Why the Michele Bachmann Hit Piece Was Wrong

Why the Michele Bachmann Hit Piece Was Wrong July 19, 2011

I started my day today writing perhaps the most strident blog post I’ve ever written. I called it “The Betrayal of Michele Bachmann” and posted it in the Corner.  I was responding to the Daily Caller’s anonymously-sourced allegations that Michele Bachmann is “incapacitated” by migraines she attempts to control though “heavy pill use” and pulled out (by my standards) all the rhetorical stops.  I said the sources  — former aides — were “cowardly,” called their betrayal “disgusting,” and even threw in a few exclamation points.

Why get upset?  It’s politics, after all, what should I expect?  As one commenter succinctly stated, “Heat. Kitchen.”  I can also understand Ramesh Ponnuru’s argument — if the story is true, then inquiry is legitimate.  Yet we’re so far from legitimate inquiry that we can’t see it with the Hubble telescope.  And the reasons are simple: cowardice and evidence.

I don’t use the word cowardice lightly.  Here we have former aides who say they’re “terrified” by her condition.  They even deliberately chose to say that she’s “incapacitated” for days at a time and made vague accusations about pill use.  Yet they can’t even muster up the courage to identify themselves?  If the stakes really are so high, surely their patriotism would compel them to come forward so that we can ask some questions, weigh their credibility, and discern whether they had enough access to the candidate to know what she’s endured.  By remaining anonymous we can’t cross-examine them (so to speak) and discover the truth.

Then there’s the evidence.  Or lack thereof.  Anonymous aides expressed terror at her condition, yet if you read the entire article you’ll find that she allegedly missed a grand total of one planned campaign event . . . in 2010.  A second lurid tale concerns a migraine so bad that she merely “managed to attend several events in California, including an appearance before a California chapter of the Eagle Forum and a fundraiser in Palm Springs.”  Oh, but she was “in pain throughout.”  Nice to know.

Look, I’m not naive.  I know that politics is a messy business and that reporters often live or die by anonymous sources.  But we don’t have to play by those rules.  We don’t have to stand by while honorable people are smeared by individuals who don’t have the courage to be named or the evidence to support their allegations.

Michele Bachmann has a personal story that Hollywood would love if she were liberal.  A mother of five took in foster child after foster child, grew alarmed at the poor quality of their mandatory public education, and then launched herself into the political process to improve their lives.  They’d pitch Julia Roberts for the part if Bachmann had only been crusading against a power plant or land development.  As it is, she has to settle for the Palin treatment — from the Left and the Right.

Whether it’s Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, human beings deserve better treatment, but they’ll never receive it if we acquiesce to the politics of the gutter.

One final note: Before I get too carried away by exclamation points, I need to remember this cautionary tale:

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  • Derek Wain

    Excellent blog by David French.
    BTW, the unsourced migraine smear was publicized by ABC’s Brian Ross. The report comes from a disgruntled, anonymous former staffer. Brian Ross provided no sourcing for his anonymous pejorative. That is how the MSM jackals operate.
    This unsourced migraine smear was publicized by ABC’s Brian Ross. The report comes from a disgruntled, anonymous former staffer. Brian Ross provided no sourcing for his anonymous pejorative. That is how the MSM jackals operate.

  • teapartydoc

    It’s probably a good thing this comes out now, so it can be gotten out of the way. I don’t think folks are going to be making their minds up over something like this. Just about everyone has a friend who suffers from migraines, and sees how many of these folks demonstrate levels of determination that few of us can match.

  • amrobinson

    How press standards have progressed!
    Consider how the press refused to cover JFK’s incessant back pain…or the fact that he was often zoned out on prescription meds as a result.

  • andycanuck

    If you Google something like “bachmann gets note from doctor” you’ll find a link to a short Atlantic Wire report of Congress’s doctor clearing Bachmann of the accusations. I hit it earlier today at Instapundit or Ace of Spades HQ.

  • Watson

    While this whole thing does raise one’s hackles I have to admit I don’t understand the extreme angst over this. It may have been a sleazy hit piece (probably) and maybe not. Fortunately it’s the sort of thing that can be settled factually. That should be done with dispatch.

  • Assemblage

    Your pragmatism and skepticism are well placed (and lend credibility to your assessment). I found a high degree of parallel between Bachmann’s situation and mine in the Fortune 250. As one who works for a “transformational female executive,” my boss (a senior vice president) has many parallels to Michelle. Innovative, creative, self-driven, family-focused but completely comfortable not only hanging with the executive vice president boys club, but showing them a thing or two (and as such, becoming the person they go to for a major area of expertise respective to the company’s brand), she’s been a remarkable leader for us.

    And as such, she’s human. She heads to bed at 8 p.m. (something shocking to this night owl executive of hers), knowing her limits. A few executives have called her antisocial. Others have suggested more sinister causes — “doctor’s prescriptions that she take her meds and get to bed” (absolute nonsense, but you have to expect this fiction-making). She gets up early, which is regarded as a pathalogical problem. “Normal people aren’t up at 4… she’s probably manic.”

    At some point, you have to arrive at not one but two conclusions:

    1) to be human is to be abnormal. The concept of an ideal Human is actually quite fascist, akin to eugenics and Nazi experimentation. We should call those out who even touch on this region of thought for requiring purity in genetics, death camps and piles of dead, inferior humans when they require a “normal human” in their speech.

    2) to be “normal” is to be either dishonest or utterly boring: What the experiment of the USSR, Mao’s China, and Progressive Socialist Germany showed us was that it is terrible to expect sameness and boringness, but more importantly to our contemporary political and economic collapse, sameness provides no opportunity for a creative path forward. Those who condemn Bachmann and demand a Uniformity are not only fascists, but they’re boring, uninteresting fascists who destroy the creative capacity of art and experimentation. Germany screwed itself sending its nonconformists to the ovens. While Obama might like to place the gays and teabaggers in the modern analog of the Easy Bake Oven, if really given the chance (and throw in a few Jews to help us finally find peace in the middle east), he would irradiate the potentiality for creative solutions to arise — solutions our contemporary crisis requires should we avoid a return to the dark ages.

    Society needs to condemn those who demand compliance and sameness. The problems we must collectively overcome require the full diversity and uniqueness of being presented in the multiplicitous society we’ve become.

  • First I believe that all candidates for President/VP should release their health records. JFK’s serious medical problems, beyond his back injury, and his legal drug taking while President, drugs reportedly that impacted judgment, were not revealed until much after his death. Neither candidate Obama or Kerry, to my knowledge, has released a detail health record nor any information about if Obama still uses legal or illegal drugs. Just saying, what is good for one is good for all.

    I would be more worried about past cocaine use than present migraine headaches, but maybe that is just me. Possible side effects of the drug of choice for migraines, triptans, include nausea, dizziness and muscle weakness. Not exactly mind altering or thought process inhibiting reactions. Remember in the past appointees were disqualified for MJ use in college but I don’t remember any appointee withdrawing/rejected because of medical problems.
    I would be more worried about cocaine use than migrane headaches. Remember in the past appointees were disqualitified for MJ use in college but I don’t remmeber any appointee withdrawing because of a medical problem.

  • richard40

    I agree it is a thinly sourced hit piece, but that goes with the territory. Since it is a question that is easy to settle factually, it might actually help her, if she puts out evidence to completely disprove that her migraines have ever afffected her judgement or performance. And it is better it comes out now, than late in the election. Lot of people either have migraines, or know somebody who does, and know they can be effectively dealt with. It has the added benefit of giving her press team experience at effective responding to baseless attacks, and if proven false, will somewhat discredit her accusers, and therefore make future charges less beleivable.