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Michele Bachmann, And The Red Scare, Are Upon Us

I can't see it from Minnesota, but I know the Soviet Union exists!
First there was former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who (in)famously presented her ability to see Russia from her home state as evidence of president-grade foreign policy chops.

Now, Sarah Palin 2.0 -- Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann -- has made her own Russia-related goof. And this one’s a doozy.

Bachmann, riding high after winning the August 13 Republican straw poll in Iowa, took time to pay a visit to conservative radio talk show "Jay Sekulow Live!" The show aired on August 18 -- the eve of the 20th anniversary of the attempted coup that would lead to the fall of the Soviet Union.

The congresswoman was asked what concerns she was hearing from Americans as she campaigned around the country.

She responded with her usual: "It really is about jobs and the economy. That doesn't mean that people haven't forgotten about the issue protecting life and marriage and the sanctity of the family. People are very concerned about that as well."

But then she added: "There's a fear that the United States is in an unstoppable decline. They see the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union."

Yes, the Soviet Union -- as in the country that hasn’t existed for two decades.

You can listen to the clip here.

Last year, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that without passage of the new START nuclear nonproliferation treaty, Washington and Moscow risked another Cold War. This, however, probably wasn’t what he had in mind.

Bachmann’s ironically timed gaffe has caught fire on the Internet (although the interview is conspicuously absent from her campaign website).

One Twitter user wrote today, on the coup’s anniversary, “Shorter Bachmann: ‘Happy birthday U.S.S.R.!’”

A tweet from the Khodorkovsky Center, which advocates for imprisoned former Yukos tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said in response to Bachmann’s blooper, “I can never criticize Russian politics again.”

Another Twitter user left it at “Oh dear,” while another quipped, “Hope they tear down the Berlin Wall soon.”

Kremlin-funded media organization Russia Today was more than eager to jump in, posting a cartoon in which Bachmann warns of invading Stalin, Hitler, and Tamerlane.

You could say that even rudimentary knowledge of world history just isn't that important to Bachmann.

However, the congresswoman has also produced some wince-worthy moments relating to U.S. history.

In March, speaking before Republicans in the state of New Hampshire, she proclaimed that the opening shots of the Revolutionary War were fired there. History books will tell you that the correct answer is "Massachusetts."

In a January blunder before Tea Partiers, she claimed that the Founding Fathers had worked "tirelessly" to rid the country of slavery when, of course, many of the group owned slaves themselves.

-- Richard Solash

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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