Tak­ing aim, now, at Michele Bach­mann

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Like it or not, Michele Bach­mann is a con­tender. She tri­umphed over low ex­pec­ta­tions in the open­ing Repub­li­can de­bate. She ad­vanced from flaky to crusty, from out­landish to charis­matic, from be­yond the fringe to in­side the ring.

“She doesn’t seem crazy at all,” ob­serves the piously lib­eral New Repub­lic mag­a­zine, with what passes for praise for a con­ser­va­tive woman.

The Min­nesota con­gress­woman en­tered the main­stream by swim­ming smoothly into the lane va­cated by Mike Huck­abee. “I’m a se­ri­ous mem­ber of Congress,” she once de­clared to a pho­tog­ra­pher ar­rang­ing the set­ting at a photo shoot. She wanted to make sure the fo­cus was sharp. She’s known for do­ing her home­work, build­ing an ar­gu­ment based on per­sonal re­search with facts, a quick in­tel­li­gence and pas­sion­ate con­vic­tion. She makes mis­takes. She got the Found­ing Fathers and the ar­gu­ments over slav­ery mixed up, a mis­take like Barack Obama’s fa­mous ref­er­ence to “the 57 states.” Her mis­takes aren’t as ma­jor as the lib­eral me­dia blow them up to be, but she some­times talks faster than she thinks. It’s a fail­ing seen be­fore among politi­cians, pun­dits and even philoso­phers.

Her crit­ics say that as smart as she is, she has suf­fered from spend­ing too much time in­side her “bib­li­cal world­view.” In my in­for­mal in­ter­views of con­ser­va­tives, I’ve found that they want her in the fray, ral­ly­ing the troops on the so­cial is­sues, but that’s about as far as they want it to go. They find her savvy and a great cam­paigner, but they pre­fer her work­ing for oth­ers rather than her­self (just like Sarah Palin.)

Some con­ser­va­tives re­call her lack of dis­crim­i­na­tion be­fore the 2008 elec­tion, when she de­scribed Pres­i­dent Obama as “anti-Amer­i­can,” and sug­gest­ing that re­porters should look into the views of mem­bers of Congress to find out who is “pro-Amer­ica or anti-Amer­ica.” Hers was an er­ror of judg­ment and it hurt. She man­aged to get re-elected, but the mar­gin was much closer than it should have been in a Michele-friendly district and she ran 7 points be­hind John McCain.

Michele the pres­i­den­tial cam­paigner seems un­afraid of in­creased scrutiny, mean-spir­ited as much of it will be, now that she’s ac­com­plished her wish to be taken se­ri­ously. Her op­po­si­tion to gay mar­riage, though well in line with na­tional sen­ti­ment, pro­voked her op­po­nents to stoop par­tic­u­larly low to con­quer. They smeared her hus­band with in­nu­endo in a nasty whis­per­ing cam­paign that gives new mean­ing to “sex­ual pol­i­tics.” The in­nu­endo re­flects the gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­dered mock­ery of her hus­band, ques­tion­ing his sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion by us­ing pho­to­graphs and videos with more than hints that he suffers from re­pressed ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. One minc­ing blog­ger said he would make “a fine first lady if noth­ing else.”

Ho­mo­sex­u­als, like het­ero­sex­u­als, seek coun­sel­ing for all kinds of rea­sons, and some gays have earnestly sought help at Mar­cus Bach­mann’s clinic and its faith-based ap­proaches to psy­chother­apy. He is ac­cused of try­ing to “cure” them with a con­tro­ver­sial method us­ing “prayer for re­pair.” His ir­re­li­gious crit­ics mock the idea that a suf­fer­ing ho­mo­sex­ual can ever “pray away the gay,” but it’s hardly a sin (or even a short­com­ing) to help a trou­bled soul seek­ing Chris­tian coun­sel­ing. Like most men­tal health is­sues, cure rates for com­plaints from ho­mo­sex­u­als, like those from het­ero­sex­u­als, are dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late. What­ever works as treat­ment is usu­ally per­mis­si­ble as long it does no harm and is not ex­ploitive. Psy­cho­an­a­lysts have a long record of treat­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as pathol­ogy with very lit­tle ver­i­fi­able data of what they’ve ac­com­plished.

Be­fore 1974, the Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion listed ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a men­tal disease and voted to erase it from the Di­ag­nos­tic and Sta­tis­ti­cal Man­ual of Men­tal Dis­or­ders. Later they called it an “egodys­tonic” prob­lem, which in­cluded dis­tress over ho­mo­sex­ual feel­ings or lack of het­ero­sex­ual ones. Soon the shrinks moved the diagnosis away from per­sonal af­flic­tion al­to­gether to an af­flic­tion im-

“She doesn’t seem crazy at all,” ob­serves the piously lib­eral New Repub­lic mag­a­zine.

posed by prej­u­dice and blamed so­ci­ety for a new ill­ness called “ho­mo­pho­bia.” Many now in­sist such prej­u­dice comes un­der the rubric of civil rights. Lots of gays con­tinue to seek help for all kinds of psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems, many stem­ming specif­i­cally from their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

Sup­port­ers of gay rights, who loathe the satir­i­cal stereo­typ­ing of ho­mo­sex­u­als, nev­er­the­less take spe­cial de­light in stereo­typ­ing het­ero­sex­u­als they see as hav­ing “gay man­ner­isms.” When Jerry Se­in­feld joined Jon Ste­wart on “The Daily Show,” they watched a video of the Bach­manns dancing to­gether and joked about Dr. Bach­mann’s “ef­fem­i­nate man­ner.” They won­dered with more nas­ti­ness than wit whether some­one teach­ing peo­ple not to be ho­mo­sex­ual had ab­sorbed the ho­mo­sex­ual style him­self.

Since the con­gress­woman has been out­spo­ken in iden­ti­fy­ing re­li­gious big­otry in the at­tacks against her, the vi­cious­ness to­ward her hus­band is likely to back­fire and only fire up her friends and sup­port­ers. They’ll learn that play­ing with matches is a dan­ger­ous game.

Suzanne Fields is a syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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