Michele Bachmann had a great start to her presidential campaign Monday night. Announcing that she's running for president at the beginning of the debate was a clever way of grabbing headlines, but her performance wasn't all gimmicks. She seemed to outshine Herman Cain, the other Tea Party favorite, on both substance and style.
Bachmann quoted Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to justify her opposition to the intervention in Libya. She talked about how she put "principle over party" when she cast her vote against TARP vote. And when CNN moderator John King asked her a silly hypothetical question, she gave him the silly answer he deserved.
"If there is a President Bachmann, and you’re only allowed to hire one of the candidates on the stage, which one would it be and why?" King asked.
"Well, maybe we’ll have to have an 'American Idol' contest and go from there," Bachmann answered. "We’ll let the audience decide."
She also deftly handled a question that could have been tricky for her. A reporter asked: "Governor Pawlenty says he opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at stake. Do you have any problem with that position? And if so, why?"
Bachmann's response in full:
"I am 100 percent pro-life. I’ve given birth to five babies, and I’ve taken 23 foster children into my home. I believe in the dignity of life from conception until natural death. I believe in the sanctity of human life."
"And I think the most eloquent words ever written were those in our Declaration of Independence that said it’s a Creator who endowed us with inalienable rights, given to us from God, not from government. And the beauty of that is that government cannot take those rights away. Only God can give, and only God can take."
"And the first of those rights is life. And I stand for that right. I stand for the right to life. The very few cases that deal with those exceptions are the very tiniest of fraction of cases, and yet they get all the attention. Where all of the firepower is and where the real battle is, is on the general — genuine issue of taking an innocent human life. I stand for life from conception until natural death."
She began with a principled and personal defense of the right to life. And then she successfully dismissed the question without ever directly answering it. Many have said it before, but it's worth saying again: Don't underestimate Michele Bachmann.