Monday, September 12, 2011

Where's Michele?

Thankfully, the national griefathon is over, at least for this year. The news outlets are filled with recaps of yesterday's events and people's responses to those events, but that was to be expected. Now we get to move on, just in time for the next Republican debate.

Tonight's debate is in Florida, which the pundits are busy telling us is a Very Important State when it comes to the race for president. There will be another debate in that state this month and there are strong hints that the Florida Primary will be held early in 2012, giving us another benchmark for serious Republican candidates to reach for.

Michele Bachmann certainly buys into the importance of Florida, and she has been busy trying to recapture her stature as a candidate, something seriously compromised by the entrance of Rick Perry to the race on the very day of her big victory in Iowa. She didn't do well at the California debate last week, primarily because the moderators focused almost completely on Perry and Mitt Romney as the two real contenders. Michele has her work cut out for her, and she knows it.

An article in today's New York Times underscores the difficulties Bachmann is facing, and does so in some rather subtle ways. Here's the first clue:

Mrs. Bachmann won the first important test of the Republican race in a straw poll in Iowa last month, but she has been upstaged ever since by the entrance of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas into the race.

Notice the honorific? It's Mrs. Bachmann, not Ms. Bachmann. That's an interesting style tag, one I've not seen in the past couple of decades. While I do not know this as a fact, I do admit that it is entirely possible that Bachmann has made it clear that she prefers the "traditional" designation for a married woman. She is, after all, in a very traditional marriage, as she herself has noted. Is that something the New York Times editor takes into consideration without comment? Should it be?

On a more substantive level, the article notes that even though Bachmann wasn't given much of an opportunity to distinguish herself at last week's debate, when she did have the microphone, she didn't use it to do so. She didn't go on the attack when it came to the positions taken by either Romney or Perry. Her own staff noted that reticence and promised that would change this evening.

Her advisers acknowledged that she had a disappointing night Wednesday. She failed to seize opportunities to contrast herself with Mr. Perry, her chief rival for evangelical and Tea Party support, or with Mr. Romney, who at one point said that every candidate deserved to take “a mulligan” or two on bad decisions from the past — a missed opportunity to scold him that presidents do not get mulligans. ...

Mrs. Bachmann’s advisers believe one challenge is that a double-standard applies to female candidates who express aggression. If a man attacks, he is seen as strong. But a woman attacking is perceived as shrill, they say.

And her advisers have a point, one Hillary Clinton would certainly agree with. Women just don't attack. It's unseemly, unladylike. Apparently it still is better to appear weak and lose than to be strong and have a fighting chance at winning. Michele is going to have to overcome that prejudice as well, and, quite frankly, I sincerely hope that she does, starting tonight.

If nothing else, we might have a new epithet in our political lexicon. We'll be able to say that the lady has "brass ovaries."

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