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May 24, 2008

Let's not and say we did: John McCain's medical records

After a long delay, John McCain finally allowed a hand-picked group of journalists very limited access to a small portion of his medical records. The campaign is spinning the event as a release, but it's no such thing. McCain hosting a game of telephone and congratulating himself for transparency.

The LA Times got the real story behind the so-called release: all the strings attached. Campaign staffers told the paper that the chosen reporters would be given only three hours to view about 400 pages of documents from 2000 to 2008. They wouldn't even allowed to make photocopies for their own reference, or to show to experts.

Curiously, this year's crop of journalists were not given access to the records that McCain released to an equally select group during his last presidential bid. The last batch of records covered McCain's lifetime medical history through 1999.

The favored news outlets are the Washington Post, the Arizona Republic, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press.  All other media will have to make due with a pool report generated by the elect, a 90-minute conference call with McCain's doctors and campaign-produced summaries to be posted online.

McCain let a group of hand picked lay-people view an incomplete set of medical records for a ridiculously short period of time. Their access was so limited as to render their opinions worthless.

This so-called release was a clever bit of media manipulation. The campaign made its hand-picked journos complicit in the records charade. Friendly media got a scoop. With that scoop came a vested interest in downplaying the ridiculous restrictions placed on them. If the public understood the conditions under which their were reporting, their coverage wouldn't seem impressive at all.

The campaign is forcing the press to base their coverage off whatever notes they managed to scribble during the three hour window. We wouldn't expect a medical doctor or an expert witness in a court case to form an opinion under these conditions. Why would we expect journalists to glean anything worthwhile from this silly eyes-only exercise?

This is not an environment conducive to quality reporting on complicated material. I wouldn't expect the press to be able to form an intelligent opinion about McCain's health under these conditions. Given the incredibly limited access, I wouldn't expect the press to pick up anything less obvious than "HAS CANCER, GOING TO DIE!!!" scrawled on the chart in Magic Marker.

If they expect to be taken seriously, the McCain camp should at least let its pet reporters show the actual documents to independent experts. 

If McCain doesn't want to release his medical records, fine. If he values his personal privacy over his political viability, that's his choice to make--but he should be forthright about that decision. 

McCain's game of records peekaboo is an insult to the intelligence of the press and the public. At the end of the day, we don't know anything more about McCain's health than we did before the dog and pony show.

McCain's a 71-year-old politician on the campaign trail who has survived four bouts of cancer. He says, "Trust me, I'm fine." So far, that's all we have to go on. That's not enough for most voters and the McCain camp knows it. 

The only question is whether the press will continue to participate in the charade.


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The only question is whether the press will continue to participate in the charade.
If "the press" includes the same NYT that sat on the illegal wiretapping story because Bush asked them to until the election was safely past ... well, the Magic 8 Ball would say Signs Point To Yes.

How does this compare with other candidates' release/non-release of medical records? I can't find evidence that the nearly as old Reagan released his records when running.

I don't see this as any charade. And doubt it will be an issue. We'll see.

If McCain doesn't want to release his records, he doesn't have to. But if that's how he feels he should take a stand an accept the political consequences. If you're right, and McCain's health isn't a matter of concern to the public, then there should be no political cost to safeguarding his right to privacy.

Instead McCain 2008 is misdirecting the public by implying that they've been unusually transparent about McCain's health when they haven't even come close. They gave a few hand-picked journalists an eyes-only sneak peak of part of his record. If they want to claim, as the spokesman quoted in the LAT story did, that McCain is setting a new standard for transparency, they shouldn't be allowed to get away with politics as usual.

Cleverly, the McCain campaign turned the viewing into a media event in its own right, and nobody who got a coveted invitation is going to denigrate the golden "opportunity" they received because that would get them shut out of future scraps from McCain 08's table and devalue their so-called scoop.

The elite media are letting themselves be used again. Now McCain operatives can go on TV and say "he released his records and the AP says he's A-OK"--well he didn't really release his records, and the verdict of the chumps in the press who played along is meaningless.

Here's where the VP nod gets complicated.

Lindsay Beyerstein -

You make a good point that I haven't seen elsewhere: reporters aren't doctors.

How the Hell can they judge medical records without assistance? They can't.

From the LA Times article:
> McCain's national spokesman, Tucker Bounds, defended the decision to limit access. "For very sensible, logistical reasons we will be hosting several reporters from different mediums to review the records," <
The reporters work for clairvoyants?

Seriously, 1400 pages (!) of medical records? He clearly (1) has had much better medical coverage than almost all the rest of us and (2) is a fossil.

I can't find evidence that the nearly as old Reagan released his records when running.

Seeing as how in retrospect (and even at the time) it was clear that by his second term Reagan’s brain was turning into pocket lint, should the electorate be expected to buy a (superannuated) pig in a poke?

RE Ronald Reagan's medical records:
Reagan was the oldest man ever to seek the Presidency. Thus, there was concern during his campaigns whether his health was up to the job. He sought to downplay these concerns by vowing to resign the Presidency if he became medically unfit [2]. He also authorized the release of information about his medical history.

