Thursday, September 11, 2008

Does McCain owe America an Alzeimer's test?

When Bob Fertik broke this off last week, even I -- in my snarkiest self-indulgent moment -- thought it was a little harsh on the old POW. But I don't think that any more:

... McCain's age is no joke. He (turned) 72 (last) Friday and would be halfway to 73 if elected and sworn in on January 20. That would make him the oldest first-term President ever, two years older than Ronald Reagan. He has survived four skin cancers (melanomas), including one in 2000 that was classified as Stage IIa.

McCain is two years older than his father was when he died suddenly of a heart attack at 70. He is 11 years older than his grandfather was when he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 61.

The United States cannot afford the risk that McCain would die suddenly in the middle of an international crisis.

Nor can we afford the risk of dementia. 22% of Americans over 70 are affected by mild cognitive impairment, while 13% of Americans over 65 have Alzheimer's. Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at age 83, but early signs were evident during his first term. Britain's "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher developed dementia at age 75.

Prescriptions can also adversely affect mental function. McCain takes Simvastatin, a cholestoral drug that can cause memory loss. McCain also takes Ambien to sleep, which can cause amnesia and "fugue states" like the one that caused Rep. Patrick Kennedy's late-night car crash. If the phone rang at 3 a.m., would McCain even wake up?

McCain's medical records are not available to physicians. He did not "release" them for the campaign; he only allowed hand-picked reporters to examine them quickly without making copies. And there were no results of an Alzheimer's test, because McCain has never had one -- even though he has 6 of the 10 warning signs, including his inability to remember facts like the number of homes he owns or the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The question has been gently raised a few times before:

But I'm hardly the first McCain critic to raise this question. Frank Rich and Josh Marshall have previously written about how the media is ignoring McCain's frequent "senior moments," signs of possible impairment that look awfully familiar to many who have seen a family member or loved one in the early stages of senility. Back in April, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann aired a commentary on "McCain's Memory" featuring similarly disturbing video. Last Friday, Paul Begala wrote an op-ed for CNN ("Is John McCain Out of His Mind?") that questioned his "shockingly irresponsible" judgment over the Sarah Palin pick.)

How is a timid media -- already cowed by an aggressive McCain campaign determined to attack like snarling pit bulls any reporter or question they don't like -- going to do their job and try to get an answer on this?

Answer: They aren't. As with any senile person who gradually starts to lose it, there are deniers, enablers, and co-dependents all the way to the point that the condition is painfully obvious to everyone.

If McCain can manage to keep his drooling to a minimum in the debates, then the issues will be the same ones they are today: the vast differences in policy, the value of the politics of "values", and the lies.

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