Ooh, boy, maybe I need to go into hiding after posting this, because I know it will make people angry. But really, Michele Bachmann looks petty and humorless and certainly not magnanimous when she refuses to accept Chris Wallace’s apology for asking her if she is a flake. First, Wallace’s apology seemed sincere. Second, he didn’t ask the question in a nasty way anyway, but more in the tone of giving her a chance to clear the air. Third, the actual subject of the question, if not the wording, was entirely legitimate: Bachmann does have a history of verbal gaffes, and she will be challenged on that history, and it is perfectly legitimate for a newsman to ask her about them. Actually, the way Wallace did it was a favor to her. Think of one of the few good things Lindsey Graham has ever done in the past seven years, namely his question to Samuel Alito about whether he was a racist — the question that sent Mrs. Alito, in tears, from the room. EVERYbody recognizes that the question was a favor to Alito, not an insult — that by putting out in the open the hideous subtext of what his enemies were (utterly unfairly) insinuating, Graham lanced the boil and turned public sympathy in Alito’s favor. Listen to the interview by Wallace again, and see if it doesn’t offer a perfect opportunity, open-ended, for Bachmann to answer her critics in a forum that actually isn’t “out to get her.”
Wallace of course could have put the question more delicately. But the overreaction to his question speaks poorly of the conservatives who don’t have thick enough skin to recognize the difference between sheer media nastiness and a slightly mis-stated but legitimate question. Meanwhile, I thought Bachmann’s immediate answer to Wallace was pretty darn good — but that her later refusal to magnanimously accept his apology betrays a skin so thin that by the standard of a presidential campaign is almost pathetic. Bachmann is an eloquent spokesman for the conservative cause. But she needs to develop a Reaganesque ability to shrug off insults and, better, to turn them around to her own advantage, preferably with humor. If she can’t even accept a sincere apology for a minor affront like that of Chris Wallace, she won’t make a presidential candidate able to withstand the national, hostile, media spotlight. Here’s hoping she learns from this and improves; she has great potential, and should not let that potential be undercut by an oversensitivity to slightly insulting questions.