The Affliction That Dare Not Write Its Name

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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!

30 thoughts on “The Affliction That Dare Not Write Its Name

  1. You know what’d be cool? If we had whiny conservatives who would stop whining and take deliberate, effective steps to establish a presence in the local media instead of furtively crying about it every two minutes. Speaking of which, where has Kersten been on this story?

  2. Trying to parse Tim’s last camment. By Godfrey, I think he’s admitting that the current Twin Cities Newspapers are biased in their editorial decisions.

  3. “…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?”

    Oh I dunno…maybe BECAUSE they’re DFL politicians?

  4. Tim,

    For starters: If a conservative orders a pizza in the woods, and a fabian statist isn’t there to hear it, is he still “whining?”

    I’m trying to figure out what top-flight lefty opinion-enforcer it was that told all his underlings “every time a conservative asks a question, call it “whining!””. It’s so conveniently consistent across EVERY level of lefty “thought”, and low-level lefties like Tim are so utterly incapable of independent thought, there really is no other explanation.

    I don’t care about becoming part of the local media. We – conservative bloggers and talk hosts – have an effective presence. Indeed, our presence is far, far out of proportion to our numbers and budget.

    And I don’t think “furtive” means what you think it means.

    Kersten, Schmersten. She’s a columnist. Where has every “reporter” in the Twin Cities media been? How about Rochelle Olson? Bill Salisbury? All of NPR’s stable of “non-partisan, detached” ace reporters?

  5. Here’s my question: back in 2000, Dayton had credible primary challengers. Why wasn’t this stuff discussed back then? Surely the DFL would have been better served if, say, Rebecca Yanisch had won the primary and been the beneficiary of the Morgan Grams fandango.

  6. Dayton has largey been on the political sidelines the last six years so his struggles are not as “newsworthy”. If the media makes a decision not to air out the personal pain of a semi-public figure I’m cool with that. It might suggest that the meda has a conscience – or, more likely, they couldn’t figure a way to use the story to sell more papers, pump up ratings or (even more likely) advance the agenda.

    It will be interesting to see, though, how long before someone calls for sensitivity, understanding and non-stigmatization of mental illness on one hand and in the next minute writes, “Bachmann/Palin/(insert name) is ‘teh crazy.'”

  7. Mitch Berg said:

    “Where has every “reporter” in the Twin Cities media been?”

    Well, when you’re already pretending that you have no bias or political point of view, it may not be a stretch to pretend you’re “just doing your job” when in reality you’re campaigning.

  8. ‘Whining’ more accurately describes the left’s attitude toward Limbaugh & Beck. Limbaugh & Beck don’t pretend to be objective. The Left’s whine is that they are allowed to speak at all.
    What the Right does re the media is to attempt to hold it to account to its own standards. News media; print, radio, and television, are dominated at all levels of production by liberals, yet they say they are reporting the news in an objective manner. Bullshit. Even Tim in St. Paul admits it.

  9. “The Left’s whine is that they are allowed to speak at all.”

    The right likes to pretend that the left thinks this way. [Does that count as projection, or is it only projection when the left does it to the right?]

  10. Not projection, observation AB. The Left is not fond of opposing viewpoints. There are countless examples in the 20th century where those oppoing viewpoints became fatal. Cambodia, the USSR and Cuba spring to mind.
    Are there any conservatives in America calling for a resumption of the “Fairness Doctrine”? How’s that free speech working out in America’s university system?

  11. Mitch Berg:

    “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?”

    Several of the commentators answered this rather elementary query.

    My favorite “news item” of all time was the famous hot-tub story that helped do in Cal Ludeman.

    Today I heard that (Couldn’t come up with her name) has just been confirmed as the first openly gay U.S. Marshall in (Minnesota? U.S.?) history. Makes me proud. One’s personal life is free game if it advances the agenda of the political class.

  12. If you’re at all familiar with the results of treatment of mental disorders the reluctance of voters to trust those with any reasonably recent treatment (under a decade at a minimum) is completely reasonable. Especially for someone entering into a stressful position like President. I’m related to 3 clinical psychologists and none of them is terribly optimistic on the actual state of the art in treatment.

  13. The right likes to pretend that the left thinks this way.

    Kerm kinda nailed the response. In big ways – “Fairness” Doctrine, campus speech codes, the coordinated media slander of the Tea Party rallies – and small (can any lefty commenter refer to any conservative utterance as other than “whining?”), it’s observed behavior.

    It’s not projecting; American conservatives value free speech, because when speech is free, we eventually win.

  14. You know what’d be cool? If we had whiny conservatives who would stop whining and take deliberate, effective steps to establish a presence in the local media instead of furtively crying about it every two minutes.

    You know, it’s nice to see that even the local loons are finally agreeing about the objectivity of the local media.

    But building a presence in a dying industry, hemorrhaging money and employees? Most conservatives are smarter than that.

  15. Dayton is nuts? Wow.

    He blends in so well against his natural surroundings, I would never have guessed…

  16. Yes, Jon Grunseth was chasing young girls around the pool. Hence Uncle Arnie stepped up and got elected governor.

  17. “Yes, Jon Grunseth was chasing young girls around the pool.”

    If it had been young boys, he’d-a been guaranteed a spot in DFL history….or at least a spot on the Saint Paul School board.

  18. “American conservatives value free speech, because when speech is free, we eventually win.”

    Sure, you know, cause we kept the gold standard, slavery, segregation, kept the vote from women, stonewalled product safety, stopped free universal education and prevented workers from organizing.

    Hey, it’s OK to be a conservative, kinda. But let’s not pretend you’re anything but a rearguard thrying to slow down progress.

  19. Pretty sad when all you have to reach back to the wayback machine to tar folks that were not even alive when your examples happened. Not to mention yet another demonstration that you have no idea what drives conservatives.

  20. Angryclown has to reach into the wayback machine, buzzkill, cause you wingnuts offer nothing but a superstitious clinging to the past. Whatcha got that’s new, wingnut? Oh, so you’re against health care reform? Tell it to Clinton. And LBJ. And Truman…

  21. How do you cling to the past ‘superstitiously’, Angry Clown? Maybe you meant “hateful superstitious clinging to the past”?
    You are starting to write like Penigma.

  22. No, Terry, he’s starting to write like Obama talks. Next thing you know he’ll be telling you you’re clinging to guns and religion, too. Oh wait…

  23. “You know what’d be cool? If we had a media that’d ask these questions…of the media.”

    We do. You did. Powerline has. Blogs are the next iteration of media. Dead Tree media is swirling around the bowl but it’s going down, only a matter of time.


  24. The Dayton non-story makes you wonder what the press decided was “un-newsworthy” in Obama’s bio.

  25. Yeah, Night writer was correct. It was Jon Grunseth. Sorry Mr. Ludeman.

    An earlier comment mentioned that the “story” was released by the Arne Carlson people. Perhaps so, but it got maximum coverage perfectly timed to do maximum damage to a politician that wasn’t a regular fixture in the political class. Arne Carlson is a fixture in the political class and a necessary tool in order to provide “balance” in local political commentary much like Kevin Phillips and David Gergen used to.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.