Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sick Chief Executive

We find the health of the American chief executive to be an interesting subject of investigation. At least 40% of the 20th century presidents suffered serious health impairments while in office, usually stemming from pre-existing conditions. Is good health really vital for the highest post in the land?

Below we sample some of the interesting health cases among 20th C. presidents.

William Howard Taft (1909 – 1913) was reasonably healthy but carried around a lot of baggage, so to speak, weighing between 300 – 340 pounds while president. His medical record shows a passel of ailments, some caused by accidents, and others by his constitution. But is a 340 pound president a safe bet?

Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921) is well known for the stroke he suffered during his second term which largely incapacitated him. His incompetent doctor was no help. Perhaps less well known is the fact that Wilson had suffered numerous strokes of varying degrees and consequence starting in May of 1896 when he was only 39 years old. If you have noticed his ugly teeth, you might have been alerted to atherosclerosis.

Warren Harding (1921 – 1923) besides being famous for graft and scandal – which probably did not personally touch the president – Harding is also famous for dying in office. He visited the J. P. Kellogg sanitarium 5 times between 1889 – 1901 to recover from physical exhaustion.

Specific evidence of heart failure emerged as early as 1919 though it surely manifested itself earlier. Unfortunately, Harding’s primary physician was a homeopath who was not trained to handle cardio-vascular matters and who diagnosed his death as crab meat poisoning. Mrs. Harding refused an autopsy – which spawned its own set of conspiracy theories – so we will not know for certain, but the evidence strongly supports acute myocardial infarction.

Franklin Roosevelt (1933 – 1945) is also well known for dying in office but his health profile was diligently covered up by the administration and press toadies. We have covered his health elsewhere but his various maladies long preceded his presidency.

Harry Truman (1945 – 1953) is not usually associated with critical health concerns but was diagnosed with cardiac asthma, a condition which can be fatal. Truman also suffered stress and was hospitalized. Prior to the presidency he suffered bouts of acute stress headaches.

Dwight Eisenhower (1953 – 1961) is famous for his heart attacks, which like Wilson’s stroke, were sanitized, but unlike Wilson, were not entirely hidden from the country. Prior to the presidency he developed arthritis. In 1955 he suffered a heart attack. In 1956 he was operated on for bowel obstruction which was easily potentially fatal, especially given the state of his heart. In late November 1957 Eisenhower suffered a stroke which incapacitated him for 3 days.

John Kennedy (1961 – 1963) Thanks in part to the work of Robert Dallek, Kennedy’s health situation is well known with Addison’s disease being perhaps his foremost health concern with anemia and a bad back offering competition. Dallek describes him as a walking medicine cabinet. In any event, these health conditions were hidden from the public. However, these two diseases do not come close to exhausting his health profile or the complications resulting from treatment. Kennedy was no stranger to health pains, a state which accompanied him practically from birth.

Lyndon Johnson (1963 – 1969) had a big heart attack in the 1950s, was a heavy smoker, and underwent cholecystectomy while in office. He went to great lengths in the 1964 campaign to disguise the great physical discomfort he suffered from many causes.

George Bush (1989 – 1993) was often seen as fit and trim – especially when considering his speed golfing, yet Webster Tarpley paints a much darker picture about his frenetic activity. The President was reported as having Graves disease – a hyperactive thyroid – but a more accurate diagnosis would have been Basedow’s disease, also a thyroid condition but one activated by profound emotional distress. This would explain the president’s rage, hostility, and hyper frenetic activity. This condition could also very well explain his decision to invade Kuwait against the advice of innumerable military leaders and experts. The physical impact of this thyroid disease can be atrial fibrillations which the president indeed suffered with hospitalization required. As usual, the severity of the president’s health was sanitized quell questions about the president’s physical and psychological fitness to lead and command.

So what do we learn? We see that the majority of 20th century presidents suffered material health defects many of which were evident before assumption of power. In some cases – e.g. Bush – the symptoms of ill health were even evident to outside medical experts.

We also learn without much surprise that the keepers of the president went to substantial length to hide the severity of the health problems with Wilson’s case being exemplary. Marilyn Quayle was sent to babble to the press about water in the White House and other presidential and vice presidential accommodations. However, bad water is not a cause of Basedow’s disease and certainly was not the case with Bush.

Finally, we learn that many poor decisions were made – in some cases not made – because of incapacitation of the chief executive.

The state controlled press – e.g. CBS, NBC, ABC, FoxNews, et. al. – cooperate in the cover-up of the president’s health. It is also very selective about whose health to pursue. We remember quite vividly the many stinks about made about Nixon’s and Reagan’s medical records but three bags full were served about Bush.

Without independent review of the president’s health, the American people will not know the vulnerability of the president and the nation to a crisis in the face of ill and compromised physical constitution.

Reference, Dr Zebra (pseudonym)

Copyright 2010-12 Tony Bonn. All rights reserved.

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