Bachmann's Staff Problems

What Women Really Think
July 19 2011 1:40 PM

Bachmann's Staff Problems

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Whether or not the Daily Caller story on Michele Bachmann’s migraines and pill use is sexist, a matter Jess and others are mulling, another problem for Bachmann is being revealed by this latest round of reporting. The story, titled “Stress-related condition ‘incapacitates’ Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged,” is sourced to three people who have worked with the presidential candidate, including an adviser and a former aide, and they are said to have stepped forward in part because “they are terrified about the impact the condition could have on Bachmann’s performance if she actually became president.” This is not the first time we have heard about Bachmann’s many disaffected aides.

Bachmann’s offices have long been known for their high turnover rate. Since she was elected to the House in 2006, Bachmann's legislative offices and her political operations combined have lost at least five chiefs of staff, a legislative director, two district directors, two press secretaries, two communications directors, a finance director, and a fundraiser. A “conservative Republican House member” told Politico in 2009 of the many departures, “When your captain’s crazy, it’s time to find a new ship.”

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Not all of the departed employees have spoken ill of Bachmann, but those who have tend to make it count. At least two former staffers have come out supporting one of Bachmann’s GOP rivals, Tim Pawlenty. One of them, former chief of staff Ron Carey, has said Bachmann lacks “any leadership experience or real results from her years in office,” and has characterized her “campaign and congressional offices as “wildly out of control.” Now we have anonymous staffers talking about the many pills Bachmann takes to manage her migraines, her hospital visits, and the fact that almost anything can cause what the Daily Caller characterizes as stress-related attacks.

To staff, Bachmann has implausibly blamed the headaches on uncomfortable high-heel shoes, but those who have worked closely with her cite stress, a busy schedule and anything going badly for Bachmann as causes.

Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart defended Bachmann, telling Politico that she’d never seen these supposedly debilitating episodes. And how long has Stewart been working for the candidate? Since June, a detail that serves merely to underscore that turnover issue.

Bachmann’s apparent failure to inspire loyalty and discipline in those who’ve worked for her does not speak well to her management style. Whether or not she’s actually out of control, those who’ve worked with her believe she is, or they want to cultivate an image that she is. Either scenario is bad news for Bachmann in her efforts to mount a strong campaign.

Libby Copeland is a writer in New York and a regular Slate contributor. She was previously a Washington Post reporter and editor for 11 years. She can be reached at libbycopeland@gmail.com.

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