Michele Bachmann is not my ideal presidential candidate by any means. But watching what she and her family are now having to endure – from, as Jonathan noted, the report in the Daily Caller about Representative Bachmann frequently suffering from stress-induced migraine headaches which have led to hospital visits and involves heavy pill use to control her condition; to the twisted and perverted attacks on her during the Bill Maher Show; to allegations that her husband is a repressed gay man — is a reminder of how brutal the presidential nominating process can be.
Obviously a serious medical condition would be relevant information to know prior to people casting votes. Ms. Bachmann has responded to the Daily Caller story, saying, “Like nearly 30 million other Americans, I experience migraines that are easily controlled with medication…. I have prescribed medication that I take whenever symptoms arise and they keep the migraines under control. 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.”
This story obviously isn’t over; we’ll be hearing more about Bachmann’s medical condition in the days and weeks ahead. My point is simply that in this country, more than most, we demand that those who seek to lead us be put through the kind of intense examination of our lives that would unnerve most ordinary people.
It’s not simply that one should expect that every misstep and error in judgment in one’s life will be revealed and covered; it is that cartoon images, false stories, and scurrilous rumors have a way of breaking through as well. “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” Winston Churchill said even before the Internet age. And no candidate of either party is given a free pass, though there’s no question in my mind that certain figures (like Bachmann and Sarah Palin) trigger a somewhat sickening obsession and pathological hatred among some people.
Here’s the other thing: You can warn candidates what to expect in advance — but there’s nothing that can prepare you for being at the center of the storm. The people who run for president are expected to go through a lot. Sometimes I wonder if they’re expected to go through too much, and as a result of it our politics and society suffer.
In watching what Ms. Bachmann is having to endure Governor Mitch Daniels, who decided against running for president for personal reasons, may decide that he made the right decision after all. When the nominating process begins to push away good people, it’s a shame for them, and for us.