During the GOP primary debate last night, moderator Byron York asked a question that drew boos and hisses from the Ames, Iowa audience. Turning to Michele Bachmann, he queried:
“In 2006, when you were running for Congress, you described a moment in your life when your husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea, and then you explained: ‘But the Lord said, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husband.’ As president, would you be submissive to your husband?”
Bachmann took a long pause to answer the question as the crowd erupted in disapproval. But her answer, when it came, was surprisingly clever. She responded, after thanking York for the question:
“What submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband, he’s a wonderful, godly man and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That’s how we operate our marriage. We respect each other, we love each other.”
Her supporters have wasted no time in jumping down York’s throat for asking the question. But, given that Bachmann volunteered the information about “submission” to her husband in such a clear and public way, York was not being sexist — he was simply trying to pin down Bachmann’s position.
The chance to rephrase her previous statement may actually have been beneficial for Bachmann. A spokesman for Bachmann’s campaign said as much to the Des Moines Register: “It was an opportunity for the congresswoman to give the response she did, to make it very clear what her position was.” Someone else was going to bring it up, if York didn’t, and better now than later in the campaign.
One thing is clear: Submission is not Michele Bachmann’s problem. What she does need to learn — especially if she expects to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate – is not to make comments that seem like they would appeal to the religious right, if they are not grounded in fact. In other words, she needs to think before she speaks, especially when she’s claiming that she believes in her “biblical obligation” to obey her husband.
Photo from Gage Skidmore via flickr.