Last night's Fox News-hosted Republican debate in Iowa was basically set up to have the candidates snipe at each other — even on Fox News, theater over ideology — and they mostly obliged, particularly Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann. But there was at least one point where the audience turned on the moderators: When Byron York asked her if she would be submissive to her husband as president.
The resulting boos were up for interpretation. Did the audience believe it was unfair and sexist to ask Bachmann about her marriage, or did they think it was a liberal media ploy (or Mickey Mouse, as Newt Gingrich put it) to present a pretty commonplace evangelical view as a freakish drawback?
She responded, "Marcus and I will be married 30 years coming this September. Submission means respect." She called her husband a "wonderful, godly man," and said, "I respect my husband and he respects me as his wife. We respect each other and love each other. We have five wonderful children and 23 foster children, and I am very proud of him."
Although she didn't at all answer the question, the crowd cheered rapturously anyway. And the Bachmann camp was also pleased in not-entirely-articulated ways. The campaign's pollster told 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...They (the audience) hadn't heard that response yet, and felt it was an unfair question."
At HuffPo, Jason Linkins dismissed the question's import, saying that Bachmann has done just fine in male-dominated spaces and "If Bachmann's been spending her career doing her husband's bidding rather than her own, it's not remarkably apparent." And Newt Gingrich wasn't exactly asked about his repeat marriages. On the other hand, we're talking about someone whose personal and religious views are intimately connected with her policy prescriptions.