Michele Bachmann’s “Stress-Related” “Incapacitating” Headaches Are Fair Game
A Presidential candidate's medical condition is entirely relevant to their fitness for office.
The Daily Caller is out today with a piece quoting several anonymous former Bachmann staffers regarding what appears to be, if they’re being accurate, a fairly serious medical condition that the Minnesota Congresswoman suffers from:
The Minnesota Republican 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.
“She has terrible migraine headaches. And they put her out of commission for a day or more at a time. They come out of nowhere, and they’re unpredictable,” says an adviser to Bachmann who was involved in her 2010 congressional campaign. “They level her. They put her down. It’s actually sad. It’s very painful.”
Bachmann’s medical condition wouldn’t merit public attention, but for the fact she is running for president. Some close to Bachmann fear she won’t be equal to the stress of the campaign, much less the presidency itself.
“When she gets ’em, frankly, she can’t function at all. It’s not like a little thing with a couple Advils. It’s bad,” the adviser says. “The migraines are so bad and so intense, she carries and takes all sorts of pills. Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills after the migraine, to keep them under control. She has to take these pills wherever she goes.”
To staff, Bachmann has implausibly blamed the headaches on uncomfortable high-heel shoes, but those who have worked closely with her cite stress, a busy schedule and anything going badly for Bachmann as causes.
Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Bachmann, said “she suffers from migraines and they’re under control with medicine.” Stewart contested descriptions of the episodes as “incapacitating” Bachmann but did not specify how the descriptions were wrong. “The information you have is incorrect,” Stewart said. She declined to discuss Bachmann’s hospital visits at all, saying, “I’m not going to go into her medical history.”
There is some anecdotal evidence at least that her spokeswoman’s comments aren’t telling the whole story:
On the evening of May 13, 2010, Bachmann flew to Los Angeles for a series of political and fundraising events. In part because of complications with her flight schedule, Bachmann’s mood plunged. During the entire six-hour flight, she was desperately sick from headaches. (Perry, Bachmann lead in July Daily Caller/Conservative Home tracking poll)
Her husband, Marcus Bachmann, met his wife at LAX and ushered her to a nearby urgent care center. Though Bachmann managed to attend several events in California, including an appearance before a California chapter of the Eagle Forum and a fundraiser in Palm Springs, she struggled through the weekend, in pain throughout.
On October 19, 2010, Bachmann fell apart at a Greenwich, Conn., fundraiser at the home of Craig Stevenson, CEO of Diamond S Shipping. She was put in a bed at Stevenson’s home and later checked into an urgent care facility near LaGuardia Airport.
Back in February 2006, Bachmann checked into the hospital for what a press release called “an appendicitis attack,” according to an archive of her website. “Michele felt very well immediately after the surgery but then suffered from complications, including nausea and intense migraines,” the press release reads.
Of particular concern to some around her is the significant amount of medication Bachmann takes to address her condition.
The former aide says Bachmann’s congressional staff is “constantly” in contact with her doctors to tweak the types and amounts of medicine she is taking. Marcus Bachmann helps her manage the episodes.
The reaction around the blogosphere has been interesting. Robert Stacy McCain and Jim Hoft seem convinced that The Daily Caller is engaging in an effort to smear conservatives in general and, in this case, Bachmann in particular. Of course, as Don Surber points out, the author of the Bachmann piece, Jonathan Strong, was also the DC reporter who broke the Journolist story last year. Ed Morrissey, meanwhile, raises legitimate concerns about the anonymity of the sources for the story. However,while it is important to take that anonymity into account, that doesn’t mean the story should be dismissed out of hand. In the same post linked above, Surber says that if these reports are true Bachmann is finished, and Rick Moran says, correctly, that her campaign needs to get on top of them immediately if they aren’t:
The Bachmann campaign better get on top of this story quickly. And they have to be a little more forthcoming than Ms. Stewart’s evasive answers. People will forgive politicians just about anything – except if they feel they are hiding something.
There is always a fine line in Presidential campaigns over what is and isn’t relevant. Over the past few campaign cycles, the media and partisans have attempted to gain access to candidates college records, as if what grades someone got in an Econ 101 class 25 years in the past is relevant to what kind of President they might be. Medical records are a different story, though, because they could contain information that goes directly to the question of the ability of the candidate to perform the job of being President of the United States. This seems to me to be especially true in an era where a President is potentially required to make split second decisions under a tremendous amount of stress.
