a very young boy when he was with his father serving essentially as his father’s secretary. He tirelessly worked throughout his life to make sure that we did in fact one day eradicate slavery.

Stephanopoulos: He wasn’t one of the Founding Fathers – he was a president, he was a Secretary of State, he was a member of Congress, you’re right he did work to end slavery decades later. But so you are standing by this comment that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery?

Bachmann: Well, John Quincy Adams most certainly was a part of the Revolutionary War era. He was a young boy but he was actively involved.

I hate to be a stickler for reality, but when the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Quincy Adams was a nine-year-old boy. To say he was “actively involved” in the Revolutionary War era is awfully silly. To use the possible beliefs of a nine-year-old boy as evidence that the Founding Fathers “worked tirelessly to end slavery” is simply absurd on its face.

Wouldn’t Bachmann be better off simply acknowledging she misspoke?

Stephanopoulos went on to ask Bachmann to back up her claim that “taking away the minimum wage” could eliminate all unemployment. Bachmann couldn’t provide any evidence — she tried three times to dodge the question — but Bachmann did suggest she would consider eliminating the minimum wage if elected president.

The problem for the congresswoman is that this seems unlikely to go away. If Bachmann is going to be a top-tier candidate for president — yes, of the United States — and an arguable frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses, reporters are probably going to ask about some of her more colorful claims. She’ll struggle to explain them away, as she did this morning, because there are no credible explanations for madness.

Bachmann insists she’s a “serious person.” If that’s put to the test, even a little, the far-right Minnesotan should be prepared for quite a bit of embarrassment.

Bachmann’s fans probably won’t mind — they’re not exactly fact-oriented, and I assume they’ll be touching up John Quincy Adams’ Wikipedia page any minute now — but for the American mainstream, Bachmann’s destined for clown status.

* Updated: Some conservatives are trying to spin history to help Bachmann out on this. They really shouldn’t bother.