The big Minnesota story du jour is about Mark Dayton’s “coming out” last week about his long battle with depression.
Bob Collins at MPR addresses the issue:
Former Sen. Mark Dayton revealed in a Sunday column that he’s suffered from alcoholism and depression. It’s now an issue in his quest to become governor. In politics, there’s often a price to be paid for honesty.
On Sunday afternoon, a Star Tribune reporter asked Dayton for more details of his admission, but Dayton reportedly said such details are “private.”
Few affliction can kill a candidacy faster than mental illness.
And it’s perhaps a shame that that’s true. Depression manifests itself in a lot of ways; it’s not infrequently linked with people who are highly intelligent, creative and capable.
In 2002, an advocacy group called the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance released a poll that showed that 24 percent of all Americans would not vote for a political candidate with a mood disorder, according to the Washington Post. An equal percentage said they “might not vote” for such a candidate.
And I’m not one of them. It’s not the illness; it’s how one deals with it. George W. Bush is a recovering alcoholic; while his presidency had its faults, they had nothing to do with his illness; the depraved reaches of the lefty fever swamp said more about themselves than about Bush when they claimed he was “obviously” drinking again.
I’m less concerned about Dayton’s depression than I am about his history of alcohol abuse; he’s been treated at least once. But again, it’s the results that count.
There are many reasons not to vote for Mark Dayton for governor; he espouses the same tax-and-spend statist liberal philosophy that has gotten so many other states into deep trouble in this recession; he will tax Minnesota business even closer to the stone age than the current Legislature has; his record in elective office – as Senator and State Auditor – has been uniformly awful; even the liberal lapdogs at Time magazine called him one of “America’s Five Worst Senators“. He’s an ineffective poltiicians with a dismal record at leadership.
That being said, I hope he stays in the race; his money and connections will drag the DFL’s decision process all the way to next September, if he wants them to. This is good.
The Star Tribune’s following up on Dayton’s acknowledgment, however, now raises another question in the governor’s race. Should all current candidates now be asked if they’re being treated for any illness or have ever been diagnosed for it?
If people believe that it’s none of our business, then Dayton’s mistake — politically speaking — was in being honest.
Well, I’m suspecting his “mistake” was being a DFLer; the timing of the story tells me (and I say this with no information to back it up – just a hunch) that one of his DFL rivals for the nomination was about to move a big story on the subject; what better time to jump ahead of a hit piece than Christmas weekend?
Again, that’s just conjecture.
What’s less speculative is the Twin Cities’ media’s disingenuity in covering the “story”. This is a media market where every aspect of Michele Bachmann’s personal and legislative lives, from her speeches to her choice draperies to the supposed inner workings of her marriage and family are virtually a cottage industry among the local mainstream (to say nothing of lefty “alternative”) media. It’s a place where the antics of Morgan Grams became front-page news at precisely the moment they had to be to affect his father Rod’s defense of his Senate seat against Dayton (even though Grams hadn’t had custody of the boy in many years). Where misinformation about Norm Coleman’s apartment was unquestioningly accepted and reprinted during the past Senate race. Business connections between GOP stalwart Tim Commers and Governor Pawlenty and then-State Auditor and current GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat Anderson got pored over by everthing the Twin Cities media had, looking for a scandal they just couldn’t quite find.
But Mark Dayton’s behavior, and the broad outlines of his medical condition, have been fairly well-known for years among the Twin Cities media. Scott Johnson wrote about this almost six years ago – and we spent an hour on the Northern Alliance Radio Network back in 2004 talking about the subject, which Scott wrote about again this past weekend:
At a charity auction in 1994 or so I won the opportunity to have Dayton take me and a friend to lunch at the Minneapolis Club. The lunch occurred toward the end of Dayton’s tenure as the Minnesota state auditor. At lunch we argued politics and found nothing on which to agree. The lunch was extremely unpleasant because Dayton seemed to be unable to disagree agreeably. Dayton nevertheless put me on his Christmas card list for roughly the next five years.
Over those five years Dayton used his Christmas cards to discuss the dissolution of his two marriages, his entry into rehabilitation for alcoholism and related therapy issues. His psychiatric challenges were no secret to the many people on Dayton’s Christmas card list, including virtual strangers like me.
In its story today, the Star Tribune reports: “People who have worked closely with Dayton or within the [Minnesota Democratic Party] said they have long known the former senator struggled with mental health issues.” Later the story adds: “Opponents — and even some supporters — have long whispered of his possible struggle with mental illness.”
This was, indeed, the basic outline of the hour we – Scott, John Hinderaker, Brian Ward and I, if memory serves – spent talking about the subject – in 2004.
Now, if Scott Johnson – a person who was at that time a person of no great media consequence, seven or eight years before Powerline made him a meta-celebrity – knew the whole story, and it’s been fairly general knowledge that everyone, but everyone close to him knew even more, then – given the Twin Cities’ media’s rigorous punctuality in investigating every wart, burp and exhalation from some other politicians, why is the “story” only now getting out?
So I have two questions:
- What did the Twin Cities media, especially those who cover politics full-time, know? And when did they know it? And why was it never deemed newsworthy?
- There was a time when the media informally swore off covering politicians’ private lives; it was a sort of unwritten agreement, which meant that President Kennedy could squire Marilyn Monroe around the White House with impunity, among many other things. Fair enough; so why has that unwritten agreement survived so long with favored DFL politicians, when it was tossed under the bus over two decades ago for the GOP?
You know what’d be cool? If we had a media that’d ask these questions…of the media!