From Andrew Levy:
(CNN) — First of all: Michele Bachmann will not be getting my vote for president.
But that is a political decision, not a medical one. Reading media reports that she suffers from a severe migraine condition, I feel for her.
As one of over 30 million Americans who gets migraines regularly, I suspect I’m not alone in feeling empathy here. Bachmann has the same problem, politically speaking, that millions of other “migraineurs” experience with their co-workers, bosses, and friends. If you’ve never had a migraine, you tend to assume that the blinding headaches and neurological disruptions mean that the migraineur is either very brave, or very fragile.
The truth is neither of these.
As the story of Bachmann’s migraines unfolds, it is easy to see, through the prism of our politics, how migraine is viewed: It is almost like a scandal.
Her opponents search for veiled ways to score political points: Tim Pawlenty reminds an audience in Iowa that “All of the candidates … are going to have to demonstrate they can do all of the job, all of the time” — as if he never sleeps.
Political consultants like Karl Rove urge her to “get her doctors out there quickly” and beat the news cycle. Her brother reassures reporters that “she is not intellectually incapacitated.” Her campaign releases a letter from the congressional physician downplaying the condition, noting that she knows her “trigger factors” and can “control” her headaches with “as-needed” drugs like sumatriptan, the reliable, prosaic Model T of migraine drugs.
And in the shortened news cycle, analysis also comes fast: Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri argues that migraine, politically, might be “code” to remind voters that “Michele Bachmann is female” — given that 75% of all migraineurs are women, not a bad theory.
Migraine is more prevalent than depression, osteoarthritis, and diabetes. Which means that you are almost certainly living with, or working alongside — or considering voting for — someone with migraine, and don’t know it.
And in the end, too, it is no disqualification. There is no personality type for migraineurs: If you show me someone whose work seems hampered by headaches, I can show you someone who puts your productivity and mine to shame.
Never mind the list of migraineur writers, artists and musicians, which is a mile long, and runs from Sigmund Freud to Elvis Presley: everyone expects creative types to have “nervous” conditions.
But migraines have been no disqualification for political or military leadership, either.
Thomas Jefferson suffered from severe headaches for several weeks in April and May 1776.
Ulysses S. Grant suffered from headaches so severe during the Civil War that his officers offered him a special ambulance for travel (which he refused).
If you think Michele Bachmann shouldn’t be president, her migraines ought to be the least of your reasons why. And if you think she should, her migraines are no reason to reconsider your vote.
From Jennifer Rubin at Right Turn at The Washington Post:
Tim Pawlenty has reached desperation time. The Republican presidential contender is in low double-digits heading into a straw poll in a must-do-well state for him. Without much luck, he’s tried to attack fellow candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on the grounds she has “a non-existent record.” So then along comes a story about Bachmann’s migraine headaches, fueled by ex-employees of Bachmann. (Post reporters spoke to three former aides about the headaches, two of whom said they “did not appear to interfere with her work”and one who said she disappeared frequently due to migraines.) Pawlenty’s reaction was, to say the least, strange.
First, he deferred to the doctors. “Tim Pawlenty demurred Tuesday when asked whether voters should take into account Michele Bachmann’s debilitating migraines when making their decision on who to nominate, saying he’d leave an assessment up doctors.” Then he needled her in a subsequent comment: “All of the candidates I think are going to have to be able to demonstrate they can do all of the job all of the time. There’s no real time off in that job.” Well, that’s the point of those digging up the medical information on her, right?
And then, of course, Bachmann did release her doctor’s note debunking the more extreme aspects of the story […]
Pawlenty’s reaction to the story is even odder when you consider the reaction of every other campaign. Alexander Burns of Politico went from campaign to campaign, asking if each had any involvement in surfacing the story. A spokesman for Jon Huntsman said: “It’s a ‘minor medical condition’ that shouldn’t be ‘taken advantage of’ in advance of the Ames Straw Poll.” Spokesmen for Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney gave flat “no’s” when asked if their campaigns had any involvement in the headache story. […] Then there was this answer from Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant, which a Republican operative described as “massaged”: “We did not pitch or push the Daily Caller story and haven’t since.”
Okay, readers, which answer is not like the others?
I repeatedly asked the Pawlenty team yesterday a series of questions about the headache story, including whether Pawlenty or his staff had any knowledge of or involvement in the release of Bachmann’s medical records and whether the campaign would fire anyone found to be involved in the story. I also inquired about whether Pawlenty believed it was appropriate for an employee to leak medical information about his boss. There was no response.