This has not always been the case, of course, throughout American history. Joshua Green, for example, links to a 2002 Atlantic cover story about the medical troubles of John F. Kennedy, most of which did not become public until well after his death:
Concealing one’s true medical condition from the voting public is a time-honored tradition of the American presidency. William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia in April of 1841, after only one month in office, was the first Chief Executive to hide his physical frailties. Nine years later Zachary Taylor’s handlers refused to acknowledge that cholera had put the President’s life in jeopardy; they denied rumors of illness until he was near death, in July of 1850, sixteen months into his presidency. During Grover Cleveland’s second term, in the 1890s, the White House deceived the public by dismissing allegations that surgeons had removed a cancerous growth from the President’s mouth; a vulcanized-rubber prosthesis disguised the absence of much of Cleveland’s upper left jaw and part of his palate. The public knew nothing about the implant until one of the President’s physicians revealed it in 1917, nine years after Cleveland’s death.
In the twentieth century Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower all, to one degree or another, held back the full truth about medical difficulties that could have jeopardized their hold on the Oval Office. Wilson suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1919 that made him merely a figurehead during the last year and a half of his term. After Coolidge’s sixteen-year-old son died of blood poisoning, in the summer of 1924, Coolidge himself struggled with a clinical depression that made inactivity and passivity the principal features of his Administration. It has been well known for some time that Roosevelt went to great lengths to conceal how physically incapacitated he had been rendered by polio. If voters had known the truth about his generally deteriorating health in 1944, it is unlikely that they would have re-elected him a third time–but they did not know, and FDR died just three months into his fourth term, in April of 1945. Though Eisenhower was much more open about his health than any of his predecessors, the full disclosure of his maladies (including heart disease) in 1956, when he was sixty-six, might have discouraged the country from electing him President again; he had a heart attack during his first term and suffered a number of other medical problems, including a minor stroke, during his second.
The lifelong health problems of John F. Kennedy constitute one of the best-kept secrets of recent U.S. history–no surprise, because if the extent of those problems had been revealed while he was alive, his presidential ambitions would likely have been dashed. Kennedy, like so many of his predecessors, was more intent on winning the presidency than on revealing himself to the public. On one level this secrecy can be taken as another stain on his oft-criticized character, a deception maintained at the potential expense of the citizens he was elected to lead. Yet there is another way of viewing the silence regarding his health–as the quiet stoicism of a man struggling to endure extraordinary pain and distress and performing his presidential (and pre-presidential) duties largely undeterred by his physical suffering. Does this not also speak to his character, but in a more complex way?
Not only the extent of Kennedy’s medical problems but the lengths to which he and his family went to conceal them were significant. According to Bill Walton, a Kennedy family friend, JFK was followed everywhere during the 1960 presidential campaign by an aide with a special bag containing the “medical support” that was needed all the time. When the bag was misplaced during a trip to Connecticut, Kennedy telephoned Governor Abe Ribicoff and said, “There’s a medical bag floating around and it can’t get in anybody’s hands … You have to find that bag.” If the wrong people got hold of it, he said, “it would be murder.” (The bag was recovered.)
The level of secrecy enjoyed by Kennedy and his predecessors is likely no longer possible, and for the most part that’s a good thing. The public doesn’t necessarily need to know about some medical condition a candidate had in the past, unless it’s something like cancer or a heart condition that could be an issue in the future. However, if a candidate is suffering from a medical condition that could impact their health while in office or, more importantly, impact their judgment and their ability to make decisions then it strikes me that this is an entirely relevant topic for the press to ask about, and it serves candidates better to be honest about it rather than to lie. For example, Herman Cain was diagnosed in 2006 with Stage IV colon cancer. He underwent chemotherapy and surgery and his doctors have said he’s cancer free. Cain has spoken openly about the cancer and shared at least some information from his doctors. While I have many, many problems with Cain as a candidate, I do think he’s been correct in being forthright about his medical history rather than trying to hide it.
Is Michele Bachmann’s medical condition a disqualifying point against her? Well, if the allegations are true, then I’d say that I don’t think we want anyone in the Oval Office who is subject to being incapacitated when under stress, but that’s really a matter for the voters to decide. And obviously, my problems with Michele Bachmann go far beyond whatever her medical condition might be. Nonetheless, this strikes me as something that the public deserves to know before they are asked to vote for Bachmann, or any candidate really, not afterwards. (I am reminded of the Seasons 2-4 subplot in The West Wing where it was revealed that President Bartlet had hidden from the public that he was suffering from multiple sclerosis at the time he ran for President.) The Bachmann campaign needs to address these issues now.
