Yesterday, there was an incident on the Michelle Bachmann for President campaign in which a reporter attempted to ask the candidate some questions and her handlers were likely rougher in restraining him than they really should have been. This one incident does not make Bachmann or her people bullies, in my opinion; it does, however, suggest inexperience, as in, these folks still aren’t ready for prime time. Perhaps if Bachmann’s campaign continues to gather steam and attract political support, people with wisdom, or at least cooler heads, will become affiliated and be able to prevent this sort of thing. But what’s more interesting is the question that the reporter wanted to ask the candidate. And how at least one of her challengers for the Republican Presidential nomination is willing to use it as fodder to take wind out of her sails.
Note that this has nothing to do with her particular brand of preferred policies or her personality; if you find Rep. Bachmann’s politics distasteful, it ought not to be too difficult to imagine that a candidate you do like suffers from this condition. The question before the committee is whether susceptibility to migraines is an issue to consider regarding her ability to serve as President.
Although I do not claim to be in the least bit alone in this respect, I, too, am a sporadic migraine sufferer. I get migraine effects on my vision once or twice a month. Once or twice a year I suffer a major event.
Some people think migraines are mere headaches used by malingerers to defer work or to provide convenient excuses to decline their spouses’ requests for sex. While I can assure you that a migraine removes all desire for sex from a person, it is hardly an excuse. Migraines are neurological phenomena and during the painful, nauseating, and disorienting climax of a major event, they can be debilitating.
Over-the-counter migraine symptom pills are just acetominephin (Tylenol) with caffiene added, and when I am stricken with one, I prefer to sleep through it so I try to avoid the medication. The President would not have the luxury of time and deference of work to do this. Fortunately, for many people, medication can mitigate and to some extent prevent migrane events and apparently Rep. Bachmann says she has been able to control her situation in this manner for years and I see no reason not to take her at her word. Migraine medication has minimal side-effects.
Here’s the deal, Governor Pawlenty: the brain is a part of the body like any other. You get treatment for it, you deal with it, if you’re the President, you keep on discharging your duties. This isn’t the early 1800’s when medical conditions were treated with snakebites, with deleterious health effects on Presidents.
The brain is a part of the body like any other; if there is something medically wrong with it, and that something can be treated or controlled with non-invasive, non-debilitating techniques, that something should be considered a minor condition.
Of course, what if it’s not migraines? What if it’s epilepsy? Epilepsy is controllable with medication also, at least for minor seizures. A grand mal seizure is something else, potentially fatal — but then again, so is coronary disease. Dick Cheney was Vice President for eight years and could have had to have stepped up to be President at any time. No one really thought all that much about his heart condition. (Progressives, please restrain your now-stale Cheney jokes here, I’m trying to be serious.)
Or, what if it’s a mental health issue, like depression or bipolar? I suspect such a person would not get into politics and even if they did they would not pursue it to a high level in the first place. But again, medication can bring these conditions under control and if there are no significant side effects and the patient is reasonable in conforming to a medication regimen, there is no particular reason to fear these kinds of conditions anymore, either. At least, so sayeth Burt Likko. And he sayeth so in part so you can disagree with him in Ye Olde Comments Sectione should you be so inclined.
I have long wondered if Thomas Jefferson was also a migraine sufferer. On a tour of Monticello, I recall seeing a daybed he had built for himself in his library. It occurred to me that with thick curtains drawn, that room would be a quiet, dark place where his family and staff would be likely to leave him alone — a perfect retreat for him to retire and try to sleep through the climax of a migraine event. And Jefferson seemed to sometimes shrink from social events which he normally would have been inclined to enjoy — even as a young man in college and especially after the stresses of politics and government and his ever-poor finances built up over the years. He would never have admitted this sort of personal weakness, of course, so you have to read between the lines. If Thomas Jefferson could suffer from migraines with only a daybed available for treatment, a person in the twenty-first century can surely do the same, availing herself of relatively common medications dispensed under a doctor’s supervision.
I have several serious reservations about Michelle Bachmann as President which can be raised some other time, some of which relate to policy disagreements and some of which relate to her experience. But her migraines are not a reason to dismiss her from consideration. If she treated them in some unreasonable way, then that might be a problem for me. But she sees a regular doctor, gets regular medicine, and goes on about her life in a reasonable and normal way. She is as physically capable of doing the job of being President as anyone else out there vying for the position.