By Richard Cohen, 10:04 AM ET, 07/07/2011
Pawlenty campaign adviser Vin Weber, a man of somber demeanor, has noticed that Michele Bachmann is a looker. How could he not, I wonder, since that happens to be the case. I also notice that she is possessed of a quick and mean tongue, that she has ideas about homosexuality that only science and experience contradict, that she has the courage to stray from the truth and that she advances nostalgic notions about the economy that would, in a snap, summon the Great Depression from where it hibernates — the Republican National Committee, I suspect.
Weber did not mention any of these attributes. Instead, he said that Bachmann would be “very hard to beat” in the Iowa GOP caucuses because “She’s got hometown appeal, she’s got ideological appeal And, I hate to say it, but she’s got a little sex appeal too.” He almost instantly apologized. The grovel went like this: “I made a mistake that was disrespectful to my friend Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve been a Bachmann supporter in her Congressional bids and I apologize. I was not speaking on behalf of Governor Pawlenty’s campaign but nevertheless, it was inappropriate and I’m sorry.” Weber, a Minnesotan himself, is a key supporter of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty for president.
As with the parsing of the Second Amendment and the placement of that infamous comma, I choose to read Weber as apologizing for being a Bachmann supporter. If that’s what he meant, I could hardly blame him. But I suspect otherwise. I suspect that he realized that he had uttered a truth, one that must not be acknowledged and rather than be denounced as a male chauvinist pig — or whatever term conservatives use — he backed off. Does that mean that Bachmann does not have “a little sex appeal”? Maybe a study commission is in order.
This is a little depressing. Something like this could happen with Democrats — I remember when the inadvertent use of the term “girl” meant years of Orwellian re-education — but it is the Republican Party that is now drunk on ideology and cannot see things for what they are. Add to some romantic and antediluvian notions about economic matters — cutting taxes as the magic elixir — and a furious insistence that mankind has not contributed a teeny-weenie degree to global warming, we now have an apology for acknowledging yet another plain fact. After all, Weber was not just saying that Bachmann is a handsome woman, but that others may find her so. If this is not a political attribute then it was not a subtle insult when Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of a president and wife of a Speaker of the House, called Thomas E. Dewey, “the little man on the wedding cake.” It stuck. Perfect! Dewey in a nutshell. And he did not, despite two attempts, become president.
Looks matter. Mitt Romney looks like a president — actually, the statue of one. Donald Trump always looked like the embarrassing brother almost all presidents seem to have. Before he ran for president last time out, Mike Huckabee dropped a ton of weight. For some people, appearance is important. It not only connotes self-discipline (sorry, Newt), but handsome people are pleasant to look at. Some people voted for Barack Obama because he is black. Some voted against him because he is not white. Either way, his appearance mattered.
Had Weber limited himself only to Bachmann’s looks, he would have been wrong. In both a negative sense (to me) and a positive sense (to Tea Party types), she is much, much more. Weber should have stuck to his guns, but being a good Republican he was already well-versed in denying reality and refuting history. The fact is that Bachmann is a very attractive woman. It’s her ideas that are ugly.
Photograph by Matt Rowe, Friday 17th December 2010, AISLE is a ten minute performance
resonating with ideas of penance, pilgrimage and ritual. http://matchboxrizla.blogspot.com/2011/02/aisle-performance.html or http://bit.ly/nm1XbT or http://tinyurl.com/3qkyn26