McCain’s Maverick Left Eye & A History of Presidential Infirmity

McCain’s Maverick Left Eye and a History of Presidential Infirmity

A few perceptive bloggers have commented on Sen. John McCain’s left eye and its tendency to buck the facial party line and do its own thing. In essence it is lately forging its own path – it is becoming clearer that McCain the Maverick may have a maverick left eye. Of course the significance here is that it calls further into question McCain’s health concerns. The maverick left eye of the maverick right-winger has some bloggers speculating about the possibility of a recent stroke. More to the point, this last bout of rumors calls into question McCain’s refusal to release his medical records as well as his choice of successor in V.P. running mate Gov. Sarah Palin. It may seem as if McCain’s health is receiving more-than-usual attention. Yet, these concerns are exacerbated by the fact that, if elected, McCain would be the oldest ascending president in American history. In fact he’d be older than reigning geriatric champ Ronald Reagan by nearly a full presidential term – and it is widely believed the younger Reagan may have suffered dementia for at least part of his administration. So, perhaps such medical scrutiny is warranted. Moreover, it is a perfect time to delve into our presidential past and dig up health records for some of our commanders-in-chief.

Presidential health concerns go all the way back to our humble beginnings as an upstart young nation. Throughout our history the Presidents’ true medical condition has always been kept from the public until after they’ve departed the highest office. But since the beginning there have been concerns. Even our, now seemingly immortal, Founding Fathers had serious medical issues. Our first president didn’t have it too bad. George Washington’s worse affliction was rotten teeth. Everyone’s heard about his wooden dentures. As the richest man in the country, he did not have to rely on comprehensive dental coverage either. His successor John Adams however didn’t have it so lucky. It is now widely believed by historians he suffered from depression. Although Adams lived to a ripe old age, doctors prescribed a diet of toast and milk. He maintained this diet for fourteen years. No wonder he was depressed. Actually depression has been quite common among our presidents. It seems all that responsibility takes its toll. Calvin Coolidge reportedly slept eleven hours a day – a result of his personal battle with depression. If George Bush’s recent appearance is any indication, he probably tries to hide under the covers as much as possible, too.

A healthy looking candidate is no safe bet either, as seemingly hale and hearty presidents have simply dropped dead. Zachary Taylor fell stone cold after eating a Fourth of July dessert. Gastroenteritis they called it, some claim assassination by poison. William Harrison died of pneumonia after serving only one month. When it’s your time, it’s your time. Often presidents suffered long battles with medical malaises. John Kennedy appeared vibrant and strong, but in fact he endured a long list of ailments. He was under constant medical supervision and treatment. Chester A. Arthur probably suffered the most painful affliction – Bright’s Disease. His years in the White House were excruciating, as the inflammation of his kidneys left him gasping for breath, chronically feverish and physically ballooned from retained body fluids.

William H. Taft suffered from a condition probably most relevant to modern Americans – hyper-obesity. He weighed in at over 400 lbs. This condition caused hypersomnolence – he’d fall asleep mid-conversation, sometimes with foreign heads of state. This was a guy that would love our America today. He’d no doubt be a Wal-Mart-and-back-in-time-for-Rachel-Rae-and-bon-bons kind of guy. However, just as he was a larger-than-life man, he was a larger-than-life public servant. Despite his obesity, he can boast a tireless record of service to our country. He was provincial governor of the Philippines and Cuba (think Bremer in Iraq). He served as U.S. Solicitor General and Secretary of War (think Paul Clement and Donald Rumsfeld). He of course served as our 27th president and then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (think John Roberts… if he ate David Souter). Imagine all those people rolled up into one man. One very large man. McCain should be inspired by Taft’s ability to overcome his health issues. Yet there are two presidents in particular whom John McCain can look to for even more inspiration. The two presidents who rose above their poor health to lead our country when we needed them most were Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was in such obvious dire-straits healthwise that he purposely chose the highly popular and uncontroversial Harry Truman as his running mate. FDR worried that he wouldn’t live through his final term and he wanted to leave the country in good hands. Clearly, McCain has courageously considered this stark reality himself with his practical selection of the proven leader Sarah Palin.

