Posted Thursday, June 23, 2011, at 11:19 AM
All right, then. If we’re going to take Michele Bachmann seriously, let’s take her seriously. Let’s vet her.
The recent media narrative on the Minnesota congresswoman, which got going even before her strong performance in the New Hampshire GOP debate-that she’s now a disciplined, persuasive, flub-free presidential candidate, a force to be reckoned with, a fundraiser extraordinaire (well, that part we knew), and, hey, did you know she’s a former tax attorney?!-is, of course, partly fueled by a desire for a better story. The Republican race needs one, since Romney against Romney is boring. "Nature abhors a vacuum, and there happens to be a vacuum," as Jon Huntsman put it recently , commenting on the hubbub around his own candidacy.
But the emergence of the Bachmann Threat storyline is only a good thing if it leads to serious examination of who she is. Matt Taibbi’s newest Rolling Stone piece on the candidate is a fun read, but it felt to me like yet another portrayal of Bachmann-as-pinwheel-eyed-religious-zealot, a perspective that seems like letting her off too easy. The crazy can be quickly dismissed.
What’s more interesting is recent reporting on Bachmann’s long record of anti-gay sentiment. Even if you’re well aware of her position, the details are enlightening. She has reportedly called the gay "lifestyle" a " bondage" and an "enslavement." She has labeled homosexuality a "sexual dysfunction," according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune , and has said that if her state were to legalize gay marriage, "public schools would have to teach that homosexuality and same-sex marriages are normal, natural and that maybe children should try them." The word "gay" itself is inaccurate , she’s said. "It's part of Satan, I think, to say that this is 'gay’… It's anything but 'gay.' " Her husband, Marcus, a Christian counselor, has said, in talking about gays, " barbarians need to be educated , they need to be disciplined."
Mother Jones ’ Tim Murphy, who has also written for Slate , last month wrote an interesting post about Bachmann’s relationship with Christian heavy metal rocker Bradlee Dean, who runs his own youth ministry (the wonderfully named You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International). Dean has said on his radio show that gay people on average "molest 117 people before they’re found out." He has said that gay people were foolish to support Muslim Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison because Ellison "wants to bring in Sharee [Sharia] law through the homosexual agenda!" According to Murphy, Bachmann has meanwhile "helped raise money for Dean’s traveling youth ministry… guest-starred in his television series; and prayed for his ministry to multiply 10-fold."
In the Washington Post , D. Michael Lindsay suggests that Bachmann’s gender may allow her to move past her natural base of evangelical Christian voters. "The simple fact that she, as a woman, is seeking to be Commander in Chief represents female empowerment-which appeals, at least symbolically, to moderate [Republican] voters," Lindsay writes. Maybe so, symbolically. But it’s hard to imagine those moderates embracing a candidate whose views on homosexuality are so extreme.