I Thought Hell Would Freeze Over Before I Defended Michele Bachmann

But leave it to The Daily Caller to prove me wrong. 

Their piece about Bachmann's chronic migraine headaches–which they suggest should disqualify her from the presidency–is deeply ignorant and unfair. 

Jonathan Strong writes:

“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.”

If Bachmann is indeed suffering from migraines, I wonder if she is under the best neurological care. She is described as occassionally checking in to hospitals and urgent care centers to deal with the pain, which suggests a condition that has not been brought under control by the most aggressive treatment.

Migraines disproportionately affect women and are often talked about in a sexist way, with the implication being that women who suffer from migraines can't handle normal levels of stress. But there are other triggers, too, from alcohol to going too long between meals. The Daily Caller's Strong describes Bachmann as suffering from a migraine because of "complications with her flight schedule." As a lifelong migraine sufferer, I know that travel can be a trigger, not because of some hysterical response to stress, but because of lack of decent food and sleep. 

With all the medications out there today, most migraine sufferers are able to get the condition under control and go about their daily lives with a very high level of productivity.

Many famous, high-achieving people have been migraine sufferers, including Ulysses Grant and Thomas Jefferson. (At Appomattox in 1865, Grant reportedly had a migraine that miraculously lifted upon receiving a letter from Robert E. Lee arranging their first ceasefire meeting.) Among athletes, Dwyane Wade and Monica Seles are migraineurs; Seles missed just two matches due to migraine in her entire career, and Wade is well-known for practicing and playing through his pain. I could go on and on: Charles Darwin. Sigmeund Freud. Claude Monet. Virginia Woolf. 

Of course, the modern presidency is a uniquely stressful and fast-paced job. But modern medicine is also uniquely able to respond to chronic pain. 

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. 

Anyhow, if you're looking for real reasons Bachmann shouldn't be president read this and this.

8 thoughts on “I Thought Hell Would Freeze Over Before I Defended Michele Bachmann

  1. JFD

    This whole piece sounds like it’s more about you than it is about Michelle.

    Voters would have a legitimate reason not to want to elect someone who doubles over when the going gets tough; your examples of JFK and FDR make the opposite point that you think they do, because both of those presidents hid their condition from the public because they knew it would be disqualifying.

  2. FML

    There are real reasons not to vote for Michele Bachmann. I’d put first on the list that she is a believer in submitting to her husband in all things; thus the president would not be Michele but her husband Marcus. Migraine headaches are the least of the reasons not to vote for her. Voters who don’t think that presidents double over when the going gets tough even if they don’t have migraines are living in a fantasy world. And no, the “piece” isn’t “about” Dana Goldstein; that’s another charge that’s always made about women in general: “Oh, it’s all about YOU!”

  3. MikeT

    I wonder if her disbelief in science prevents her from seeking out the newest, best treatments. I’ve had migraines for 30 years, and it’s amazing what the last decade has brought in terms of new meds. I wouldn’t be nearly the father that I am if it weren’t for triptans.

    Oh, and add Alfred the Great to the list of migraineurs. The historical record on him is spotty, but describes something that has always sounded like migraines to me.

  4. Jeff

    I can’t stand Bachmann and revel in the delicious pleasures of seeing her slammed in the media. But upon seeing the Caller piece I felt it was too obviously a manufactured smear rather than a real reason to criticize her. I think the right-wing Caller probably can’t get away with criticizing her actual faults of frightening religious extremism and simplistic economic ideological purity, so they had to try this. I commend your integrity on calling them on it.

  5. Yog

    These kinds of things cut both ways, I think, and show why its in everybody’s best interests to stamp out artificial gender differences. Not having the research in front of me, I would nevertheless argue that migraines may not in fact disproportionately affect women. Rather, the culture of “toughness” our male roles are soaked in, prevents men from claiming to “suffer” from such an effeminate syndrome. Migraine is never an excuse for a man to miss an executive meeting, or to call in sick regularly.

  6. Craig

    If Bachman’s migraines would be a problem for her in the White House, presumably they’ll be a problem for her on the campaign trail: that’s one of the few ways our ridiculous campaign season actually works as an job interview with America.

    If this is a problem for her on the campaign trail, we’ll all see for ourselves soon enough. If it isn’t, then I think we can all just butt the hell out of her business.

  7. Judith

    Having suffered migraines, I do know for a fact that they are not just a painful or extreme headache. They myriad symptoms of extreme light sensitivity, overwhelming pain, nausea and more can certainly render the sufferer incapable of making the types of decisions that rest on the Presidency. That’s okay if the decision isn’t imminent – but in the case that it is, what would be the choice? That she makes a wrong decision, or that she passes the responsibility onto her VP? This isn’t to say that other presidents have served with other physical/medical challenges. Despite the very protective efforts to conceal the fact, President Reagan was suffering early alzhiemers symptoms at the end of his presidency. But does that make it right?

    I guess that the most intelligent approach is that of the comment from Craig. The campaign trail will reveal whether or not this poses a serious problem. However, I do not agree that we should all just butt out of her business should she “survive” the campaign. If she were to be elected to the highest office of this nation, her health “business” is our business. Surviving and winning the contest to get there doesn’t mean that her condition couldn’t worsen under the extreme health-challenging conditions of her duties, nor does it mean that she (or anybody) may not develop some other condition that has the potential to hinder him/her in the line of duty.

    We may live in a time when disability and medical conditions are not a cause for discrimination and are not “supposed” to hold you back from any pursuit, but I for one would prefer that the leader of this nation not suffer from certain maladies that would significantly impede his or her effectiveness. Kennedy may have had a serious and extremely painful back condition, but when the Cuban missile crisis was unfolding, he wasn’t lying in a darkened room, half sedated with pain medication – as one suffering a serious migraine would be.


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