As for Woodrow Wilson, he serves as an even clearer example of how best McCain can serve his country with complete disregard for his poor health. Surprisingly, this is not in reference to Wilson’s most obvious health concern – his bad teeth. Washington already proved you don’t need any teeth to lead the country, not when we have good, solid Yankee hickory. Wilson proved you can still lead, though every tooth in your skull is rotted and black. These two exemplars will serve McCain well as he too is a dentally-challenged individual. This too has not gone unnoticed within the blogosphere. No, we are not speaking about Wilson’s “busted grill”, nor McCain’s. Unbeknown to the nation, Wilson also suffered a stroke late in his presidential term. It is now thought to have been a seriously debilitating stroke, all but incapacitating the president. However, Wilson, like McCain, had a second wife and she, also like McCain’s, was very strong willed. She took on a “stewardship” role in her husband’s presidency. She is often considered more than just a first lady but “the first lady to lead our government” and often referred to as “the first female president”. In fact, she shrewdly kept V.P. Thomas Marshall from assuming power. As Wilson was essentially out-of-commission, his wife did more than stand by her man – she stood in for her man.

The presidency has been frought with illness and disease and, in at least one case, clinical insanity. Clearly health is no rationale reason to discount a candidate. No matter how critical John McCain’s real medical condition might be, the American people can be assured through our own history. Like FDR, McCain has chosen a proven leader, loved by all, to ease any devastating, unfortunate transition. And like Ellen Wilson, Cindy McCain has the grit to step in and take over should a stroke or any other malady incapacitate her husband. Either way, he is surrounded by two strong-willed, capable women – both undoubtedly ready to be the next president in one way or another. So, there is no need to worry about that little maverick left eye.

Peter J. Burns

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RNC: McCain’s Speech – 4 More Wars! 4 More Wars! 4 More Wars!

I have to admit, I was getting a little worried there for a while about the newfound excitement growing behind the McCain/Palin ticket. But then John McCains spoke. I will sleep better than I have since Grandpappy Fred delivered his speech two nights ago. I think the scene that captured it all best was when the cams were panning the audience after Cindy McCain’s speech. It settled on an attractive young blonde woman with unbelievably large black buttons on her sweater. She was full-on yawning. Mouth wide, no hand-cover, no apologies. Just flat-out yawning. Then, when she was done, she broke out into a second gaping yawn. The camera operator must have realized his shot was live and he quickly panned left. I was left wondering if that poor girl, with the oversized black buttons might have yawned herself to death.

All this was going on while they were playing Chuck Berry’s Johnny Be Good, one of many great songs that are now forever ruined in my mind by the RNC. Can Kool and the Gang and Heart get together and sue the RNC for damages. I bet Ann and Nancy Williams will never play Barracuda live again. As I saw the poor girl yawning to Johnny Be Good I was wondering why they chose this song. Was it to try to remind McCain to please try to hold his temper? It almost worked.

He smiled his way through his introduction, his approach to the podium, and the longwinded cheering. It was about the third wave of applause and cheers that his old temper looked like it was about to take over. Then the USA chants started in and I swear I heard him growl just a bit. I thought for sure he was about to reflexively let out a “SHUT UP!” But then he seemed to realize he was neither in a closed committee hearing, or standing on the floor of Congress, so he politely reeled in the rage. He should have yelled for the crowd to shut up. They say a speech should have a strong introduction and that would have certainly been a strong introduction. The intro he went for instead, was not. That set the tone for, pretty much, the rest of the speech.