Her medical condition is fair game and shouldn’t be hidden from the public. In the off-chance that she prevails as the GOP presidential candidate (I still think donkeys will fly first), that will become a critical factor. We can’t have someone drugged up every time the going gets tough because they have a headache. To be fair, my issues with Michele Bachmann go further than her health issues. She’s just not qualified in any way to lead this country. Her views on basic issues are scary.
That reminds me — what’s the latest on Obama’s smoking? What about Biden’s history of cerebral aneurysms?
Let’s not forget that there was a time when releasing Obama’s medical records was considered vital by the right.
@Jay Tea, how perverse.
Because you wanted them before, no one should ask for them now?
The left will get blamed for this but in reality the Democrats would like nothing more than for Bachmann to be the nominee and the Republican power brokers would like nothing less. I’m sure that this medical condition is not new news to the DC crowd but it’s coming out now because Bachmann is surging so it was time to bring it out and knock Bachmann out.
She’s done. I can see the 3:00am ad by some Citizen United funded group. (Or uploaded to YouTube by some kid with enough time and skills.)
3:00am. A woman incapacitated in her bed. A man with a lisp answers.
Are the primaries going to be over before any actual primary is held? Is the media going to pick the Republican?
That reminds me – it’s time for Jay to try to change the subject.
I think it is legit to ask about candidates’ medical histories. I thought it was legit to say that McCain had an actuarially decent probability of dying in a four year span just due to his age, and did we really want President Palin in that plausible event?
I remember 1991/1992 how there was a decent amount of talk about the health of former Senator Paul Tsongas (disclosure, his family had some of the best Halloween candy in the city I grew up in) as he had survived a cancer episode. That led, IIRC, to an absolutely horrendous ad about how active the former Senator was including way too long of a shot of him doing laps in the YMCA pool.
Back on topic, Hot Air points out just how thinly-sourced this article is… and how, if Bachmann was so debilitated by these conditions, it hasn’t shown up in the past few years.
As Ed Morrissey notes:
* a former aide says.
* three people who have worked closely with Bachmann
* an adviser to Bachmann who was involved in her 2010 congressional campaign.
* The former aide says …
* the adviser says.
@Ron Beasley: The left will get blamed for this
The left’s rediculous idolatry of privacy would probably prevent them from making a big enough deal about this.
You really thing atheist Matagayness cares about the facts????
Just wait until Perry declares.
Uh, they may be full of crap but that list of Morrissey’s does not at all scream “thinly sourced”.
You really thing atheist Matagayness cares about the facts????
Feel free to go micturate up a rope.
There’s a preview button. If you fail to use it, then, for a few minutes, there is a link to edit your comment.
@MBunge: “Thinly,” in this case, means “not a single named source.” And it certainly implies that all are former associates, so there’s more than a slight chance there could be a bit of “sour grapes” involved.
There’s an ad on this page for taking a “free Brain Grade” test.
Most likely paid by people close to Romney 😉
“Feel free to go micturate up a rope. ”
Thanks, i’ll try that
And why not?
Various studies have demonstrated that using cocaine even one time can cause changes in the brain, especially if the individual used the drug at a young age. Obama, of course, freely admitted to using cocaine and marijuana.
It might explain his odd stuttering and “uh-uh’s”, and his frequent gaffes (“57 states”, speaking Austrian in Austria, the bomb that was dropped on Pearl Harbor, people with asthma need to get breathalyzers, and on and on..)
@That Guy: It might be an explanation in the way that Rupert Murdoch might name me as the guy who is going to investigate the NOTW hacking scandal. Mostly, it’s a deflection.
“Well, if the allegations are true, then I’d say that I don’t think we want anyone in the Oval Office who is subject to being incapacitated when under stress, but that’s really a matter for the voters to decide.”
Like the fact that the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency has had two aneurysms?
@That Guy: “It might explain his odd stuttering and “uh-uh’s”, and his frequent gaffes (“57 states”, speaking Austrian in Austria, the bomb that was dropped on Pearl Harbor, people with asthma need to get breathalyzers, and on and on..)”
Or…he might just be a normal human being who occasionally misspeaks.
I mean, seriously? If you don’t quite grasp GOP thinking on the debt limit, just consider that it flows from the same childish and bizarre place and drives them to attack Obama’s public speaking.
It’s a “deflection” to refer to scientific studies?
Sheesh, I thought the right was supposed to be the “anti-science” party!
@That Guy: “Like the fact that the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency has had two aneurysms?”
What part of “heartbeat AWAY from the presidency” do you not understand?
You will notice I linked to Ed’s piece in the post.
