The Washington Post

Bachmann handled ‘flake’ question just right

Let me cycle back to “Flake-gate” — sorry, Alexander — and the dust-up between Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Chris Wallace. The “Fox News Sunday” anchor asked her bluntly, “Are you a flake? And while you would have used a less sexist adjective to describe the congresswoman, you know you would have asked some variation of that question if you were in his shoes. I know I would have.

The good folks at National Journal saved me a ton of work by putting out the “five things Michele Bachmann may want to un-say.” There’s the “gangster government” rap against President Obama. The Manchester mishap. Her call for “armed and dangerous” Minnesotans. The “bondage” of the “gay and lesbian lifestyle.” And the “slit our wrists” comment that I’d never heard before. Wallace himself ticked off a couple others in the lead-up to the offending “flake” question.  

I don’t have to tell you that you have — the rap on you here in Washington is that you have a history of questionable statements, some would say gaffes, ranging from — talking about anti-America members of Congress — on this show — a couple of months ago, when you suggested that NATO airstrikes had killed up to 30,000 civilians.

With a rhetorical track record like this, I don’t begrudge Wallace asking the question he did. Again, he should have put it a different way. But, you know what? I have to give Bachmann her due in how she handled it.

“Well, I think that would be insulting, to say something like that, because I'm a serious person,” Bachmann responded to Wallace’s now famous “Are you a flake?” query. And then she gave a spirited defense of herself and her qualifications.

I would say is that I am 55 years old. I’ve been married 33 years. I’m not only a lawyer, I have a post doctorate degree in federal tax law from William and Mary. I work in serious scholarship and work in the United States federal tax court. My husband and I raised five kids. We’ve raised 23 foster children. We’ve applied ourselves to education reform. We started a charter school for at-risk kids. I’ve also been a state senator and a member of United States Congress for five years. I’ve been very active in our business. As a job creator, I understand job creation. But also I’ve been leading actively the movement in Washington, D.C., with those who are affiliated with fiscal reform.

This is what separates Bachmann from Sarah Palin. She doesn’t whine, rely on sarcasm or blame the “lamestream media” for asking gotcha questions or taking what she said out of context. Bachmann doesn’t make excuses. She knows that by running for president she is now standing on a national stage with hotter lights and greater scrutiny. While I don’t agree with Bachmann on just about anything, I respect her ability to walk that stage with growing confidence and to knock back obnoxiously put questions with ease.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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