But I will say now in his defense that as boring and unmoving as his speech was, it sounded like a JFK, MLK and Obama oration all wrapped into one compared to his wife’s. What can I say about Cindy McCain’s speech that a corpse couldn’t explain better? I was struck by this notion: the late great Tammy Faye would have been pleased with Cindy’s appearance. And I would have to agree. She did not look like some canary-colored Vampiress tonight like she did last night alongside Mrs. Bush. She told some heart-warming stories about her understanding of impoverished nations and their people. I hope she donated her $300,000 getup form the previous night to the people of Bangledesh. They could make a tent out of her de la Renta when those pesky monsoons come. Sadly, she didn’t confirm or deny if her husband did in fact drop the C-bomb on her. And, in her defense her make-up didn’t seem “painted on”, nor did she look like a trollop (though if she did, no one but John and his 96 year old mother would think to use that word to describe her). She spoke without saying anything. She smiled without seeming kind or nice. Basically she left me with the same feeling I get every time I hear her speak or see her walk into a room: fear. She reminds me of the Snow Queen from Narnia, ready to cast the world into an icy frozen existence while her army of snow leopards wreaks havoc on all the innocent little deer of the world. But that’s just me.

John’s speech wasn’t THAT bad. It wasn’t much better though. He was introduced by a voice over from none other than Grandpappy Fred, which made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I felt safe and wondered if summer might not last forever. Before that, I saw a video which taught me a lot about John McCain. Not that he was a POW. I have heard that countless times. I get it. I appreciate it. John is a hero. But do I have to give over my country and my civil liberties. Just because he was a prisoner, do we all have to be? No I knew John’s war record. I didn’t know his father’s (not to that degree anyway), nor did I know his grandfather. Both 4 star military men. That’s when it hit me. The White House is John’s 4 stars. He couldn’t get them with is injuries and all, so he’s going to outdo his forefathers by getting promoted even higher than they ever did. It’s an old macho ambition thing! Now I get it! That’s why he sacrificed his own will in selecting Lieberman or Ridge for Palin. That is why he wouldn’t budge on an unjust war no matter how the real intelligence changed. Ambition. Blind, dangerous Ambition. It all makes sense now. Like Bush, McCain has Daddy Issues. Great! We can all pay the price for those, too!

The speech itself was not only a snoozer in its delivery, but in content as well. And I am not talking about vocabulary, though someone needs to tell Mr. McCain, and Mrs. Palin for that matter, that the word is pundit, not ‘pundint’. But that is a trifle. I mean the real content – all the stuff that makes a simple speech into a hearty stew. This speech was a watery, salty, bitter porridge that left me feeling like little waifish Oliver wanting “more sir”. The most significant thing he said in this speech was that the Republican party has been ruined to its core by corruption. He admitted that they – I presume he meant him and Strom Thurmond – had all gone to Washington 120 years ago to change Washington, “but Washington changed them.” Now he was proposing to fix it… as a Republican. Isn’t that like a cop saying he’s going to clean up the streets by dealing crack for the gang-bangers?

Other than his accurate assessment of the Republican party, there was little meat at all in his speech. There was an attempt to liven it up about half way through. Good speeches often rely on repetition. McCain tried a variation on this method at one point. He tried to mix in a simple equation with the repetition. The equation looks a little like this: “My [insert your policy here] will [insert something good here].” Then add, “His [insert your opponent’s policy here] will [insert something bad here]. The result should be a volley of “Yays” and “Boos” respectfully allotted to you and then your opponent. McCain failed to set the equation up well and it wasn’t until he’d nearly run though his list of inserts that the crowd knew when to “Yay” or “Boo”. It all sounded confused and a little awkward. I figured by then, the girl with the big black buttons was dead asleep in a corner somewhere.

Speeches are supposed to have attention-getting intros; this one didn’t. They are also supposed to have rousing endings; this one did! It sure was rousing alright. It got me so excited; I wanted to run out and punch my neighbor in the head! McCain got the repetition trick right at the closing of his speech. He decided to repeat the word “fight” over and over. This is a great tactic as almost all of us, unless home-schooled, have a memory from childhood of a playground scuffle where the fight-fight chant stirred great emotion in us – either because we were getting pummeled, we were pummeling or we were watching one of our friends either getting pummeled or pummeling someone. Well, there weren’t too many home-schoolers in that audience, I can tell you. Everyone went wild for the fight-fight-chant. I did too. And I will tell you something else. I don’t even know who he was asking us to fight, but I was all for it. Obama and Biden? Sure, fight ‘em! Big Oil? Sure, I’ll fight them too! The Iranians? Fight ‘em! The Russians? Hell yes! That Putin thinks he’s such a big shot! Let’s fight him! Mother Nature? With all her stupid global warming! Let’s fight her too!

