Jacob Heilbrunn

Dual Loyalty: Michele Bachmann Is/Was A Swiss Citizen

Mitt Romney got into hot water over his Swiss bank account. But he never tried to take out Swiss citizenship, at least as far as anyone knows. But Michele Bachmann? She now says that she has been a Swiss citizen since 1978, which has the Los Angeles Times calling her a "Swiss miss." Now she's reversing her decision to apply for official citizenship: "I took this action because I want to make it perfectly clear: I was born in America and I am a proud American citizen. I am, and always have been, 100% committed to our United States Constitution and the United States of America."

Hip hip hooray! Bachmann is not famed for her neutrality, but she seemed quite attracted to neutral Switzerland. It was starting to look as though visitors to her congressional office in Washington, DC, might hear strains of the William Tell Overture emanating from her inner sanctum. Perhaps she also had begun to fly a Swiss flag in it. Might we also have seen photos of Bachmann donning a Swiss dirndl and pretending to be "Heidi"?

According to Bachmann,

I automatically became a dual citizen of the United States and Switzerland in 1978 when I married my husband, Marcus. Marcus is a dual American and Swiss citizen because he is the son of Swiss immigrants. As a family, we just recently updated our documents. This is a non-story.”

Baloney. It would be hard to think of a more fascinating revelation. Could it be that Bachmann, who has been vociferously denouncing President Obama for expanding the size of government, was, in fact, hedging her bets? Does she have a secret hankering for the cradle-to-grave big-government socialism that prevails in Switzerland? Or does she does have a weak spot for cuckoo clocks, the one thing that Orson Welles said Switzerland had managed to pull off in its entire history in the movie The Third Man?There is a simpler explanation. Maybe Bachmann is simply bonkers. Suzi Parker, writing in the Washington Post, notes that this isn't the kind of move that will necessarily go down well with Tea Party adherents:

Bachmann’s Swiss citizenship is a bizarre move while running for reelection. Her spokesman said that her children want to explore dual-citizenship so they did the process as a family.

Her citizenship would have derived from her marriage to her husband Marcus, whose parents emigrated to America. Her actual assumption of citizenship, Politico says, took place on March 19. If she and Marcus are contemplating eventually retiring in Switzerland, the retirement benefits would surely be far more generous than in America. But whether any of their male children should wish to accompany them would be an interesting question. They should be prepared: military service in the Landsturm is compulsory until age fifty—another sign of the power of the Swiss government over its citizens. But with Bachmann's sudden renunciation of Swiss citizenship, they may never even get the chance to sample life in the Swiss Alps or live in a country that steadfastly refused to become a member of the United Nations until 2002.