Bachmann “incapacitated” by migraines?

posted at 10:55 am on July 19, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

The Daily Caller’s Jonathan Strong drops a bombshell on the Michele Bachmann campaign today with a report that migraines incapacitate the presidential hopeful on a regular basis.  The headline also alleges “heavy pill use,” a loaded phrase that insinuates some sort of addiction — an insinuation that the story fails to support.  An unknown number of unnamed sources form the basis of this story:

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.”

What are the examples of Bachmann being “incapacitated” by her migraines?  Strong only offers one — a missed campaign appearance for then-Rep. Roy Blunt in his ultimately successful Senate campaign.  She was treated at a hospital and went home the same day.  The only other incidents cited by Strong’s report came two months earlier, an episode that caused her to miss … er … no appearances, although she did visit an urgent-care center, and another event in October of last year, in which she laid down for a while and went to urgent care for treatment later.

The “heavy use of pills” would be familiar to anyone who deals with migraines, but Strong’s description sounds more like someone who actively manages their medical condition rather than being the second coming of Neely O’Hara from Valley of the Dolls:

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.

Her husband helps his wife manage her medical issues — and that’s a surprise?  Migraines require the kind of review described in this passage, because the conditions shift and medications don’t always provide consistent relief.  Shouldn’t someone who has migraines be in contact with her physicians to ensure that medication works as it should and that the condition doesn’t incapacitate the sufferer?  And wouldn’t it be more strange if Marcus didn’t take a supporting role in that effort?

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.  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.

The sourcing on this story doesn’t instill much confidence, either.  Strong’s cites are:

  • 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.

Strong writes that “TheDC agreed to provide the sources anonymity because they were providing information only a select group of people could know, at great professional risk.”  I’m not an idealist that says that anonymous sources should never be used, but in this story, anonymity is extremely curious.  It doesn’t protect whistleblowers calling attention to corruption or wrongdoing; it’s protecting people who didn’t like working for Bachmann.  If the former Bachmann aides fear for the Republic, why aren’t they openly speaking out?  The “great professional risk” appears to be that politicians won’t hire people who are disloyal and stab people in the back, anonymously or not.

Update: Race 4 2012 has more on Bachmann’s voting record, which also shows no evidence of incapacitation.

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