But wait. Haven’t we been fighting anyone and everyone for the past eight years? Where has all that fighting gotten us? Maybe McCain’s conclusion wasn’t so great either afterall.

-Peter J. Burns

RNC- Grampa Freddy – 4 More Beers! 4 More Beers! 4 more beers!

Wednesday, September 2, 2008

Day 2 of the Republican National Convention. Or is it Day 3? I think I fell asleep there for a while. I had a strange dream too. People in cowboy hats and not-so-old ladies wearing old style beehive hairdos. People seemed to be wearing clown smiles and oversized ties. It was weird. Maybe that wasn’t a dream. No, I think that really was the crowd at the RNC. It might have been a dream though. I can’t be sure, I mean I was dozing. I learned a few things though regardless if it was real or some strange dreamscape. First, I learned that Laura Bush is a great actress. How she could praise her husbands last 8 years in the presidency. She talked about all the changes he’s made. She started off with a real doozy! How he’s revamped education! Thanks to our president more minorities than ever before are in school. How many is that Mrs. Bush? Is that good enough? She listed a couple of other great Changes he’s made. Strange that she didn’t mention the changes that he’s brought to over 4,000 military families, or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have experienced Mr. Bush’s brand of change. Next, I learned that Mr. Bush is a terrible actor. He looked tired and haggard. He could hardly muster up a smile for dear old Mom and Dad. They appeared to have difficulty too. But he should be tired and haggard after ushering in so much great change.

I also learned that we should have overwhelmingly supported Fred Thomson more. His grandfatherly tales provide safe-havens from reality. His soft but stern Granpappy voice with its long slow drawl helps us to forget that the world is changing. Why after listening to him long enough, I wanted nothing more than a tall, cool, glass of lemonade and to sit on the porch and hear more stories about the good old days. Too bad we won’t be enjoying four more years of the perfect summer back in Mayberry. I also learned from Grandpa Fred that we for some reason are lucky to have a prospective V.P. who can field dress a moose. My, that was a good one. Fred just has a way of telling you a hilarious story that doesn’t really make any sense, is completely irrelevant, yet undoubtedly teaches a valuable lesson. Like the one he whipped off about a bucket of water. It was so funny, you could actually see the moment, after he read it, when he actually got it himself. Now that is what we like to call a real humdinger! Another thing I learned, again from Grandpa Fred, was that John McCain for some reason betrayed the Green Bay Packers to the North Vietnamese. As a Chicago Bears fan, I appreciate learning this very much.

Something else I learned that really surprised me, was that Howdy Doody grew up, turned gray and changed his name to Joe Lieberman. He’s not nearly as funny as he used to be though. Or at least his sense of humor has really changed, anyway. I think I might have also learned why Angelina Jolie doesn’t speak to he father Jon Voight. However, in the great tradition of Ronald Reagan, Charleton Heston, and Grandpappy Fred, we mustn’t judge manly actors too harshly. They might, believing that they are actually super heroes or cowboys, come down from the silver screen to save us all and ride off into the sunset.

I learned that Republicans are a funny bunch, and I don’t mean their beehives and cowboy hats (those weren’t as funny as they were disturbing). I mean their mirth. They were just so darned happy. They were laughing and dancing and swinging each other round and round, dosie-doh style, all the while a-hoopin’ and a-hollerin’, waving their cowboy hats or holdin’ down their beehives. I appreciate their mirth, it is refreshing from the somber mood that has prevailed the RNC. But I wondered why are they so darned happy. I mean they just saw George W. Bush on the plasmatron jumboscreen. Didn’t that remind them even slightly of the past eight years? They were dancing around and singing and laughing, having a grand old time – as if not one of them was in any way directly responsible for the criminal failures of the Bush presidency. That is weird. It must have been a dream.