During John F. Kennedy’s run for president in 1960, worries arose that his Roman Catholic faith meant he would be taking his cues from the Pope. But former President Harry Truman dismissed such concerns.
“It’s not the Pope I’m afraid of,” Truman quipped, “it’s the Pop.”
Truman, of course, was referring to Kennedy’s meddling father, former Ambassador Joe Kennedy. Unlike the anti-Catholic bigots who worried about the influence of Rome, Truman’s concerns about Kennedy’s fleshly father were not unfounded.
Five decades later, we are still arguing about the influence of religion and family on a candidate for president.
Some modern observers are outraged that candidates like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have said they feel “called” to run for office. But like Harry Truman, we should be less concerned about the Pope than the Pop (or, in this case, Bachmann’s husband).
For those unfamiliar with the recent uproar over “submission,” in 2006 Michele Bachmann said:
My husband said, now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law? I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord said, “Be submissive. Wives you are to be submissive to your husband.” And so we moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I went to William and Mary Law School there, for a post-doctorate degree in tax law. And I pursued this course of study. Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was going to be faithful to what I felt God was calling me to do through my husband.
Recognizing the controversy over his question, Byron York has written a column seeking to defend himself. As York notes, “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?
Indeed it is a legitimate question. If Bachmann is truly going to submit to her husband when it comes to making serious decisions (as she said she has), that is fine. It should not disqualify her from service. But it also becomes a fair question for York to ask. And it means Marcus Bachmann deserves a thorough vetting.