McCain’s Health Issues Reflect His Character

You can’t have skeletons in the closet if you want to be the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.

As Election Day draws near, I imagine that both McCain and Obama are exhausted; both have been run through the ringer. After all, they must endure non-stop campaigning schedules, high pressure debates, and the constant scrutiny of the press. Along with this, every aspect of their lives are being examined under the most powerful of microscopes. From tax records to religious affiliations to personal friendships, both men are left bare, no secrets uncovered.

This openness extends to their health histories as well. Both candidates issued records or statements detailing major health issues. Not surprisingly, Obama, 25 years younger than McCain, has a clean bill of health; the only exception is his difficulty kicking the smoking habit.

John McCainMcCain’s record is fairly impressive as well even though he is 72. Along with his past problems with melanoma he may need joint replacement therapy down the road, a result of his time spent as a Prisoner of War (POW). Along with this, his records note that he tried to hang himself, eight months into his 5+ years spent as a POW. He was found to be mentally stable after being examined for mental disorders and we can assume that his suicide attempt was a rational decision considering the circumstances he was in.

Initially I was surprised upon reading this. After all, McCain’s strength of character, proven by his perseverance during his POW days as well as through other reports from those who know him well, seems to be contrary to this act of desperation. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fault McCain because of this; he is a human susceptible to human weaknesses and certainly he was in the midst of more devastation and pain than many of us can imagine. This image just didn’t concur with the fiery candidate that I see on TV.

But eventually my surprise over his health details gave way to curiosity. Today he still suffers from ailments related to his time spent representing our country. This coincides with the reports that McCain’s patriotism and dedication to his country is intense. And it seems as if this would go a long way towards drawing voters. After all, for a future president, what speaks louder than loving your country so much that you are willing to suffer intensely?

Well, quite a bit it seems.

Most polls show McCain trailing Obama by a substantial margin. It seems that there is something more important to people than patriotism, the good old-fashioned War World II Generation-goodness. Don’t get me wrong, I do not doubt Obama’s patriotism but McCain’s past is textbook-flag-waving-country-first-stuff.

What is it that Americans value more highly than what McCain offers? Obama’s calmer and steadier demeanor? Liberal views? A change in ranks? Do our changing values represent progress? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that McCain’s type of patriotism may be dying. Excluding the military, you seldom hear young people talk about their country in endearing terms. And you certainly don’t see many who feel so strongly for their country that they are willing to put country above all else.

Obama may be the face of the future but for the sake of our country, I hope that McCain’s brand of patriotism isn’t a thing of the past.


F. Charatan (2008). Records of presidential candidates show McCain has had melanoma and Obama is using nicotine replacement therapy BMJ, 337 (oct27 2) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a2260

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
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