Amid Rep. Michele Bachmann’s surging campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination comes a revelation that the candidate suffers from severe migraine headaches. The news has mushroomed as a major political story, with prominent Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza insisting that the headaches matter.
Cillizza contends they matter largely as a question of Bachmann’s fitness for office, of whether she could do the demanding job of president were she to win the nomination and go on to defeat Barack Obama.
To be sure, I’m not going to diminish the agony that migraines cause those, like Bachmann, who suffer from them; and, certainly, the fitness-for-office issue is a key question any candidate must answer.
However, Cillizza himself notes that Bachmann immediately and unequivocally answered that question with a statement that the headaches would not prevent her from carrying out duties in the White House.
Further, he correctly points out that a number of past candidates — from Ronald Reagan to John McCain, as well as others — successfully have answered the question in the face of much more severe health issues, including cancer.
Until evidence to the contrary emerges, Bachmann’s own statement should answer any doubts about her health. She has many other questions to address which are much more important to her candidacy.
Most immediately, Bachmann has to respond to reports satisfactorily that her aides roughed up a TV reporter. Her staffers reportedly assaulted reporter ABC News reporter Brian Ross as he attempted to ask Bachmann about her migraines.
As a member of Congress who is running for president with limited executive experience at best, the way Bachmann runs her campaign matters. She needs to deal with the attack on Ross in an honest way that shows that she is accountable and in charge of her team.
Beyond the Ross attack, Bachmann has other questions to answer. Prominently among them is she needs to more fully explain her fringe position that even the House Republicans’ extreme “cut, cap and balance” budget-cutting bill doesn’t go far enough for her.
She clearly doesn’t take a potential federal default on its financial obligations seriously, even after a Republican Treasury Department official under President George H.W. Bush warned conservative lawmakers such as herself of the dire consequences such an event would unleash on the American economy.
I, for one, very much hope Bachmann wins her party’s nomination to oppose President Obama. I say that, clearly, as someone who is no fan of hers or her positions, and I do so not simply for crass political calculation based on polls which show the president trouncing Bachmann in a head-to-head match-up.
However, as a clear leader of the tea party movement, which is the dominant force aligned against the president, I would be delighted to see presidential debates in the fall of 2012 in which Bachmann must face off directly against him.
There, Bachmann hopefully would have to answer once and for all, not only for her policies, but also for such wild statements as her 2008 assertion that the president “may have anti-American views.” In proving her fitness for office, Michele Bachmann has many headaches to overcome — her migraines are the least of them.
Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article was first published as Michele Bachmann: Plenty of Headaches, But Migraines Not Among Them on Blogcritics.