NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Like many of the politicians at CPAC with ambitions for higher office, Michele Bachmann offered a vision of a new path forward for Republicans. Bachmann's was unique in that it combined a more inclusive message — "We care about people!" — with her signature cable news-ready attacks on President Obama as a foppish lightweight basking in White House luxury while Benghazi burned.
"We are the people who truly care about people," Bachmann said in a speech Saturday. "We want everyone to have the best possible life they could have — white, black, Hispanic, young immigrants, old immigrants... When you get lifted up in our community we get lifted up too." She sounded almost like a community organizer. She spoke about what caring could do for the country, telling the story of Jonas Salk and the polion vaccine. "President Eisenhower in turn cared, and he widely distributed that drug all across the United States" saving money and lives, she said. This is a bit of a flip-flop for Bachmann, who relayed the false claim that vaccines cause mental retardation during the Republican presidential primary in 2011.
But Bachmann did not just give the crowd warm and fuzzy images. She gave them what she's known for. Speaking of the deaths of four State Department workers in Benghazi last fall — and that help didn't come to the consulate fast enough — Bachmann said official records don't show what Obama was doing after he was informed of the attacks. "War was raging in Benghazi for hours, and all we know is that our president went AWOL!" Booooo, the crowd responded. "No one yet today knows where the president was." But the next day Obama flew to Las Vegas "to campaign with Beyonce and Jay-Z!" Booooooooo, the crowd said.
Worse, White House tours were cancelled because of the sequester. But Obama is living a life of luxury, Bachmann said. "Now we find out there are five chefs on Air Force One! ... There are two projectionists at the White House! ... We are the ones paying for someone to walk the president's dog! Why are we doing that when we can't even get a disabled veteran into the white house for a White House tour?"
"We care about people, we love people," Bachmann said. "This debate has to be more about cutting budgets vs. raising taxes." She's right that it's difficult to generate outrage over numbers and abstractions.
Watch the full speech here, and stay tuned for more from on the ground at CPAC all weekend...