When An Unfinished Life, Robert Dallek’s acclaimed biography of John F. Kennedy, came out in 2003, there was a lot of discussion about new details Dallek had unearthed about the president’s health. Some commentators angrily suggested that it was wrong for the public to have been kept in the dark about Kennedy’s medical problems. I’m not so sure: Did they want to give up Camelot because JFK suffered from Addison’s disease?
Actually, I would have been more than happy to take a pass on Camelot. But not because of the president’s health, which, in the end, proved absolutely irrelevant to history. Michele Bachmann’s recently revealed migraine headaches may or may not be relevant. If the headaches are discussed in the political arena, I hope the public will focus on whether the migraines are serious enough to impede her job performance and not get stuck on the mere fact that she has them.
We’re much too interested in meaningless gaffes these days, to the exclusion of the candidate’s character and philosophy. As somebody who thought that Tim Pawlenty’s economic policies were attractive, I was sorry to see him try to capitalized on the leaked headache story. Jennifer Rubin wrote about Pawlenty’s strange reaction:
First, he deferred to the doctors. “Tim Pawlenty demurred Tuesday when asked whether voters should take into account Michele Bachmann’s debilitating migraines when making their decision on who to nominate, saying he’d leave an assessment up doctors.” Then he needled her in a subsequent comment: “All of the candidates I think are going to have to be able to demonstrate they can do all of the job all of the time. There’s no real time off in that job.” Well, that’s the point of those digging up the medical information on her, right?
We don’t know who dug up Bachmann’s medical records, but we do know that other campaigns that were asked (Huntsman, Romney, and Santorum) said that the migraines don’t matter. In appearing to try to take advantage of something that probably doesn’t matter, Pawlenty did nothing more than create a small headache for his own campaign.