Also, please note that i had to edit the HTML code on your comment. There was no closing tag on the link to Hot Air and it was messing formatting up a bit. The link remains.
Well, we have a president who was (or possibly still is) a long-time smoker, and both of his parents died at a young age (his mom from cancer). He appears to be in good shape, granted- but there are definitely increased risks there.
On top of that, I reference my comment about his past substance abuse.
The amount of effort being expended to change the subject to Obama & Biden might lead one to conclude there is a smoking gun here. Bachmann needs to come clean on this…
Maybe it’s PTSD from that one time she was almost kindasorta attacked by lesbians. Or her headaches are being caused by end times-related stress.
“Or…he might just be a normal human being who occasionally misspeaks.”
It’s not “occasionally”- there are hundreds of examples. The MSM unfortunately doesn’t highlight these for you.
At any rate, I’m not saying it is or it isn’t- but if there are viable scientific studies out there, and it could be demonstrated that past abuse is likely a cause of certain, current mental limitations in individuals, shouldn’t that be taken into consideration?
The voters did take it into consideration in 2008, and proceeded to elect Obama. Case closed. Unless there is something related to Bachmann’s health that you are afraid to have on the table, why don’t you stop trying to change the subject at hand?
You know, I’ve been hearing this Republican “Obama is an inarticulate black man” meme since he won the nomination, yet every single time I tune in to listen to him speak, he impresses the hell out of me with his speaking ability.
No they didn’t really take it into consideration, because the Republican candidate refused to bring it up- like many troubling things in Obama’s past.
But if you want to put up your charge about somebody using some Advils (like many Americans do)- and missing one event because of a headache- versus a bizarre-speaking former drug user and a guy who nearly died from two aneurysms, bring it on…
Nice attempt to inject charges of racism into the discussion.
If you’re impressed with a guy who says that are “57 states”, and misspeaks nearly every time he doesn’t have his TOTUS with him- hey, to each his own…
If she actually suffers from migraines, then she will be taking more than just a few Advils. And migraines can be extremely debilitating, so it is something the voters should know about if true. I would imagine that if she really suffers from them in any kind of a consistent manner it will become apparent during the campaign, since campaigns tend to be kind of stressful.
Doug, I did miss the Hot Air link. And thanks for cleaning up my mess — I routinely mess up the coding. Here, I thought I was safe, because I used the “link” button, but I should have known that if there was a way to mess that up, I’d find it…
@That Guy: There are hundreds of examples. That’s why you and Jay Tea and the other Rushbots have to keep bringing up the “57 states” thing from three years ago. Because there are just so darn many of them to choose from that you have to keep desperately falling back on some silly slip of the tongue from an exhausted candidate on the campaign trail.
You’ve got nothing, except your support for a nihilistic party that’s trying to destroy the country.
I wonder how concerned republicans were about the VP’s health when a guy named Cheney sat in that chair…..
@That Guy: Ooh, look. Hundreds of examples, and That Guy has to pull up “57 states” for the second time in a single thread.
You want to know why people assume you’re a racist, TG? Because what you say is so obviously self-refuting, the only other choice is that you’re some kind of computer program spitting out anti-Obama gibberish. As humans, we look for explanations, and this is the only one that makes any sense at all…
Sorry pal, you don’t speak for anyone but yourself. Obama’s dabbling with cocaine was a know fact in ’08.
Clearly you don’t want to discuss Bachmann. Wonder why. At any rate, your attempts to change the subject have had all the attention they merit.
Conservatives need to let the “57 states” quip go already. Candidates flub things all the time on the campaign trail, so it’s not all that surprising. They should stick with the “corpse men” flub. It’s a better anecdote anyway, since he said it a couple of times in a prepared speech.
how about some examples of Obmas’s “hundreds” of gaffes” Hell, I will settle for just 100. Put up or shut up.
Also interesting that tea party types are so concerned with a little bit of coke back in the 70s. Bush is an admitted alcoholic who did not participate in a recovery program, which makes him a dry drunk. Did not hear much concern about this when his finger held the button and his hand signed legislation into law.
Why is the right afraid to discuss valid concerns about Bachmann’s health?
“You want to know why people assume you’re a racist, TG?”
If individuals (this refers to you) make stereotypical assumptions about somebody else based upon somebody highlighting the most prominent example of a gaffe- and something that has absolutely nothing to deal with race- as supposed evidence of “racism”, the proper conclusion to draw is that the accuser is engaging in heavily erroneous thinking. I suggest that you study logic for starters.
