October 17, 2022

John Fetterman

“An NBC News correspondent who interviewed Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman says an on-air remark she made about him having difficulty following part of their conversation should not be seen as a commentary on his fitness for office after he suffered a stroke…

“[Dasha] Burns’ Friday interview with Fetterman, which aired [last] Tuesday, was his first on-camera interview since his stroke. He used a closed-captioning device that printed text of Burns’ questions on a computer screen in front of him. Fetterman appeared to have little trouble answering the questions after he read them, although NBC showed him fumbling for the word ‘empathetic.’ Burns said that when the captioning device was off, ‘it wasn’t clear he was understanding our conversation.’” AP News

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From the Left

The left argues that any lingering issues Fetterman has can be mitigated through technology.

“[Aphasia is] a common stroke effect in which a person loses their ability to comprehend or express spoken words—sometimes both. That doesn’t necessarily indicate severe brain damage. ‘It’s very possible to just have trouble understanding spoken language or getting words out without any impact on cognition,’ [neurology professor Adam] de Havenon said. This would certainly seem consistent with Fetterman’s condition, given that he is able to read and respond to closed captioning…

“The campaign says that Fetterman has taken two different cognitive tests and scored ‘in the normal range’ on both. (It has released the results of one of those tests.) But the campaign has declined to release Fetterman’s full health records…

“If Fetterman is elected, [former Senate historian Donald] Ritchie told me, the secretary of the Senate will help organize the tools he’ll need for a committee hearing or floor speeches. Given how manageable these measures are, the Fetterman campaign could be more transparent about what the Democrat’s everyday life as a senator might look like.”

Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic

“On their face, [questions about the cognitive changes] are not unreasonable… [But they often] conflate the use of language-assistive devices with intellectual delays. More broadly — and especially when they’re weaponized politically, as they have been by the campaign of political rival Mehmet Oz — these questions conflate disability with weakness of character and mind

“Elected officials have demonstrated that disability can be a source of strength… Disabled policymakers have often been the ones to spearhead legislation that advances equity for people with disabilities. Bob Dole, who had sensory and movement problems in his right arm due to a wartime injury, was instrumental in passing the ADA… Former Rep. Tony Coelho, another ADA sponsor who also supported 2008 amendments that made it more inclusive, has epilepsy. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who used a wheelchair, enacted the New Deal.”

Keren Landman, Vox

“In 2016, I lost liberal friends over criticizing their constant attempts to characterize Donald Trump as mentally unfit. Today, Republicans routinely imply that President Biden has dementia and mock his stutter. Shifting the conversation from questioning the legitimacy of any accommodation to a discussion about what is and isn’t reasonable, while admittedly fraught, will allow us to confront the difficult truth about aging and generational change in our public and private lives…

“Some jobs require specific abilities that may not be replicable — yet — through technology or other adaptation. Spell-check will not help me be a fighter pilot since, as part of my dyslexia, I often can’t perceive up from down. A roofer needs to be able to climb a ladder. A condition like Alzheimer’s may have rendered Ronald Reagan unable to perform his duties as president… [But] I can read this essay because I put on my glasses. Just as John Fetterman can be a senator if he has access to captioning.”

David M. Perry, New York Times

From the Right

The right argues that Fetterman’s cognitive issues raise serious concerns about his ability to serve in the Senate.

The right argues that Fetterman’s cognitive issues raise serious concerns about his ability to serve in the Senate.

“For months, the national media has been telling us Fetterman’s campaign was completely ‘normal,’ even as video emerges of the candidate struggling to cobble two coherent sentences in succession. In September, Fetterman said that the ‘only lingering problem’ he experienced was occasionally missing a word or ‘mushing two words together.’ Yet in only a few minutes last [week], the entire left adopted a new position, denouncing any mention of his ailment as an ‘ableist’ attack…

“Fetterman is not deaf, he is unable to process spoken words because of brain damage. There’s a big difference. Some people completely recover from strokes, and some do not. We don’t know the extent of Fetterman’s problems because he won’t release his medical records. That’s his prerogative. And there is no shame in suffering a stroke. Nor is it ableist to wonder if a candidate running for the most powerful legislative body in the world is able to do his job.”

David Harsanyi, The Federalist

“For an institution once known as the ‘world’s greatest deliberative body,’ a man who cannot keep track of deliberations in real time is not an able delegate for the constituents he serves. A political campaign is a job interview, and a man with communication difficulties is no more right for a job in the Senate than a man who can’t lift an ax is right to be a lumberjack.”

Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

“Noting that pre-stroke Fetterman was better than post-stroke Fetterman at various cognitive tasks, including processing spoken words, is not ableist — it’s ‘fact-ist.’… Is it ableist to ask, ‘Are you able to competently do this job that involves, among other things, authorizing the wars of the most powerful military force in human history?’…

“[You] have to be a special kind of uncritical person to allow yourself to believe nonsense such as that there is some major social stigma against people in the middle of recovering from a stroke. Some people may accidentally and viscerally look askance at a drooping face, but it’s not really a thing. People generally wish stroke sufferers well and roughly correctly adjudge how disabled they are by the affliction and how likely they are to recover from it on what timeline. So why is it ‘ableist’ to mention that Fetterman’s stroke is a factor in thinking about his candidacy? Some members of the press just make stuff up to get Democrats elected.”

Nicholas Clairmont, Washington Examiner

“The reporters who should have spent the last several weeks reporting on Team Fetterman’s months-long attempts to dodge reporters and to refuse any transparency on his condition now are complaining about a reporter’s actual reporting. Shouldn’t they be complaining about their own lack of access and Fetterman’s attempts to hide from them? Wouldn’t they do that if the candidate involved was anything but a Democrat? Instead of asking questions about Fetterman, these ‘journalists’ appear much more concerned about protecting him in the final weeks of the campaign.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

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