John McCain

Tiptoe Through McCain's Polyps

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So, is there anything interesting in John McCain's pre-Memorial Day Friday morning document dump of his medical records to select journalistic institutions? Your mileage may vary, but for me it's not breaking news that this is one pretty old, formerly hard-livin' dude who has already outlived his hard-livin' father and grandfather, whose mom and her twin sister look primed to reach 100, and who has an extraordinary amount of energy, arthritis from all the war injuries, and various lesions and polyps in remission/excision. He seems almost exactly as mentally alert as a career politician in his eighth decade of constantly being around people except when frantically gobbling up books, which is to say he'll repeat a joke or two, and maybe flub a warring faction, but otherwise seems "normal." How he'll age is way near the bottom on my List of Things to Be Concerned About. Though I did enjoy this Escher-like Media Matters headline: "Media forecast successful McCain effort to manipulate media on medical records."

A couple of meta-media items did jump out at me from the Associated Press' clean bill of health:

Given McCain's fair skin and history of sunburns, mostly from the 5 1/2 years he was held outdoors while in Vietnamese prison camps, he has a 5 percent to 8 percent chance of developing a fifth melanoma, Lessin calculated.

First I ever heard of that explanation. The traditional story ? told in McCain's own books, and all the biographies of him ? is that he fried his skin to a crisp on his first congressional campaign in Arizona, walking door to door in his carpetbagged district for 27 hours a day, wearing out shoes and failing to heed Baz Luhrmann's advice. I initially mocked David Brock and Paul Waldman for complaining about the media constantly bringing up McCain's Vietnam experience apropos of nothing, but in this case their critique might be justified.

Then there's this:

His likely Democratic rival, Barack Obama, will be 47 in August. Obama, lean and agile and a frequent basketball player, says he has quit smoking. Neither he nor Democratic opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton has released health records.

Only one point here: Did you know that John McCain was a smoker until around age 45? It almost never gets mentioned.

Finally, there was a detail I had not fully realized before, from a good 2007 L.A. Times piece on McCain's health I just re-read:

McCain released extensive medical records when he sought the presidency in 2000, including reports of his periodic examinations at the Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies at the Naval Operational Medicine Institute in Pensacola, Fla. Those reports indicated that McCain was in generally good health and did not suffer any psychological illness.

Dr. Bob Hain, director of the study program, said McCain was examined almost every year until 1994, when he stopped returning to the voluntary program.

I had not grokked that McCain stopped getting his noggin' routinely probed by the POW docs 14 years ago, and in fact I probably said on some radio show or two ? in defense of John McCain! ? that they inspect his psyche constantly and he's as fine as any ambition-crazed politician can be. I presume that's still the case, only without the supporting data.

Things younger than McCain here.

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  1. Mr. Welch:

    This is the first post I’ve seen you make about McCain that wasn’t dripping in bile.

    Congratulations! You’re improving.

  2. Did anyone else see McCain’s Mother’s Day ad?

    Did anyone else think his mom looked better-preserved than him?

  3. You don’t read enough posts! I spoke of the “principal virtues of a McCain presidency” or some such earlier this week!

  4. 72 is the new 59.
    That makes Obama what…33?
    Too young!

  5. Matt Welch, great stuff, but the icing on the cake was Things younger than McCain here.

  6. I, for one, will not be satisfied until his virtual colonoscopy hits YouTube. I don’t want to watch it, mind you, but full disclosure is in the best interests of the nation.

  7. A-fucking-plus on the title, Matt. A++.

  8. As long as health and longevity are his prime considerations in choosing a running mate, I’ll be happy. If he picks someone well past life expectancy, just remember who is currently third in line for the presidency.

  9. who is currently third in line for the presidency

    That’s always an unsettling prospect but currently it’s downright horrifying.

  10. Man, you guys are on a roll with the punny titles today!

  11. Did you know that John McCain was a smoker until around age 45? It almost never gets mentioned.

    Huh… an irrelevant datum is actually left in the past. I approve.

  12. an irrelevant datum is actually left in the past. I approve.

    In an article about McCain’s health, in which it is pointed out that the 47-year-old Obama recently claimed to have quit smoking?

    And anyway, it makes me like both of them more, for mostly childish reasons.

  13. If either of them continued to smoke and on top of it said, “fuck off, it’s my choice.” I would be inclined to vote for that guy. Luckily, neither of them are going to do that.

  14. mr. welch, you seem like smart guy. don’t you worry about becoming the “anti-mccain guy” or that guy that hates mccain? i don’t think i could concentrate so much of my time and energy on a politician liked much less one i didn’t.

  15. Loathe as I am to defend McCain or McCain’s defenders, I must admit that the prison-camp explanation is plausible on its face.

  16. don’t you worry about becoming the “anti-mccain guy” or that guy that hates mccain? i don’t think i could concentrate so much of my time and energy on a politician liked much less one i didn’t.

    No — because I don’t hate McCain! I find him fascinating for all sorts of reasons, and I disagree with him about several matters of importance, but I think he’s a genuinely interesting character and quite “likable.”

    And, after having written a book about him, my brain & notebooks are vast junkyards of McCain trivia and data-points that might be of use to people, depending on what’s happening in the news that day.

  17. Loathe as I am to defend McCain or McCain’s defenders, I must admit that the prison-camp explanation is plausible on its face.

    I’m speaking from memory and not notes, but McCain didn’t see a lot of sunlight there. He was in solitary confinement for huge chunks of time, and they only allowed for a sort of courtyard mingling toward the end of his stay there.

  18. And, after having written a book about him, my brain & notebooks are vast junkyards of McCain trivia and data-points that might be of use to people, depending on what’s happening in the news that day.

    Finally the proof that Matt is, as I suspected, a T-888.

  19. In an article about McCain’s health, in which it is pointed out that the 47-year-old Obama recently claimed to have quit smoking?

    No, no, I meant irrelevant when considering McCain the candidate! Totally relevant here.

    And anyway, it makes me like both of them more, for mostly childish reasons.

    Me too. Anyone who deviates from the don’t drink, don’t smoke, happily married, “all American” template all the presidents during my lifetime were stamped from gets bonus points in my book.

  20. Episiarch,

    Is that show any good? Like Enterprise I just assumed any prequel is going to suck. I saw the first couple eps and it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t terribly compelling either.

  21. I always thought he would have also got a lot of sun in his pre-POW days as a naval aviator with all the shirtless beach volleyball and all.

  22. Is that show any good? Like Enterprise I just assumed any prequel is going to suck. I saw the first couple eps and it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t terribly compelling either.

    It’s really good. You may not enjoy the…scenery…of Sarah Connor (Lena Heady) and Cameron (Summer Glau) as much as some of us do, but the story has gotten progressively more compelling. I highly recommend it.

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