Michele Bachmann: Constitutional scholar

The Minnesota Republican asks Tim Geithner to explain how the U.S. government works. Doesn't he have better things to do with his time?

Published March 24, 2009 5:08PM (EDT)

(UPDATE:  This post was updated to reflect the exact language in the transcript of the commitee hearing.)

When Michelle Bachmann speaks, people don't just listen, they gape. The Republican from Minnesota, famous for, among other things, bemoaning Barack Obama's "final leap to socialism" and demanding McCarthy-esque witch hunts of "anti-American" politicians," got her five minutes of time during Tuesday's House Financial Services committee hearing on AIG, and she did not disappoint.

Glowering at Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner as if she was Thulsa Doom preparing to behead Conan the Barbarian, Bachmann posed her question.

BACHMANN: What provision in the Constitution could you point to to give authority for the actions that have been taken by the Treasury since March of '08?

GEITHNER: Oh, well, the -- the Congress legislated in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act a range of very important new authorities.

BACHMANN: Sir, in the Constitution. What -- what in the Constitution could you point to to -- to give authority to the Treasury for the extraordinary actions that have been taken?

GEITHNER: Every action that the Treasury and the Fed and the FDIC is -- is -- has been using authority granted by this body -- by this body, the Congress.

BACHMANN: And by -- in the Constitution, what could you point to?

GEITHNER: Under the laws of the land, of course.

Perhaps this is unkind, but Bachmann didn't seem to appreciate that Congress' power to legislate is in the Constitution.

Bachmann followed this line of questioning with a reference to a Wall Street Journal article, reporting China's call "for the creation of a new currency to eventually replace the dollar as the world's standard."

I'm wondering would you categorically renounce the United States moving away from the dollar and going to a global currency as suggested this morning by China and also by Russia, Mr. Secretary?

Geithner: Yes.

Bernanke: Yes.

The look of disgust on Bernanke's face? Priceless. You could practically hear him thinking: "I've got an economy on the edge of disaster to save, and I have to spend precious moments of my time answering questions from Michelle Bachmann?"

And here's the video:

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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