06.15.11

Michele Bachmann's First Dude

Michele Bachmann’s growing 2012 buzz won’t just put her positions under a microscope—her husband, Marcus, a Christian counselor, believes in a “homosexual agenda” and has referred to gays as “barbarians.” David Graham reports.

Plenty of politicians refer to their spouses as true partners, important counselors, and advisers on the campaign trail and in office. But Marcus Bachmann is all that and more for Rep. Michele Bachmann. He shares his wife’s religious path, political conversion, and unorthodox views, and he’s reputed to be one her few close advisers.

So who is Mr. Bachmann, the man who would be first husband? A Christian therapist, he has referred to gays as “barbarians,” raised five children and nearly two dozen foster children with his wife, and stood by her side throughout her political career. (For her part, she put her career as a tax-litigation attorney on hold to raise her children when they were young.) But he’s also a private person. He’s sometimes refused to discuss his work, and the Bachmann campaign didn’t return a request for comment, although he’s spoken on Christian radio shows in the past.

The couple met at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota. In school, they bonded over their shared faith as born-again Christians, but also over politics. It wasn’t what one might imagine, though: Michele Bachmann has spoken of how they worked together on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in 1976. Mr. Bachmann has remained involved in her campaigns ever since. “I’m her strategist,” he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in March.

And Ron Carey, a plugged-in Minnesota GOP veteran who briefly served as Bachmann’s chief of staff, has said Marcus and son Lucas were the congresswoman's main advisers on the full spectrum of issues. “The only person she talks to as an insider is her husband, Marcus, who's a wonderful man, and her son Lucas,” Carey told the Star-Tribune. (Carey has been critical of his former boss, telling the Associated Press in February that she was unelectable and even so would not “be ready for the position of the president of the United States.”)

On the other hand, a comprehensive profile in City Pages, a Twin Cities alternative weekly, described Marcus Bachmann as little known to adversaries and allies alike, other than an appearance working the floor at the 2006 Minnesota GOP convention.

“Too often do we find counselors who will excuse a person and allow their feelings to take charge,” Marcus Bachmann has said.

But where Bachmann’s political involvement is enigmatic, his clinical practice is slightly clearer—and more contentious. Bachmann and Associates advertises “Christian counseling,” and as a “personal mission statement,” he writes, “I believe my call is to minister to the needs of people in a practical, effective, and sensitive way. Christ is the Almighty Counselor.” His focus in part reflects his training, which included a master’s degree at Regent University, the Virginia institution founded by Pat Robertson, as well as a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Union Institute and University, a correspondence-based school in Cincinnati.

His views on counseling are unorthodox. In one radio interview, posted to YouTube, he criticizes counselors who focused on patients’ feelings, saying that instead patients should be instructed on the correct path. “Our culture is filled with, ‘How do you feel?’” he said. “When you get a counselor saying, ‘How do you feel?’ that’s really a mistake. What should drive us is the undeniable truth and the godly principles of truth in God’s word... Too often do we find counselors who will excuse a person and allow their feelings to take charge.” In another interview, he said, “We’ve decided if you feel it, it’s all right.”

Exhibit A is homosexuality, a topic on which Rep. Bachmann has also expressed particularly strident views, calling for a ban on same-sex marriage on the grounds that it would lead to schoolchildren being indoctrinated into homosexuality.

In November 2005, Marcus Bachmann delivered a presentation called “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda” at the Minnesota Pastors’ Summit. According to a gay activist who attended and spoke to City Pages, Bachmann’s presentation ended with testimony from three people who claimed they’d been gay and had been “cured” and become straight. But Bachmann has denied that he works to turn gay patients straight. “If someone is interested in talking to us about their homosexuality, we are open to talking about that,” he told the newspaper. “But if someone comes in a homosexual and they want to stay homosexual, I don’t have a problem with that.”

That’s hard to reconcile with other statements he’s made, however. “Barbarians need to be educated, they need to be disciplined, and just because someone feels it or thinks it, doesn’t mean we need to go down that road,” he said while discussing homosexuality during the radio interview. “We have a responsibility as parents and authority figures not to encourage such thoughts and feelings.”

Such views are becoming rare in the U.S.; a recent Gallup poll found that for the first time ever, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.

With her stellar performance in the GOP presidential debate on June 13, Michele Bachmann’s reputation is quickly transforming from oddball outsider to formidable campaigner. That will certainly bring a new focus on her family, including her husband and his past statements. But the duo has found improbable success before—and might be able to do so again.