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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You Can Put Eyeglasses On a Flock of Sheep, They Are Still a Flock of Sheep

Are we so blind that we need new eyeglasses – especially those, must-have eyeglasses? I read a blurb today dedicated to Sarah Palin’s eyewear! What is worse than the fact that someone actually wrote it is the fact that I actually read it. She wears some special, rimless frames that have become the most-ordered model since, well, another famously bespectacled public figure. I was immediately reminded of this other self-assured, deriding, shameless politician who belittled opponents and friends alike. His hubris knew no bounds and for a time, people were enamored with him and, like Palin’s, eagerly sought his eyewear style for themselves. Donald Rumsfeld fell from the good graces of the people and even eventually the Bush Administration. I don’t know if his rimless glasses are still in demand. I do know that the only place where he is really in demand is in Germany where he’s been indicted for war crimes. I guess the lesson here is that we should probably be more careful where we invest our blind devotion. We should more carefully consider those whom we try to emulate.

-PJ Burns

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Breaking Out The Ugly Stick

It is that time in the election season when the gloves come off and the cheap shots are thrown. McCain is a true poet when it comes to dirty verses. His quick-draw sidekick has also shown her skill with the well-aimed slur. Both of them tag-teamed to sneer community organizers of all people.

For decades, Sen. John McCain has scattered profanities around Capitol Hill like Johnny and his apple seeds. In 1998, he publicly levied a “joke” that simultaneously insulted Janet Reno, Bill and Hillary Clinton and especially their then teenage daughter Chelsea. Now, the young cygnet has grown into an attractive, charismatic and destined-to-be powerful player. I wonder what that scattered seed of insult might one day grow into for the hapless Mr. McCain. He has dropped the C-bomb on his own wife and possibly Hillary Clinton. It makes one wonder how he first mentioned Sarah Palin to his campaign staff. If in fact they didn’t first mention her to him.

Now they try to pin their own mud-slinging tactics on Obama for an old, oft-used rural colloquial phrase about a pig and lipstick. Well, to that I must say this: “that dog don’t hunt”. Relax, that is not any direct canine reference to any candidate. Obama would not deign to play their cheap game of smear. He likes to talk issues. Something we’d like to hear more on from McCain/Palin. Do they have substance behind the slander?

PJ 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.