Rep. Bachmann Will Lead Weekly Constitution Classes To Protect Against "Huge Bureaucratic Large Big Government"

October 12, 2010 6:22 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Today on Fox News, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who recently founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House, announced that she plans on holding weekly classes on the Constitution for new members in the next Congress. "I'm serious about this," Bachmann told Andrew "Judge" Napolitano, inviting the Fox News host to be an "expert" lecturer. "Because we have to make sure that they know what it is that we are swearing to uphold."    

BACHMANN: I think we're seeing candidates run in this election cycle who know who they are, who know what they believe, and who won't be so susceptible to melting when they get to Washington, DC. And to that end, as part of the Tea Party Caucus, I am going to be starting classes on a weekly basis for our new members of Congress on the Constitution.  And I'm asking experts from around the country to come in every week and teach our constitutional principles, and Judge, I'll ask you right now on national TV if you'll come in and be one of our experts and lead our members of Congress in these principles. I'm serious about this because we have to make sure that they know what it is that we are swearing to uphold. 

Moments later, though, Bachmann demonstrated that perhaps she should study up on the Constitution before she starts leading a class on it.  When Napolitano — a civil libertarian who believes President Bush committed a felony by authorizing torture — asked whether the government should be permitted to hack into personal emails without a warrant, Bachmann stumbled. "I think that's a very serious issue," said Bachmann, "and one that I don't think anyone wants to see happen going forward." However, as Napolitano pointed out, "it happened under the PATRIOT Act," which Bachmann supported when it came up for reauthorization earlier this year. 

NAPOLITANO: I understand that the Tea Party movement and you and many Republicans — and I agree with you — do not want to spend more than we take in, do not want to legislate in areas that the Constitution doesn't authorize. But what about the area of civil liberties? For example, Congresswoman Bachmann, should the government be able to hack into your email without a search warrant from a judge?

BACHMANN: I think that's a very serious issue, and one that I don't think anyone wants to see happen going forward.

NAPOLITANO: But it happened under the PATRIOT Act, which many Republicans, most respectfully yourself included, voted for.

BACHMANN: That's true. The PATRIOT Act was a bundle of different measures that was put together in response to the terror attack on nine-one-one. Clearly, the federal government needs to have the appropriate authority to deal with the issue of terror, but on the other hand it can't be at the expense of civil liberties. You know better than anyone else, Judge, that's what the Bill of Rights is all about — to secure our individual liberties from an overweening huge bureaucratic large big government.  And so we've gotta get the balance and the tension right between individual liberties and the government's prerogative and duty to keep the American people safe. 

In response to Bachmann's confused rambling, Napolitano said, "You know if I teach that class for you I'm going to argue that it's not a balance. It's a bias in favor of human freedom." Watch: