WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is retiring from Congress at the end of this year, and she wants to go out with a bang. A very specific kind of bang, in fact: the type you get when you drop a U.S. bomb on an Iranian nuclear facility, which experts believe could upend months of delicate negotiations and spark even more conflict in the Middle East.
At the White House holiday party for members of Congress on Monday, Bachmann had her final interaction with President Barack Obama as a member of Congress. She used the opportunity to tell the president he must bomb nuclear facilities in Iran. The Iranian government claims the country's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the international community worries that the country is attempting to build a nuclear weapon.
Bachmann told the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online newspaper, all about the exchange for an interview the Beacon published Thursday afternoon:
"I turned to the president and I said, something to the effect of, ‘Mr. President, you need to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, because if you don’t, Iran will have a nuclear weapon on your watch and the course of world history will change,'" Bachmann said in the interview.
"And he got his condescending smile on his face and laughed at me and said, ‘Well, Michele, it’s just not that easy,’" she continued. "And I said to him, ‘No, Mr. President, you’re the president, it will happen on your watch, and you’ll have to answer to the world for this.’ And that was it and then I left. Merry Christmas."
Bachmann told the Beacon she had heard from experts that the U.S. could destroy Iran's nuclear facilities in six to eight weeks.
The U.S. and five other countries -- Germany, France, the U.K., Russia and China -- are presently in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the negotiations -- which have now been extended beyond previously set deadlines twice -- seem likely to produce an agreement by February or March.
Such a deal would be a key foreign policy success for a beleaguered Obama. Yet congressional opponents of the nuclear diplomacy process have said they worry that Obama's team will concede too much in the deal by allowing Iran to retain a dangerous capacity to build a bomb. Critics have proposed bolstering U.S. pressure on Iran by imposing new sanctions, which Obama administration diplomats say could destroy the talks.
Bachmann's suggestion of military action against Iran isn't an option many prominent commentators have raised in recent months. Still, she is not alone in making her recommendation: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who serves with Bachmann on the House Intelligence Committee, promoted the same action at a roundtable with reporters on Dec. 3.
Bachmann told the Beacon that her other concerns about the Obama administration's foreign policy include cuts to the military budget, the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, and, perhaps most controversially, the end of the CIA torture program. A report on the program released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the CIA's use of torture was harsher and more pervasive than the spy agency had previously reported.
The departing congresswoman also told the Beacon about her future plans. Bachmann's comments should put to rest any worries her fans might have that she won't be around to offer uplifting holiday messages in the years to come:
Bachmann now plans to travel across the country, giving speeches and writing op-eds ahead of what she called a “consequential” election in 2016. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will simply continue Obama’s widely criticized domestic and foreign policies, Bachmann said. Republicans for their part need to ensure that they do not nominate a candidate who is “changing their stripes just for an election.”
“If we get a very bold conservative who has a strong identification of where they want to take the country, both economically and in terms of national security, we do have a chance to have a major course correction for America in the future," she said.
Happy holidays, folks!