Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Minority Leader, has been in the news recently for apparently freezing in the middle of a public speaking appearance. He has had two separate events, one in July 2023 and another in August 2023. Each time, he froze for about 30 seconds and was seemingly unable to speak. He seemed to be staring into space and unaware of his surroundings. Aids came to his side and assisted him away from the lectern. In both cases, he recovered to his normal self briefly.
Of course, this draws much attention from the media and his political opposition. Many questioned his fitness to continue his duties as a US Senator. Other political figures are facing the same scrutiny. John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just before being elected, often struggled and could not work due to his condition. Diane Feinstein, who was 90 years old at the time of this writing, has been less than alert and attentive in public. President Joe Biden has also garbled words and struggled to speak in complete sentences numerous times.
Aside from politics, Fetterman’s condition has a clear cause and explanation. And Feinstein and Biden seem to be victims of natural age-related mental deterioration. McConnell may be suffering from natural slowing of brain function due to age, but something seems different. There is no intent here to opine about their ability to function effectively in their positions.
What’s different about McConnell’s freezes? Mitch McConnell’s issues seem to have surfaced rather quickly and recently as opposed to Feinstein and Biden, who have been slowly declining for quite some time. The faster onset increases the likelihood that the seizures may be related to a condition or event that has developed or recently worsened to the point it is now affecting his ability to function normally.
Mitch McConnell was hospitalized in March 2023 after tripping at a Washington DC Waldorf Astoria hotel dinner event. He took a hard fall and reportedly suffered broken ribs and a concussion. After a few days in the hospital, he recovered sufficiently, so doctors released him. This event is of interest because there were no reports of seizures or freezes before the fall. And it was just a little over three months later when the freezes in public first occurred. In all fairness, we don’t know if he had any issues before the fall, and we also don’t know how many other freezes or seizures he may have experienced that were not in public view. It is entirely possible that more of these events have happened and were never disclosed.
Mitch McConnell’s seizures are consistent with what the medical community calls “absence seizures,” also known as “petit mal seizures.” While this type of seizure is most common in children under 14, it can occur in adults. Potential causes of adult seizures include high blood pressure, heart disease, brain infections, and inflammation, such as encephalitis.
An interesting fact is traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are known to cause seizures in some cases. Also, it can take many days or weeks for seizures to occur after a TBI. In most cases, the seizures are helped by medication. Since Mitch McConnell’s seizures only last for a brief time and he seems to recover quickly, we cannot conclude that he cannot perform his job. More seizures may occur, and news media may report them repeatedly, but this does not indicate that he can’t function normally most of the time.
Mitch McConnell receives the best medical attention, and his doctors know more than we or the media about his condition. So, it is best not to speculate on his diagnosis or prognosis. From a political perspective, you can evaluate him based on whether you support his policies and agenda. The fact that he had a fall and has experienced some brief seizures should not determine your opinion of his ability to represent the people of Kentucky at this time. There are numerous cases of people experiencing seizures from time to time. There are certain jobs that they cannot perform, such as driving a bus or operating potentially dangerous equipment. The job of a US Senator is extremely important, but an occasional seizure probably doesn’t disqualify them.