As Samuel Johnson once observed, sometimes the value of the remarkable reflects a thing not done well but done at all. That’s true of John Fetterman’s return to the campaign trail this weekend, months after suffering what could have been a disabling or life-threatening stroke. It has become clear that Fetterman’s injury was much more severe than his campaign let on.
That makes Fetterman’s rally appearance a real accomplishment all on its own, and a good development for Fetterman’s personal health. However, a very dicey performance left some of his followers concerned that Fetterman may not be up for the election — and that his condition is still worse than they were led to believe, ABC News reports:
Dressed in a hoodie and flanked by his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, at a convention center in Erie, Fetterman discussed his stroke and threw jabs at his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, in front of an energized crowd his campaign said exceeded 1,300 people.
The lieutenant governor briefly paused in the middle of several sentences and sometimes repeated words. In an interview last month with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he said he was working with a speech therapist and insisted he had “nothing to hide” regarding his health.
That’s not what this clip suggests (via Twitchy):
John Fetterman is not okay. pic.twitter.com/3xiQwiBaT3
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) August 15, 2022
Again, considering how this stroke might have turned out for Fetterman, this is a pretty good outcome. However, that doesn’t mean that Fetterman has recovered well enough from his stroke to handle a stressful campaign, let alone six years in a physically and mentally demanding job in the US Senate.
This performance raised questions in the minds of Fetterman’s fans as well as those who might oppose his bid for office:
Some attendees told ABC News after the event they believed Fetterman did not look fully healthy.
Mark Rathi, 62, of Crawford County, said the candidate “seemed a little bit off his game” before adding that he supported Fetterman because of how he connects with people. …
Bob Nierakto, 81, of Erie, said he was “disappointed” in what he called Fetterman’s lack of energy.
“It doesn’t matter why he lacked the energy. He just has to have it,” he said. “I was looking for the fire, I was looking for the passion, I was looking for the enthusiasm, and I was looking for him to nail it. And he didn’t nail it,” said Nierakto, adding that he was committed to voting for Fetterman in November.
Will Fetterman improve over the next few weeks? Perhaps, and no one’s rooting against that. However, Fetterman’s speech and his lack of coherence in these clips were noticeable enough to alarm the voters who came out to this Erie rally, who are already inclined to support him no matter what. If Fetterman continues to make public appearances where he can’t remain coherent through a speech, his campaign will face some hard questions about whether he’s actually healthy enough to run, let alone serve. And they may face even more questions about their honesty over the past couple of months, during which Pennsylvania Democrats could have made arrangements for a replacement candidate that is healthier for both efforts.