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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bachmann Agonistes

It’s been a rocky personal week for presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. First she’s had to endure steadily growing mockery from TV personalities aimed at her husband’s alleged effeminacy and/or ambivalent sexuality. Now the Daily Caller has published a piece based on unnamed former staffers’ accounts suggesting she has “debilitating” bouts of migraine headaches triggered by stress or adversity and consumes a heavy diet of pills to deal with this or related conditions.
I’m demonstrably not a fan of the wacky Minnesotan, whose views offend me on religious as well as moral and political grounds. But I’m sympathetic to her on these specific “issues.” I used to half-jokingly say we needed a constitutional amendment to ban public references to the families of politicians, by the politicians or by anyone else. So who cares what somebody’s “gaydar” says about Marcus Bachmann, and who cares whether his reportedly atavistic views on gay sexuality reflect hypocrisy, repressed desires, or just good old-fashioned ignorance and bigotry? Aren’t Michele Bachmann’s own views on these subjects sufficient to establish that anyone opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation should probably look elsewhere for a presidential candidate? Leave her husband alone.
As for the “revelation” of Bachmann’s alleged “disability” and treatment for it, it’s worth noting at this point that the author of this story, Jonathan Strong, and his publisher, Tucker Carlson, have a bit of a history of making distorted mountains out of molehills. I can barely read their stuff without being deafened by the sound of axes being ground and website hits being cynically generated. More importantly, Strong’s account is much heavier on innuendo than facts. It’s a bit hard to credit the idea that Bachmann has been disappearing regularly for extended periods of time. She is, after all, rather conspicuous. And the supposed concerns of her staffers (or the writer egging them on) about Bachmann’s pill use may simply reflect the ignorance of the young about how many medications it takes to treat migraines, or for that matter, many other non-debilitating ailments common among people Bachmann’s age (I know whereof I speak, having just bought one of those big plastic pill organizers myself).
In any event, her response stoutly denied the claims she is disabled by migraines or gobbling handfulls of pills, and shrewdly identifies her with “the 30 million other Americans [who] experience migraines that are easily controlled with medication.” That’s a whole lot more people than the readership of the Daily Caller.
UPDATE: Now a story has broken that Bachmann’s staff allegedly roughed up ABC reporter Brian Ross when he pursued the candidate towards her car after an event with follow-up questions (which she ignored) on the migraine allegations.
It will be interesting to see how Team Bachmann handles this potentially bad story. Bachmann has often been unfairly conflated with Sarah Palin. I’ve argued that one difference between the two social conservative Tea Party women is that Bachmann is far less prone than Palin to rely on victimization narratives to rally her supporters. If this latest contretemps had involved Palin, there is zero doubt her supporters would instantly turn it into yet another tale of St. Joan of the Tundra being persecuted by the lamestream media. Bachmann could do the same thing–or she could just apologize, repeat her response to the underlying allegations, and move on.

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