Questions about whether Michele Bachmann’s headaches should disqualify her for office may be of dubious validity, but are they sexist? I don’t think so.
In case you’ve missed the media storm du jour, the Daily Caller reported Monday night that Bachmann suffers from incapacitating migraines, and engages in “heavy pill use” to combat them. This has spurred, among other things, cries of sexism.
Fox News Channel host Martha MacCallum, for example, said that “it does feel sexist … Has anyone asked this of the male candidates out there? Do you have any medical issues that you think we should know about?” (As a side note, asking candidates such questions about medical issues is, I think, fairly routine and legitimate.)
Monica Crowley, a conservative talk show host appearing with MacCallum, chimed in, “This does smack of that old school ‘Woman As Hysteric’ kind of thing.” ( h/t GOP12)
Well not so fast. Here’s what the Caller reported:
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.’
Here’s a simple sexism test. Replace reference to Bachmann with references to, say, Mitt Romney. Would a story saying that Romney “frequently suffers from stress-induced medical episodes” that “incapacitate” him for "days at a time" get the same attention? I should think so.
Now, does that mean that the Caller story has merit? That’s trickier. It’s legitimate … if it’s legitimate. In other words if she really is “frequently … incapacitated” for days at a time then, yes, that’s a legitimate line of inquiry. But if it’s a case of occasional migraines getting blown out of proportion by anonymous, embittered former staffers, that’s something else entirely.
Then there are the pills. “The migraines are so bad and so intense, she carries and takes all sorts of pills,” a source tells the Caller. "Prevention pills. Pills during the migraine. Pills after the migraine, to keep them under control. She has to take these pills wherever she goes.”
Well. “Pills” could be anything from aspirins to greenies. Lots of people take pills on a regular basis—taking pills is not in and of itself disqualifying or even troubling. If there were any evidence to suggest that these pills could affect her judgment that would be a different question, but the Caller story doesn't have it.
One final issue here that the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza notes, that this isn’t the first time former Bachmann aides have badmouthed her to the press:
A cavalcade of disgruntled former aides (are there ever “gruntled” former aides?) willing to go public with questions and criticisms of Bachmann is decidedly problematic for her presidential candidacy.
After all, if those who know (or knew) her best lack faith in her ability to do the job effectively, it will almost certainly force voters to re-examine their first, generally positive impressions of her.
Indeed, with friends like that, who needs migraines?