The XX Factor

Michele Bachmann’s Maverick-y Move at the GOP Debate: Impressive or Insulting?

It was weird that Rep. Michele Bachmann was part of the GOP debates last night in the first place: NBC’s Chuck Todd called the fact that CNN invited her before she officially announced her candidacy “oddly unprecedented.” But their invite allowed Bachmann to dominate the news coverage of the event, because one of the first things the Minnesota Republican did was to say, “I filed today my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States… . So I wanted you to be the first to know.”

Though I am no fan of Bachmann, my first reaction to her debate subversion was: That’s a brilliant move. As the Post’s Dana Milbank says , her announcement was an obvious gimmick, but one that “allowed the back-bench congresswoman from Minnesota to stand out from the pack.” That tired cliché about well-behaved women seldom making history rang in my head, and I was slightly impressed with her.

Upon further reflection, however, the attention-grab seemed immature, and slightly ridiculous. Being a woman in the male-dominated GOP field doesn’t give her license to ignore procedure. Furthermore–it may backfire for her in the end. She’s already been labeled as “crazy” because of some of the more absurd public statements she’s made . Making a dramatic play like she did last night might just reinforce the idea that she will forever be going off-script, and not in a good way.

Slate columnists John Dickerson and David Weigel are taking questions about the GOP debate on Facebook. Click here to join the chat .