Are Michele Bachmann's Migraines Off Limits?

A hit piece on Bachmann arouses some unlikely defenders

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Late last night, The Daily Caller published a widely-read story about Michele Bachmann's migraine problems, which, according to people she's worked with, are "unpredictable," stress-induced, and so severe they've sent her to the hospital at least three times in the last year. The sources, who include a "former aide," "three people who have worked closely with Bachmann," and a current "adviser"  say they're disclosing details about her condition because they fear "she won’t be equal to the stress of the [2012] campaign, much less the presidency itself." The adviser added "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." The story sent shockwaves through the blogosphere, with some conservatives demanding the campaign "address the issue immediately and put to rest any doubts about Bachmann's capacity to serve" and other commentators suggesting the article is sexist given that migraines are "overwhelmingly a woman's problem." Are Bachmann's migraine's off limits?

Update: Bachmann has issued a statement. "I have prescribed medication that I take whenever symptoms arise, and they keep the migraines under control," she said. "Let me be abundantly clear -- my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as commander in chief."

Yes, this is "disgusting," writes David French at National Review: "About the only thing that can be said for certain about such attacks is that they’re cowardly. As for their veracity? Their anonymity makes them immune to further questioning and renders us incapable of discerning whether they even had the access or first-hand knowledge they claim. All we’re left with are rumors--rumors elevated to national attention because they’re reproduced in reputable outlets." Mike Riggs of Reason adds that the anonymous sources cited could be working for "another prez campaign," which could be true for some of the sources but not, one would assume, for the current adviser speaking behind Bachmann's back.

This smacks of sexism, tweets Mother Jones co-editor Monika Bauerlein. "I think some of it was on the order of 'she's a girl.'" Mother Jones editor Clara Jeffrey adds "2 to 1 that Bachmann's pill popping = advil and estrogen. It's called menopause, people. Survived by powerful women all over the world." Dana Goldstein, a contributor to The Nation and The Daily Beast takes it further. "I know from experience that a migraine can put a sufferer to bed, unable to work or socialize. But this should happen rarely if a person is under proper medical care. (And yes, Daily Caller, that means taking drugs. People in pain take drugs; this doesn't mean we're drug addicts or incompetents.) We've certainly had excellent presidents--Kennedy, FDR, Wilson--who've suffered from chronic medical conditions and even popped pills. There's no reason why migraines should be especially disqualifying."

It just defies reality, writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:  "Bachmann doesn’t have a reputation for being a political wallflower.  She has tirelessly traveled to Tea Party events, appears constantly on talking-head political news shows, and is perhaps the most prodigious fundraiser in the House," he writes. "Bachmann didn’t do all of that by being incapacitated.  I’ve known Bachmann for several years, and I’m only aware of her missing one event (the Blunt appearance) in all of that time. If her migraines were anywhere near as incapacitating as Strong’s piece suggests, we would have known about it a year ago or more."

It's fair game, writes Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway.

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... 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.

It was fairly reported, tweets Ken Vogel at Politico: "Kudos to @j_strong & @DailyCaller for the responsible way they handled Michele Bachmann migraine scoop #SolidJournalism." Jim Newell at Gawker agrees. "It's fair to bring her medical history into the public arena. A little clarification from the Bachmann campaign and her doctors would be nice. But it doesn't disqualify her from the presidency any more than the other 500 billion reasons that we already knew about."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.