Byron York

But Bachmann's statement -- in public, on stage, microphone in hand, in the context of a political campaign -- raised a legitimate question. What role does her husband play in her performance in public office? With that in mind, at the Fox News-Washington Examiner debate in Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 11, I asked Bachmann whether, as president, she would be submissive to her husband.

The question prompted boos in the Republican-filled hall, and then cheers when Bachmann answered. "What submission means to us," she said, "if that's what your question is, it means respect."

In the days since the debate, a number of commentators have taken issue with the question, but it hasn't gone away. Bachmann faced it again on Sunday, when she appeared on "Meet the Press" fresh from her victory in the straw poll. Again, she explained that, to her, submission means respect.

Will that put an end to the question? Probably not. The point of the story she told in 2006 was that she made a major career decision that she didn't want to make because her husband told her to -- because she believed God was calling her through her husband. Some critics won't buy her explanation. As for her fans, many are offended that the question was asked in the first place.

Whatever the case, Bachmann's answer at the Ames debate was by far the most human moment of her appearance that night -- a far cry from her tough exchanges with former Minnesota Gov. (and now former candidate) Tim Pawlenty. At their best, debates tell us new things about candidates and allow us to learn more about aspects of their personalities we haven't seen before. Is there any doubt that moment in Ames did just that for Michele Bachmann?


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner