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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

How Many Psychosomatic Headaches Will Be Triggered by This Story?



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From the midweek Morning Jolt, a bit of news about Allen West, a quick look at some of the first worries about the plan from the Gang of Somewhere Between Five and Eight, and then this kerfluffle:

Are Claims About a Candidate’s Health a Pain in the Temples? Or a Pain in the — Well, You Know.

Urgh. Do I really want to delve into the latest link-grabbing piece that treats a Republican woman by a vastly different and harsher standard, full of anonymous sources, with the headline and opening sentences sounding dramatic and earth-shaking, only to find the supporting evidence is thin and milder and barely enough to support running the story at all?

Not tonight, dear, I’ve got a headache.

Oh, all right. “Minnesota Republican [Michele Bachmann] frequently suffers from stress-induced medical episodes that she has characterized as severe headaches. These episodes, say witnesses, occur once a week on average and can ‘incapacitate’ her for days at time. On at least three occasions, Bachmann has landed in the hospital as a result.”

Here’s the first problem with the claims in this story. We have all seen Bachmann on cable television so frequently and ubiquitously that it’s easy to wonder if she bunks on the cable networks’ green-room couches. No one’s ever made much of an issue about Bachmann missing votes (she’s missed 5 percent of the House floor votes in her lifetime, spiking at times, but at the chamber’s median for most of her career) or having long unexplained absences in her Congressional duties. So if she were indeed having once-a-week “episodes” that “incapacitated” her for days, she wouldn’t have been able to maintain the public life that she has. The article mentions hospitalization on “three occasions,” but doesn’t give a time frame; I see references to July 2010 and then a May 2010 “episode” that had her going to an “urgent care center” before continuing on to “several events in California.”

(You keep using that word, “incapacitation.” I do not think it means what you think it means.)

Then another example from October 2010, and then the next example is from . . . February 2006, after appendicitis? So does she need hospitalization about three times per year? Or was 2010 just a particularly bad year for her condition? How often did it happen before? And nothing in the past eight months?

Then there’s the portion where the anonymous aides and former aides feel the need to let us know that they’re putting out this personal information because they’re just so darn patriotic:

Sources who spoke to The Daily Caller said they did so because they are terrified about the impact the condition could have on Bachmann’s performance if she actually became president. They also worry that the issue could blow up in the general election campaign, giving President Obama an easy path to re-election.

“It’s a careful choice of words I used: ‘incapacitated,’” the adviser says.

“As president, when she’s in crisis management mode, is she going to have the physical ability to withstand the most difficult challenges facing America?” the former aide asks.

Let me get this straight — you’re concerned enough about the future of the Republic that you’ll put this information out there and make Bachmann appear physically incapable of handling the duties of the office, but you won’t put your name on it because you want to keep working for her? Chutzpah is a Yiddish word, but it took Washington’s culture to take it to the next level.

So you can guess what I think. But one of the smartest guys I know, Ramesh, feels otherwise, so here’s the brief for the opposition: “If the story is true in its particulars — keeping in mind both that Rep. Bachmann’s current staff denies that migraines incapacitate her and that one of the three examples given of her alleged incapacitation does not do much to support the claim — then it is absolutely a legitimate story. The problem in that case wouldn’t just be that she gets these migraines but that stress, apparently, brings them on. All else equal, that’s really not something we should want in the contemporary presidency. And it’s something voters should know about, in order to weigh it against such positives as her fearlessness, demonstrated commitment to repealing Obamacare, etc.”

However, some lefty bloggers defended Bachmann, finding the piece lacking. Subscribe to the Jolt, if you haven’t already, to find out who!


Tags: Michele Bachmann


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