AMES, Iowa—Even more than the Iowa Caucus, the Ames Straw Poll represents the crowning of the most conservative candidate of the moment in the run-up to the presidential election. This year, with Governor Rick Perry not yet officially on the ballot and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin not officially in the race, the top spot was claimed by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the Teavangelical Party favorite with the crazy eyes who edged out Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) by a hair.
In the aftermath of her first place showing, Bachmann appeared on all three of the Sunday talk shows. On Meet the Press, host David Gregory asked her about her views on homosexuality and gay marriage during an exchange that culminated in one of those made-for-TV awkward moments in which a candidate, having taken an extreme position that effectively disenfranchises an entire segment of the population, refuses to discuss the potential ramifications of the extreme position, leaving the conversation hanging like a noose in search of a neck.
Of course, no one should have been surprised that Bachmann took an intransigent tack with the subject matter. In a recent interview she all but refused to discuss her husband's Minnesota clinic, which offers "reparative therapy" for homosexuals looking to be "cured" of their barbaric tendencies, and instead repeatedly stated that she was running for the President of the United States, as if that fact alone would wrap her in a cloak of protective teflon. She tried the same thing Sunday morning but Gregory persisted, and the following exchange ensued:
DAVID GREGORY: From the economy, I want to move on to another topic that's deeply meaningful and important to you, and that's your faith in God. This is something that not only motivates you as a person, inspires you as you try to live a virtuous life, but it's also been very important to your political identity as well. And I want to ask you about, not only the role God plays in, in your life but to what extent he's a motivator for decisions that you make. One example that's gotten some attention is some remarks you made back in 2006 about your career path, which you've talked about here, and I want to play a brief clip of those remarks.
(Audiotape, October 14, 2006)
REP MICHELE BACHMANN: It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It's anything but gay. ... It leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that's why this is so dangerous. ... We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.
GREGORY: That is the view President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?
BACHMANN: Well, I am running for the presidency of the United States. I'm not running to be anyone's judge. I do stand very...
GREGORY: But you have judged them.
BACHMANN: I, I, I don't judge them. I don't judge them. I am running for presidency of the United States.
GREGORY: Is that the view of gays--gay Americans that President Bachmann would have?
BACHMANN: Well, my, my view on marriage is that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that's what I stand for. But I ascribe honor and dignity to every person no matter what their background. They have honor and they have dignity.
GREGORY: Do you think that gay Americans hearing quotes like that from you would think that that's, that's honor and dignity coming from you about their circumstance?
BACHMANN: I am not anyone's judge...
BACHMANN: ...and I'm not standing in as anyone's judge.
GREGORY: Congresswoman, you have--I mean, do you think anyone hears that and thinks you haven't made a judgment about gays and lesbians?
BACHMANN: That's all I can tell you is that I'm not judging.
GREGORY: So your words should stand for themselves?
BACHMANN: I'm running for the presidency of the United States. That's what's important.
GREGORY: Would you appoint a gay, an openly gay person, to your administration, to your Cabinet, or name them as a judge?
BACHMANN: My criteria would be the same for that--for, for--which would be, where do you stand on the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views? That's my criteria.
GREGORY: But those views are, are, are pretty clear. So you would, you would--as far as judge, you talked about that, an openly gay person is acceptable as a matter of your administration, as a member of your administration?
BACHMANN: I, I, I have, I have my criteria for what I--my appointments would be based on, and it's whether you uphold the Constitution, if you're competent, and if you share my views.
GREGORY: So it would not be a factor?
BACHMANN: I am not out asking any other questions.
GREGORY: One last one on this. Can a gay couple with--who adopt children in your mind be considered a family?
BACHMANN: When it comes to marriage and family, my opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think that's, that's been my view, and I think that's important.
GREGORY: So a gay couple with kids would not be considered a family to you?
BACHMANN: You know, all of these kind of questions really aren't about what people are concerned about right now. This isn't what--this isn't...
GREGORY: Congresswoman, you said it...
BACHMANN: ...and I'm not judging them.
GREGORY: You said that any, any candidate for president should be asked about his or her views and their record. This is a record of your statement. These were defining political issues for you as your political career advanced. You're the one who said that same-sex marriage was a defining political issue of our time. Those were your words back in 2004. So I'm just asking you about your views on something that has animated your political life.
BACHMANN: Right. I think my views are clear.
One can hardly argue with that last statement. Bachmann’s 15th-century views of homosexuality are crystal clear, but so too is the increasingly prevailing view of her and Marcus, her husband. (We do wonder where the power couple keeps their dungeon, btw.)
It now remains to be seen how Gov. Perry handles the social issues—or meybe we already know—but it may not matter. As the Grand Old Party slouches toward the most important election in the history of the nation in a year in which not only the Teavangelical Party but social conservatives in general wield more political clout than ever, it's hard to see how any Republican who winds up in the White House would not be under intense pressure to oversee a new dark age for social policies, including at the top of the hit list a veritable Armageddon for an American’s freedom to express their sexuality without winding up in jail.
But at least no one’s judging anyone else.
Photo: Michele and Marcus Bachmann