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Hidden Illness in the White House.


The authors tell a fascinating and chilling story, alerting us to the dangers to our country if we do not insist on obtaining accurate information about the health of candidates before we vote.

In addition to the perils of being governed by an incapacitated leader, there are major flaws in the political system that provide for succession in case of presidential impairment.

During Ronald Reagan's incapacity after the assassination attempt, the government did not cease to function, but considerable questions arose about the precariousness of the situation.

In our own time, if President Bush and Vice President Quayle were seriously injured, the presidency would have brought ex-Speaker Jim Wright to power.

In the populace's mind, much attention is given to a would-be president's economic and foreign policy. Little concern is exhibited in regard to whether or not the president's health will permit him to perform. It seems as if the public regards the occupant of that office as impervious to the physical and mental illness that often affects others.

Men close to the presidency have warned of dangers that lurk in our indifference to the present system. Dean Rusk, who was privy to much that transpired between Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khruschev, expressed his concern that the growing personal diplomacy of a president concentrated too much power in an individual who might have "a quick temper and a weak heart ..." Governments were gambling too much, he indicated, on the personal idiosyncrasies of their leaders.

President John F. Kennedy suffered from an incurable illness, Addison's Disease. Neither his doctors nor the people who basked in his power permitted the public to know about his vulnerability. Kennedy was constantly beset by pain and possible tragedy.

The lamentable case of Woodrow Wilson is now well known. At the time, few people realized how sick he was and that presidential decisions were being made by Mrs. Wilson.

More pertinent to world history was the political life of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom the authors consider the most powerful man on earth during his presidency. In his third term of office, at a time when the Allies had not yet landed in Normandy, Roosevelt's daily duties were overwhelming.

The public did not know that Roosevelt was an invalid, crippled by polio and subject to great strain in performing the simple routines of daily life. Added to his burden were the duties of office. He made two exhausting trips abroad to confer with fellow Allied leaders. The President's doctors knew how frail and vulnerable he was, and they insisted that Roosevelt's plane fly at surprisingly low altitudes. Then there were more fatiguing trips that eventually made it impossible for him to travel without oxygen tanks at his side. The shocking details of Roosevelt's last days, in power and commanding the war effort, are reported in this remarkable book, providing a testimony to the hazards confronting a nation when its President is seriously ill.

The authors quote Professor Louis Halle, a distinguished political scientist scholar who was in the State Department for several years:

"I have talked with doctors in Washington, and they say that if the American public knew what the strain does to even the toughest, they could be horrified. Washington wives know this, but of course, it's confidential.

"They know the number of men who appear calm, all day - presiding or participating at meetings in Washington - but when they go home in the evening they sometimes lock the door behind them, and smash the furniture, and chew up the rugs. This is almost literally so.

"Doctors have told me of the physical symptoms, like breaking out in rashes, diarrhea, and so on - just these ordinary symptoms of the strain. But, of course it goes to the point where men break down, where they are no longer wholly responsible.

"One of the things that is a bit frightening is that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was totally incompetent to be President of the United States in his last year. He'd had twelve years of this kind of thing, and if anyone put a paper in front of him that last year ... he couldn't read it. And he was negotiating with Russia at Yalta under circumstances where he was no longer altogether present mentally or spiritually ..."
COPYRIGHT 1989 Vegetus Publications
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1989
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