Quotes from the primary [13] of his six [2] physicians include: (1) He is in excellent health. He just underwent a strenuous campaign and had no problems whatsoever. His resistance to colds was remarkable. (2) He exercises every day with a wheel device and rides horseback at his ranch whenever he can. ... It's a single small wheel -- such as you might see on a kid's wagon -- to which two handles are attached. (3) I think he is quite able to handle stress. ... He doesn't take vacations very frequently. (4) I know he eats moderately, and we've told him he should avoid excessive amounts of animal fats and carbohydrates. (5) The standard treadmill tests [have shown] no evidence whatsoever of underlying coronary artery disease. We have also found no evidence of any neurological impairments. (6) When I have done different physical examinations on him, ... he's totally relaxed and undemanding. He goes through those tests in a place that is especially set up for him and where he could pull rank but he doesn't. ... He just accepts the fact that we're doing all these tests. He doesn't ask many questions. (7)

As long as McCain covers one eye with a hand while he's walking around, he doesn't bump into stuff.

Don't ever let him drive, though.

Nevermind his benign cancer, the health of his campaign organization is much worse.

It's a total mess, filled with internal bickering. The GOP isn't doing much better either. They are falling apart faster than Bush under real press interview.

Let's be careful with the words. I think that "cancer" is the same thing as "malignant", the opposite of "benign". More important, his current, oh, sorry, his recent cancer is squamous-cell carcinoma, which is waaay not benign, but can metastasize. I.e., spread through the body and, like, kill you. The less malign type of skin cancer is basal-cell carcinoma, which does not metastasize but merely needs to be carved away completely and it's gone, no further hazard (if it is gone).

McCain has developed two of the three famous types of skin cancer, and they're the dangerous two. Of course, he has a perfect right to run for President, no question about it.

Ya think he could get a nice free-enterprise health insurance policy?

Oh, I forgot, his wife could pay for it, so Lloyds of London would be happy to underwrite it.

OT: She paid over 28% Federal tax on her total income? That's what it said in the paper. WTF? I honestly don't know how you can do that when your income, all $6,000,000 of it, is not in wages and salary. I'd sure like to see the original tax records, to figure it out, and maybe get a job as her tax advisor, for, say, half of what I save her by reducing her taxes on 6 Mill to a still rather high-for-rich-folks 20%.

I find the whole thing unseemly.

Yeah, he's got the right to run. The GOP has the right to choose him as their candidate. And the rest of us have the right to know a couple of things about the candidates.

First, is this guy likely to make it healthy and on his toes through 4 years at the helm? I think this manipulation of the public to try to make us think we know the answer to that vital question is unethical, or just what you'd expect from the Republican Party.

More than that, this particular Aging-American was a POW who survived in terribly difficult conditions. He excuses his use of racial slurs using this trauma as a tool. However, he has not had a psychological evaluation since before his run in 2000.

I'm no psychiatrist, but if I were one, I imagine that I'd have a field day making a list of all the ways a person who has had no care for such a profound trauma is a bad fit for leading this country at this critical time.

Starting with the statement, Viet Nam is the most capitalist country in Asia, measured in terms of the percentage of households engaged in entrepreneurial activity, a trend that holds out hope for a sustainable, equitable global economy. Tell me more about how your Presidency will handle our increasingly important relations with the gooks and slopes, as you describe them.

Who cares about melanoma--the guy is malignant with anti-Asian racism and that's just not functional this decade. His health includes what's inside his head.

--Tell me more about how your Presidency will handle our increasingly important relations with the gooks and slopes, as you describe them.--

Haw haw haw!! That's a real knee-slapper! Yeah, he's a real monster that McCain, worse than a million Hitlers!! Let's hear another one!!

I think he would have an excellent point to make in sticking to his guns and making privacy an issue, the problem being that he has shown people his records in the past....

But honestly, for me, his health is not an issue. There's no way I will vote for him, but he seems clear and cogent on the campaign trail. He seems charming and alert on Letterman. If his health were an issue for me (and I ain't voting for him) I would just make sure that his vp pick would be even better than usual.

I am not playing veep sweeps here, but if his pick of a veep seems to be to pick up a state, that would presumably play poorly for those that worry about his health. If his pick of a veep is just a stellar individual (for a republican...) than that should alleviate some concerns for his health.

I am hopeful he will choose Condi Rice -- I think that having an African American Lesbian Woman as veep would be very powerful. So powerful that even though I would want them to lose, and think that Rice is probably an American Criminal if not an international criminal, what can I say, I hope he chooses her if only for the fun in the race.

Calm yourself Phantom. Don't get the vapors, because, after all, you're only a phantom.


Any more comments on the line item veto?

Were any of the reporters granted access to the medical records guests as the McCain barbeque a few months ago?

The other day I watched CNN.

Their correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, said that he had also been given access to McCain's medical records.

"It was pretty remarkable to get that level of detail about a candidate," noted CBS News contributor Sanjay Gupta said here

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