Irene was 'act of God.' What quip says about Michele Bachmann campaign.

The Michele Bachmann campaign is calling her quip about God and natural disasters an obvious joke. But the incident sheds some light on her style and resilience as a campaigner.

Rick Wilson/AP
Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R) of Minnesota, speaks to supporters during a campaign stop at Angie's Subs, Friday, Aug. 26, in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

Hurricane Irene and last week’s East Coast earthquake are God’s way of telling Washington that the US government needs to cut spending, Michele Bachmann said Sunday.

Washington, D.C., you’d think by now they’d get the message. An earthquake, a hurricane, are you listening? The American people have done everything they possibly can. Now it’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it,” Representative Bachmann said during a campaign stop in Florida.

It seems as if she’s joking here, as opposed to making a serious theological argument. After all, if God really wanted to convey a message on fiscal policy, He’d just set up a lunch date with Tim Geithner, right?

The people in the audience are laughing, and she’s kind of smiling. Plus, her campaign said it was a joke.

“Obviously she was saying it in jest,” said Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart in a statement to reporters.

Not everybody thought this joke was funny, though. Some thought it disrespectful. Some thought it clunky. Some thought it made light of the damage wrought by Irene.

But as to what it says about Bachmann as a politician, we have several thoughts.

For one thing, it may be an example of how her personal touch on the trail is not the best. Her rhetoric can be scorching but she does not always connect that well with the people in the audience. Remember earlier this month, when she appeared at the same Iowa GOP dinner as then about-to-declare Gov. Rick Perry? He received much better reviews than she did, even though the dinner was in Bachmann’s home town.

But a second conclusion might be that Bachmann refuses to be drawn into the media’s endless cycle of gaffe-and-recrimination. To mix metaphors, she is not so thin-skinned as to always rise to the bait.

Nope. Instead of dwelling on the earthquake/hurricane thing, she issues a statement via her spokespeople, and moves on. That’s generally the practice of an experienced politician.

Contrast this with Sarah Palin’s modus operandi. Karl Rove says she’s going to announce for president, and the next thing you know, she’s scorching him in a statement posted on her PAC webpage, saying he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and intends to deceive the American people, besides.

You can’t get sidetracked into that kind of discussion if you’re actually running for office. It takes you off-message and blots out everything else you were planning to convey.

And right now, Bachmann’s biggest problem is that Rick Perry is supplanting her as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in the GOP race. She doesn’t have time to get drawn into discussions as to what she really meant by linking natural disasters with US government policies.

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