When it became known that Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., gets migraine headaches, the sniping by those in the press and among Democrats reached a boil. Ironically, staunch defenders of the Americans With Disabilities Act suggested that this would be a barrier to her serving as president.
But as often happens with Bachmann, she came out a winner. She released a statement, which read in part:
“I am a wife, a mother, a lawyer who worked her way through law school, a former state senator who achieved the repeal of a harmful piece of education policy in Minnesota, and a congresswoman who has worked tirelessly fighting against the expansion of government and wasteful spending.
“Since entering the campaign, I have maintained a full schedule between my duties as a congresswoman and as a presidential candidate traveling across the nation to meet with voters in the key, early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. I have prescription 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.
“The many questions I have received on this subject have allowed me to discuss this important condition that impacts individuals in nearly one in four households. However, as a presidential candidate and office holder, I am focused on performing my job, which has never been more important given the state of our economy and the millions of Americans that are out of work. While I appreciate the concern for me and my health, the greater concern should be the debate that is occurring in Washington over whether or not we will increase our debt, spending and taxes.”
That’s about as pitch-perfect a response as you are going to find. She is forthright, and she makes her statement a bonding moment with ordinary Americans. Moreover, she stays on message, highlighting her battle against debt, excess spending and tax increases.
Tony Fratto, who served in the Bush administration and is now a communications consultant, told me, “Her pitch and discipline in delivering her message are equally impressive.” And he cracked, “Anyway, I think having extensive experience dealing with severe headaches is probably really good practice for being president!” So is the ability to rise above media sniping.
Perhaps the most un-Palin quality Bachmann possesses is her refusal to play the victim or to complain about her attackers. Instead, she has mastered the art of making them look petty and silly while reemphasizing the qualities she hopes will impress voters — tenacity, strength, a sense of humor and empathy for average Americans. As I have said many times, those expecting Bachmann to crumble under the glare of intense scrutiny are kidding themselves.
Excerpted from Jennifer Rubin’s commentary on politics and policy: washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn.