The Politics of Migraines

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann suffers from migraines. Would that affect her ability to be president?

We had a president who was confined to a wheelchair due to polio (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and a president who suffered from a variety of maladies including chronic pain and Addison’s disease (John F. Kennedy), but are we ready for a president who suffers from chronic migraines? This question has been bandied about since the publication of an online article last Monday night suggesting that Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, currently a congresswoman from Minnesota, suffers from chronic, debilitating migraines.

The article, published on the conservative website The Daily Caller, includes a number of Bachmann’s former aides anonymously attesting to the severity of her headaches. “She has terrible migraine headaches,” says one of these aides. “And they put her out of commission for a day or more at a time. They come out of nowhere, and they’re unpredictable.”

The author explains that the aides came forward out of concern that the migraines could affect Bachmann’s ability to serve as president if she were elected or work against her electoral chances if they were to be revealed in the middle of a general election campaign.

In a statement released the next day, Bachmann said that her migraines were well under control with medication and rejected the insinuation that they would affect her ability to serve as president. ““Let me be abundantly clear—my ability to function effectively has never been impeded by migraines and will not affect my ability to serve as commander in chief,” she said.

By Wednesday, Bachmann had released a letter from the attending physician of the House of Representatives attesting to her overall good health and explaining that she was able to control her migraines as needed with sumatriptan and odensetron.

Of Bachmann’s rivals for the Republican nomination, only Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, seemed to question her fitness to serve as president. “All of the candidates I think are going to have to be able to demonstrate they can do all of the job all of the time,” he said on Wednesday. “There's no real time off in that job.”

However, later in the day, he seemed to backtrack, calling the debate “a sideshow” and adding, "I've observed Congresswoman Bachmann. I've never seen her have a medical condition or impairment that would seem to be a concern."

Around the Web

Bachmann Says Migraines Won’t Be a Problem if She’s Elected President [The New York Times]

Michele Bachmann releases physician’s note on migraines [The Washington Post]

Michele Bachmann faces more migraine questions [Politico]