Michele Bachmann: What do her favorite books tell us?
A list of Michele Bachmann's favorite books includes one that "startles" an interviewer.
Michele Bachmann’s life is an open book in more ways than one.Skip to next paragraph
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Sure, we know about her migraines, her foster children, the suspicions about her husband. But if you really want to know the congresswoman from Minnesota and one of the leading contenders to run for president in 2012 – if you really want to know anyone – you have to check out her bookshelf.
Fortunately, years ago when she was a Minnesota state senator, Bachmann published a list of nine of her favorite books on her website. The picks speak volumes on the Tea Party-favorite Bachman and has, at times, put her in the uncomfortable position of defending controversial ideals and dwelling on issues her campaign PR would no doubt rather bury.
In the Aug. 15, 2011, edition of The New Yorker, Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza examines the writers, books, and beliefs that have shaped the Republican frontrunner and he says what he found shocked him.
One constant theme that connects each of the books that have been important to Bachmann: applying a Christian conservative biblical worldview to many facets of life.
Among the most controversial books that have shaped Bachmann – a book she endorsed as one of her nine favorite works on her website back in her state senator days – is “Call of Duty: The Sterling Nobility of Robert E. Lee,” by J. Steven Wilkins.
In his New Yorker profile, Lizza describes the book and its author:
“Wilkins is the leading proponent of the theory that the South was an orthodox Christian nation unjustly attacked by the godless North.… In the book, Wilkins condemns ‘the radical abolitionists of New England’ and writes that ‘most southerners strove to treat their slaves with respect and provide them with a sufficiency of goods for a comfortable, though – by modern standards – spare existence.’ African slaves brought to America, he argues, were essentially lucky: ‘Africa, like any other pagan country, was permeated by the cruelty and barbarism typical of unbelieving cultures.’”
It’s known as the theological war thesis and with Wilkins’s help, it’s now part of some Christian home schooling curricula.
“It is an objectively pro-slavery book and one of the most startling things I learned about her in this piece,” Lizza tells NPR.
Unfortunately for Bachmann, it’s also one of many slavery-related gaffes, as Time’s political writer, Katy Steinmetz, points out in a recent blog. (It’s also one more example of how, 150 years later, the Civil War continues to be a controversial and fraught topic for schools, as the Monitor discussed in these two articles.)