Last Tuesday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) dropped a bombshell that she had just obtained Swiss citizenship. A bizarre move from a bizarro politician. Reactions varied from confused to bemused to vitriolic.
Why would she hand her DFL opponent, Jim Graves, an opening like this? Graves responded in a measured way:
Her Democratic challenger, Jim Graves, issued a brief statement calling news of Bachmann's dual-citizenship a "distraction." Graves also noted that he and his family are "proud to be Americans."
Vitriolic: This blogger emigrated from Russia and I'll pick up about half way into his rant:
Still, I can understand that U.S. citizens may acquire some other citizenship without actually taking any action e.g. by virtue of being born to American parents in a foreign country granting automatic citizenship to all newborns. But it is an entirely different matter to apply for foreign citizenship, let alone on such flimsy grounds as having foreign-born in-laws.
What makes it worse, is that Mrs. Bachmann has repeatedly and proudly proclaimed her American patriotism, especially during her recent presidential campaign (I am really curious to know whether she applied for foreign citizenship while still running for president of the United States). To make it even worse, she is a member of Congress (currently running for re-election). I am not aware of any other sitting member of Congress ever obtaining foreign citizenship.
And if you think it cannot get any worse than that -- well, it can. Bachmann is a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Financial Services Committee. So the former now includes not merely a foreign citizen, but a citizen of a country not even allied with the U.S., and the latter includes a citizen of a country that just happens to have 1) an exemption for tax evasion in its extradition treaty with the U.S. (an exemption that some convicted American tax evaders took full advantage of) and 2) banking secrecy laws which frequently cause no small amount of frustration to various parts of U.S. government, including, of course, the House Financial Services Committee! So, whose side will Rep. Bachmann be on in future clashes between American and Swiss banking regulators? Will she alternate her loyalties on different days of the week (perhaps making Wednesday the day of full neutrality, in the best Swiss traditions) or will she decide on a case by case basis?
I see only one way Michele Bachmann can resolve all these glaring conflicts of interests -- resign, or at least not seek re-election. If she fails to do that, the House leadership should immediately strip her of all committee assignments and initiate the expulsion proceedings. The American people have a right to be represented by legislators with undivided loyalties.
Bemused, confused and hilarious below the fold ...
- Photo of Bachmann yodeling
Does she know that Switzerland recognizes same-sex partnerships? In a 2005 referendum, same-sex couples were granted the same rights as married couples in next of kin status, insurance, taxation, and shared possession of dwelling. In fact, it was the first nation to pass such a law by referendum.
Adopting Swiss citizenship, even for family reasons, will open Bachmann up to hard questions from Tea Party loyalists and conservatives on the campaign trail. As one commenter posted on a blog Wednesday: "No better way to say you Love America than becoming a citizen of another country..."
According to her version of events, Bachmann has known she was a Swiss citizen for approximately 34 years. However, she never disclosed her citizenship while running for Congress and president of the United States.
Her office said that such a disclosure was not necessary.
"It wasn't necessary to disclose, because she is an American citizen and always has been. She has a United States birth certificate and a United States passport," Bachmann spokesperson Becky Rogness told POLITICO on Wedneday evening.
Her statement that she has been a citizen since 1978 is based off a technicality - at the time of her marriage, automatic citizenship was granted to those who married Swiss citizens. However, Marcus Bachmann, her husband, did not register their marriage with Swiss authorities until this year - meaning that the Swiss government was not aware of it until recently.
Bachmann's polite appraisal of the parliamentarians contrasted with strong statements she made throughout the presidential campaign, when she criticized President Obama for policies she labeled socialist. The Social Democratic Party "has governed Switzerland as part of a grand coalition since 1959," according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Unlike Bachmann, the party "supports an extensive government role in the economy," Britannica says.
And last but not least, Ken Avidor provides the hilarious: