Whatever else you may want to say about Michele Bachmann's "serious" candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination, this much is true: she adds a much-needed note of levity to an otherwise "zany" but not very entertaining field.
Her unreachable smile, her never-quite-serious yet never-wavering expression, make her seem like a "Saturday Night Live" spoof of herself. She bears that same silly half-smile whether she's talking about war, abortion, the deficit, or her own phrase, "Newt-Romney," or, most appropriately, when she is trying to be funny.
The Newt-Romney phrase was so coined, she would have us believe, because the two front-runners for her party's nomination, and all those who trail them, lack the stalwart conservatism only she, Michele Bachmann, possesses. She's not a "convenient conservative," her own words; she's the real McCoy.
She is especially funny when she's trying to be serious, as when she responded to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's attacks on her veracity. She came out swinging against the former Speaker, calling him a special interest lobbyist for housing lender Freddie Mac, which she called, "the epicenter" of the mortgage crisis. She has called him out several times to explain why Gingrich accepted $1.6 million in fees from the agency if he, as he avers, was not lobbying in behalf of Freddie Mac. In turn, Gingrich claims he did not lobby for the money and accuses Bachmann of getting her facts wrong. She shot back on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"My facts aren't wrong. It's just that he's memory challenged. What he said sounded very condescending and it sounded like he was talking down to me as though I was one of his students. I'm not one of his students. As I said, I am a serious candidate for the presidency. If he disagrees with my assertion, then he needs to make that clear and put it on the table. But the fact is I'm right about his taking $1.6 million."
All this with the same silly half-smile on her face does not make Bachmann appear to be presidential material. When Gingrich challenged her credulity she should have shot right back at him with equal vigor. Instead she recoiled into a defensive crouch and lost credibility in so doing. How smart is it to call oneself a "serious" candidate for anything, much less president of the United States. Did Barack Obama ever say that, or Hillary Clinton when she was running? No. The act of declaring oneself a serious candidate for anything opens the listeners' minds to thinking that the speaker is not serious. Silly woman!
There is one more note of levity her husband has brought to her campaign. Despite the odds of Michele Bachmann actually winning the nomination ranging between slim and none, her husband, Marcus, has already told us what his agenda will be as first spouse: he will wage a pro-marriage, pro-family and pro-life campaign. Marcus Bachmann, who runs a Christian counseling service that has been accused of trying to "heal" gays by persuading them to become straight, will use his time in the limelight as a "message-giver." He says he is going to get the message across that marriage is between one man and one woman and children should be born only into homes occupied by married couples.
While I applaud his goal of reducing unwed motherhood, I doubt his credibility as a messenger to his target demographic. Is a 16-year-old Latina in Los Angeles or a single, 25-year-old career woman in New York City going to listen to Marcus Bachmann? Doubtful!
Nonetheless, we must all thank the Bachmanns for adding the much-needed element of entertainment to the GOP presidential field -- a field that absent Michele and Marcus Bachmann is much more likely to make one cry than to make one laugh.
Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com.