Now, in reference to your histrionic assertion, I will kindly provide you with some more blatant examples of Obama gaffes. Mind you, there are more available upon request. Enjoy:
@That Guy: It’s a deflection to comment in a thread about Michele Bachmann’s migraines with “what about Obama’s cocaine use causing brain damage?”, yes. The validity or non-validity of the science is irrelevant.
“Put up or shut up.”
Well now, that’s not very nice!
See my comment to the wild accuser WR for some really bizarre things that have come out of Obama’s mouth.
I agree, the “57 states” one has to go. There was a pause between the “fifty” and “seven,” and it was clear he was tired and tried to correct himself. Harping on it is just stupid.
Instead, bring up the “corpse-man.” Or “speaking Austrian.” Or “fallen heroes — some of whom are here today.” Or forgetting who he has presented the Medal of Honor to in person. (Only happened twice.) Or “Special Olympics bowler.” Or how doctors needlessly remove tonsils and amputate feet just to make a buck.
But for heaven’s sake, drop the “57 states” one.
“The validity or non-validity of the science is irrelevant.”
Ha! You fell for it!
@That Guy: Fell for what? The fact that you’re a thread-jacking cretin? Sure did. Duly noted.
yea, I am bored with the threadjack. send Jay & that guy back to the sandbox. birds of a feather and all that.
@That Guy: Can anyone name a president who hasn’t filled multiple books of “isms” in the recent past? I definitely remember “Bushisms,” and before that there were “Clintonisms,” “Bush-the-Father-isms,” “Reganisms” and on and on. The reason is (with perhaps the exception of Regan’s last few years) primarily that these are the most recorded men in the world for their time in office (and during the campaigns).
Trying to claim that Obama is in any way special (or due to his Drug use) makes about as much sense of wondering how many of GWBush’s verbal mistakes had to do with his abuse of Alcohol earlier in life.
And, the entire Biden thing is a bit of a wash when you take into account Cheney’s heart issues.
Hello…do we want a President that checks out for a couple days every week on an unpredictable basis?
Oh wait – we’re talking about Bachmann? I though we were talking about Bush again.
This is pointless…she stands zero chance of ever being President. Her and her homophobic husband are fun to laugh at. That’s it.
Even speaking as a highly partisan Democrat Party activist, I wouldn’t put too much into this-
First, the only source I have seen for Bachmann’s condition is the Daily Caller, which is, to put it mildly, not the most credible source around. The article is filled with the fingerprints of gossip rags- “A friend says”, “said one witness” “according to sources”; I guess these are the same people who always seem to have the inside scoop of Brad and Angelina’s impending breakup.
Second, inflating “migraines” into a disqualifying condition of the Presidency smacks of desperation to me, trying to overplay a weak hand- there are so many really awful and frightening things about this woman, that talking about her migraines sounds like praising by faint damns.
Third, all candidates for President are usually middle aged and above, meaning they all are at the age when their health begins the slow decline; it would be shocking if we had a candidate who didn’t have some sort of health condition; and anyone could easily point to our greatest Presidents who had much worse health conditions.
There are plenty of lines of attack against this woman; leave this shiny distraction by the side of the road (CAVEAT- unless a much more substantial and credible case can be made!)
@Liberty60: No, the only amusing thing here is that this isn’t a “left wing” attack. This comes from the Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s rag. Which means it’s planted by Republicans, probably Romneyites, desperate to get rid of her.
@That Guy: his dad died in a car crash – not sure that’s genetic
Don’t ask Bachmann about this, or her “thugs” will get violent with you.
Sounds like Bachmann’s got her security people from Martha Coakley…
I see Jay is still afraid to actually discuss Bachmann. I guess it is noteworthy that he equates Coakley, who is pretty much a zero in the eyes of Democrats, with a Republican who is a top tier candidate for the GOP nomination.
@Jay Tea: Oooh, Jay swoops in to change the subject away from Bachmann!
The solution for Bachmann here is to befriend a terrorist and have a convicted felon buy a house for her.
And also to be a secret Muslim who really wants to destroy America…don’t forget that…
@An Interested Party: The secret Muslim part is optional.
Or are you just unaware of the names “William Ayers” and “Tony Rezko?”
Obama critics don’t have to make stuff up about him. It’s his defenders that have the challenge of rewriting history. Or, at least, burying it.
@Jay Tea: Oh, I’m well aware of those names…but where is the evidence that Tony Rezko bought a house for the president? And “befriending a terrorist”? Please…
Obama critics don’t have to make stuff up about him.
But we do it all the time anyway! That Kenyan anti-colonialist is going to send you all to re-education camps after he takes away your guns, institutes Sharia law, and sends Grandma to the death panel!