MINNEAPOLIS — Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann compared herself Thursday to a female world leader with firm resolve — former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — while trying to convince American veterans that she would make a strong commander in chief.
Bachmann offered a quick glimpse at her foreign policy views in a speech to the American Legion's national convention, in her home state of Minnesota. President Barack Obama addressed the convention earlier in the week.
She harkened back to hard-willed efforts by former President Ronald Reagan to confront the Soviet Union and communism, and pointed to the strong campaign Thatcher headed to regain control of the Falkland Islands.
"It took two very strong leaders on the world stage, one a woman and one a man, to reverse the course of their respective countries," Bachmann said. "We should heed the lessons that they hold for those who seek to wreak havoc on peace and on democracy across the world today."
Much has changed since the days of Thatcher and Reagan. U.S. troops are at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and terror threats pose a different kind of challenge for leaders here and abroad.
Bachmann, a third-term congresswoman, emphasized her role on the House Intelligence Committee as evidence that she knows pressing threats, including fears about Iran developing nuclear weapons.
Bachmann sounded a similar note to GOP presidential rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry about when and how U.S. troops are sent into battle. Perry told the Veterans of Foreign Wars' convention on Monday that America needs to avoid a foreign policy of "military adventurism."
Bachmann echoed that view.
"We should never put troops into harm's way unless there is first a clear and vital United States mission. We never will half-heartedly commit our troops to battle without a true end plan, without knowing our enemy and also knowing our mission," she said. "And as president, I will always use the full resources of our military to bring about a quick and ready resolution to achieve victory."
In her 20-minute speech, Bachmann sought to connect domestic and international concerns facing the country.
Bachmann described the nation's rising debt as an increasing security threat, calling the United States the "world's leading debtor nation" and stoking worry about China's stake in American borrowing.
"Even worse, the interest on the payments on the debt are going to the Chinese and those payments are going to build up Chinese military efforts," Bachmann said.
Bachmann, who was making her first public appearance in Minnesota in more than two months, mostly avoided reporters as aides rushed her into private meetings with veterans.
Bachmann said her references to Thatcher were meant to spotlight a transformational figure of her era. "We're in a similar time period and we need to have strong, viable leadership to see that return again today, both with the military and with the economy," she said.
The comparison to the woman, known as "The Iron Lady," wasn't lost on veterans in Bachmann's audience, such as 23-year Navy veteran David Meaney, of Atkinson, N.H.
"I think a woman could handle the job. It's probably time," said Meaney, who hasn't settled on a 2012 candidate but wants to see Obama go. "She's trying to say, 'Although I'm a woman, I think I can do this.' That's what I got from it."