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Getting Headaches and Giving Them

A Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

I've been plagued with migraines for years. So when The Daily Caller reported that GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has had severe migraines, it took my colleagues but minutes to propose that I write on the controversy.

I resisted, but this story is a big talker. I've got a personal angle. I'm a columnist. What else could I do?

Some people get migraines. Some people give them. We, the chosen few, do both.

According to The Daily Caller's anonymous sources, the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota takes medication to control her migraines -- which, she confirms, sometimes have been "incapacitating" and which her campaign denies. The unnamed sources leaked the story, they said, because they worry that Bachmann's migraines could affect her performance in office, as well as present a winning opposition issue for President Barack Obama if she were to garner the GOP nomination.

Do they have a point? I suppose. I've had days when I was in so much pain that I could not write. I wouldn't trust myself to pilot a plane.

Then again, with or without a migraine, I would have trouble keeping up with Bachmann's nonstop schedule.

This controversy takes care of itself. Bachmann faces months under the pressure cooker of high-stakes hardball presidential politics -- the mother of all migraine triggers. She's at a disadvantage. When you're running for president, you can't ask town hall sponsors to turn down the bright lights and ask participants to speak really softly.

If she can tough out the campaign despite the headaches, then she can tough out a lot. If she can't, then she loses.

Me? I am more concerned about Bachmann's promise to vote against any bill that would raise the debt ceiling. Congress bought the car years ago and put some miles on it; now Bachmann argues that it is moral to avoid the car payments. That's what scares me.

Meanwhile, this brouhaha could win Bachmann, if not support, at least sympathy. Women are likelier to get migraines than men. Many women develop migraines as they approach perimenopause. (Bachmann's doctor son said that his 55-year-old mother started getting migraines 15 years ago.) Do not think that women will read the anonymous leakers' fears about Bachmann buckling under the stress and not smell a rat -- and not just because rogue smells can be another migraine symptom.

Remember that old argument that a woman could not be president because she would have trouble keeping her cool during "that time of the month"? Brace yourself. In this election cycle, that mothballed idea has morphed into migraines and menopause.

The old menstrual cycle argument was based on the notion that women are too emotional for high office but that men do not lose their cool. (It helps if you don't know any men.) Now comes the migraine argument, used by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also a GOP White House hopeful. He told reporters, "There's no real time off in that job."

Apparently, Western civilization would crumble if a female president spent an afternoon on a couch with a cold washcloth on her forehead, because then she wouldn't be able to play golf, pose for a photo opportunity or campaign for re-election like your usual president.

Oh, and, Gov. Pawlenty, if you're worried about a candidate's not being able to govern 24/7, don't play hockey.


See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

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