Rich Lowry / September 7, 2022

John Fetterman’s Fitness for Office Is a Legitimate Issue

He still has trouble speaking and has used closed captioning to help understand what media interviewers are saying to him over Zoom.

John Fetterman has been in elected politics for nearly 20 years, and last spring was on the cusp of taking the Democratic nomination in a very winnable Pennsylvania senate race, the political opportunity of a lifetime.

Then, he suffered a stroke. He won the nomination anyway — while in the hospital and on the same day he had a roughly three-hour operation to implant a defibrillator.

For Fetterman to have experienced a life-threatening, debilitating health event as he closed in on achieving a long-held ambition — he’d run and lost in a senate primary in 2016 — was a terrible misfortune. Everyone of good will should wish him a full and rapid recovery, and years of good health ahead.

He is not fully recovered, though. There is no doubt that his health status is an entirely legitimate issue and should be fully litigated before Pennsylvania voters choose between Fetterman and his Republican opponent, the TV doctor Mehmet Oz.

Fetterman, a former mayor and the current lieutenant governor whose left-wing politics, mountainous size and sartorial informality have made him a media sensation, has been scarce on the campaign trail. In a brief rally in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago, he at times painfully lost his way trying to deliver his riffs.

The meandering isn’t his fault, of course — it’s a symptom of his condition. Fetterman still has trouble speaking, and has used closed captioning to help understand what media interviewers are saying to him over Zoom.

This is such a concern because talking (and listening) constitutes much of the job of a U.S. senator, whether in committee hearings, on the Senate floor, in media interviews or with constituents. If his condition is anything like it is today, Fetterman would have trouble operating effectively in the senate.

Oz has been pestering Fetterman to agree to debates, which are a pretty good proxy for the kind of performance that a senator has to be routinely capable of. Oz has agreed to five invitations from various media outlets, and Fetterman none.

His reluctance to agree to what are standard events in any high-profile campaign, and quite valuable ones for voters, is telling. It doesn’t mean the Oz campaign has to be witless and cruel about it. One of the sarcastic concessions it made to Fetterman in the back-and-forth about debating was to say it’d be happy to “pay for any additional medical personnel he might need to have on standby.”

Lines like that have allowed Fetterman to play the victim, even though his campaign, in lieu of its candidate being out on the trail, has relied heavily on mockery of Oz on social media.

The debate over debates is beginning to have an impact. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette just editorialized, “Voters have a right to know whether their prospective senator can do the job — including handling the give-and-take of a vigorous debate.”

Indeed, Fetterman should have to show and not tell. It is a universal law of politics that elected officials and candidates who are ailing lie about their health, or at the very least shade the truth. Fetterman didn’t tell anyone he had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in 2017, and he and his team initially minimized the severity of his stroke and have been overly optimistic about his recovery.

Fetterman’s campaign was going to test the proposition if Bernie Sanders-style progressivism becomes more appealing when the vessel is a 6-foot-8 man with a shaved head and goatee who habitually wears hoodies — he looks more like a stevedore than a senator.

The Pennsylvania race would be much more edifying if it were a debate about the underlying issues, including Fetterman’s fashionable anti-incarceration views. First, though, it has to be established that the Democrat can debate. That he’s in this position at all isn’t fair, but he can’t sidestep elemental questions about his fitness to serve.

© 2022 by King Features Syndicate


Image of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman courtesy of Governor Tom WolfCC BY 2.0, via Flickr.

Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!


The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust, in keeping with our Military Mission of Service, are proud sponsors of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Folds of Honor, Honoring the Sacrifice, Warrior Freedom Service Dogs, Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, the Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation.

★ PUBLIUS ★

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2023 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.