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

  • I have a hypothesis as to why McCain’s brand of patriotism isn’t apparently as attractive or relevant to American society today: Most people have not paid for the freedoms they enjoy in this country. Therefore, like a spoiled child who receives everything they want without sacrifice-they take those freedoms for granted.

    “Freedom Isn’t Free”. I see the bumper stickers and my thoughts drift to Tokyo, Japan, 1986. I was an Airman First Class at Yokota Air Base and protestors were lobbing hand made explosives over the fence next to my barracks. They were protesting the first economic summit that Reagan was attending. I saw Air Force One parked to my left. I dodged home-made hand grenades coming in on my right. And I narrowly escaped a car bomb attack. I was paying the price for freedom.

    Then, in 1988, while pinned down by gunfire on a small island in Greece, I thought “Does anyone even care”? On that night, I was actually videotaping a riot at the front gate of our small outpost. Libya (just 60 miles to the south) was also threatening to bomb us with chemical bombs, hence I was dripping wet from being sealed inside my chem-warfare suit. I was again paying the price for freedom.

    But my price paled in comparison to that paid by my father. Fifty years earlier, on a freezing wind-swept hill in Korea, he made the first payment. As he performed field surgery on his buddy’s sucking chest wound (he was a medic in the Army), he certainly wondered if it was worth it. He returned with shrapnel wounds, gunshot wounds, grenade wounds and yes…psychological wounds. He paid the price of freedom.

    It’s difficult to really put a price on something you don’t pay for. That’s why you don’t see people jumping to a standing position with hand over heart during the playing of our national anthem…not even during the Olympics. That’s why they don’t get goosebumps when “America, The Beautiful is played”. The truth is, for many Americans…for MOST Americans….freedom really WAS free.

    America, the great “melting pot”, is filled with diluted soup. Everyone has moved to the middle. We no longer stand on noble values. We no longer hold each other to a higher standard. Honesty, integrity and the power of good…have all been diluted. In their place is a national attitude of tollerance for any and all deviation. In their place is a vaceum our enemies will be happy to fill. We are not paying the price for freedom.

    But not to worry. With Mr. Obama at the healm, we are sure to see another conflict somewhere in the world (perhaps on our own shores) that will only be won if we all pitch in. The crumbling of the twin towers did little to inspire long-term resolve in the population of these United States.

    Why no Patriotism? Simple. For most Americans, the freedoms they enjoy are an entitlement won with the blood and tears of others, on distant shores and in different times. They don’t feel patriotic because they have not paid the price for freedom. The question is: will they when they have to?

  • ED

    As a young person who did not have to fight for her freedom and has been blessed, I do champion my country and love it dearly. I admire those who are serving to defend this country/ However, I see that there is a lot of hypocrisy that does not perpetuate the freedom or the pursuit of happiness promised upon birth to every American citizen. The current state of this country is stagnant and appears to going drastically downhill in a frustrating and frightening fashion. We are fighting wars over greed and searching for weapons of mass destruction without probably cause—both of my grandfathers fought in WWII for the betterment of others and to defend a legitimate threat to their country. Bush, and I believe McCain too, act before they think when it comes to matters of defense, and that kind of behavior can no longer be tolerated, not if we want to maintain the dignity and respect throughout the rest of the world gained by our parents and fathers. Fighting for your country is a noble thing to do, but only if the cause is a worthy one. While McCain has my sincere respect for all that he has done to serve his country, I don’t believe his politics are the way this country needs to head. Furthermore, I also think that if you took a minute to look at this generation, you would see that they are fighting for Obama because they believe in a change with gumption and sweat for the betterment of a country they love just as much a the elder generation. I know many, many young people who would gladly go to war for this country if there was a threat that was very real and not a constant calling wolf, scare tactic.

    Please also consider where this generation has been in the last 8 years: we have seen 9/11, we have had our friends die fighting in the middle east for what most consider a helpless, useless war, we have seen a recession that may rival the Great Depression taking jobs away from our friends and families, we have student loans that we will be paying off for the next 15 years with wages that we can hardly afford our rent on, we have seen a fruitless, lasting war that has created disgust internationally. And then we hear that McCain has voted with Bush 90% of the time. I ask you nw, how can you can question this generation’s patriotism when they are trying to vote to improve their country?

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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