Is John McCain suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's Disease? A Milwaukee-area physician who is familiar with the outward signs of the onset of Alzheimer's disease who has been observing John McCain of late says that he is. I ask the question not out of a mean-spirit. I had to watch my own grandmother suffer from the effects of and die from this horrible disease. The fact remains that Mr. McCain, while having beaten cancer so far, has made so many obvious and horribly bad errors concerning foreign affairs that one has to wonder if they are done out of ignorance, which I seriously doubt, or rather, as John Kerry said on "Meet the Press" last week, he is acting erratically (with specific reference to the nomination of Sarah Palin as the person who will be a breath away from the highest office in the land), one of the signs of the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The unsolicited comment by the physician caused me to give credence to the comment by Mr. Kerry, which was, to my way of thinking, mainly political posturing per the Sunday Morning News Program political ritual. In this article, I attempt to define what Alzheimer's Disease is, then go on to illustrate Mr. McCain's accomplishments and experiences in his life that show us just how smart he really must be, and then catalog the errors he has made over the course of the current election campaign. The sad conclusion is that Mr. McCain is too smart to have made the errors he has without some contribution of an organic brain problem that he has yet to disclose to the public.
II. Alzheimer's Disease
Wikipedia contains the following description of Alzheimer's Disease: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alzheimer%27s_Disease
The disease course is divided into four stages, with a progressive pattern of cognitive and functional impairment.
The first symptoms are often mistaken as related to ageing or stress. Detailed neuropsychological testing can reveal mild cognitive difficulties up to eight years before a person fulfills the clinical criteria for diagnosis of AD. These early symptoms can have an effect on the most complex daily living activities. The most noticeable deficit is memory loss, which shows as a difficulty to remember recently learned facts and an inability to acquire new information. Subtle problems with the executive functions of attentiveness, planning, flexibility, and abstract thinking or with impairments in semantic memory (memory of meanings, and concept relationships) can also be symptomatic of the early stages of AD. Apathy can be observed at this stage, and remains the most persistent neuropsychiatric symptom throughout the course of the disease. The preclinical stage of the disease has also been termed mild cognitive impairment, but there is still debate on whether this term corresponds to a different diagnostic entity by itself or just a first step of the disease.
In people with AD, the increasing impairment of learning and memory will lead to a definitive diagnosis. In a small proportion of them, difficulties with language, executive functions, recognition of perceptions (agnosia) or execution of movements (apraxia) will be more prominent than memory problems. AD does not affect all memory capacities equally. Older memories of the person's life (episodic memory), facts learned (semantic memory), and implicit memory (the memory of the body on how to do things, such as using a fork to eat) are affected to a much lesser degree than the capacities needed to learn new facts or make new memories. Language problems are mainly characterised by a shrinking vocabulary and decreased word fluency, which lead to a general impoverishment of oral and written language. The person with Alzheimer is usually capable of adequately communicating basic ideas. While performing fine motor tasks such as writing, drawing or dressing, certain movement coordination and planification difficulties (apraxia) may be present, which may appear as clumsiness. As the disease progresses, they can still perform tasks independently, but may need assistance or supervision with the most cognitively demanding activities.
People with AD can usually care for themselves during the early stages of the disease, but progressive deterioration hinders independence. Speech difficulties become evident due to an inability to recall vocabulary which leads to frequent incorrect word substitutions (paraphasias). Reading and writing skills are also progressively lost. Complex motor sequences become less coordinated as time passes, reducing the ability to perform most normal daily living activities. During this phase, memory problems worsen, and the person may not recognise close relatives. Long-term memory, which was previously left intact, becomes impaired. At this stage, behaviour changes are more prevalent. Common neuropsychiatric manifestations are wandering, sundowning, irritability and labile affect, leading to crying, outbursts of unpremeditated aggression or resistance to caregiving. Approximately 30% of the patients also develop illusionary misidentifications and other delusional symptoms. Urinary incontinence can develop. These symptoms create stress for relatives and caretakers, which can be reduced by moving the person from home care to other long-term care facilities.
During this last stage of AD, the patient is completely dependent upon caregivers. Language is reduced to simple phrases or even single words, eventually leading to complete loss of speech. Despite the loss of verbal language abilities, they can receive and return emotional signals. Although aggressiveness can still be present, extreme apathy and exhaustion are much more common results. Patients will ultimately not be able to perform even the most simple tasks without assistance. Muscle mass and mobility will deteriorate to the point where they are bedridden, and they will also lose the ability to feed themselves. Death occurs from some external factor such as pressure ulcers or pneumonia, and not from the disease itself.
I want to see just how many very clearly obvious mistakes Mr. McCain has made over the course of the present Presidential campaign. The decision of Mr. McCain to make Sarah Palin his Vice Presidential choice was called "erratic" by John Kerry on Sunday.
III. John McCain's Background
Let us first understand Mr. McCain's background and the knowledge that he had to have to achieve the political/governmental status he has. Mr. McCain comes from a family that has deep and strong roots in the US Military. His father and paternal grandfather were four-star Navy Admirals. Together with his older sister and brother, they followed their father around the US and the Pacific as he was transferred from base to base. After high school, Mr. McCain entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis, starring in wrestling and becoming a lightweight boxer. He graduated 894th out of 899, though apparently he didn't try terribly hard at subjects he disliked and did not get good grades in those subjects. He did well at subjects he enjoyed like literature and history. Not so well at mathematics.
He graduated from Annapolis in 1958 and was posted to Pensacola with the rank of ensign. He completed flight training in 1960. He was assigned to the USS Intrepid and the USS Enterprise, flying A-1 Skyraider ground-attack fighters. He crashed twice and got caught in power lines but walked away from all the mishaps. In 1965, he got married for the first time and adopted his new wife Carol's sons. Thereafter, he requested and received combat assignment to the USS Forrestal, flying A-4 Skyhawks. Actual combat came in 1967, when he was 30 years old and the Forrestal was assigned to bombing raids on North Vietnam. He barely escaped with his life when a rocket under the wing of an F-4 phantom accidentally fired while still on the ship, causing a huge explosion and fire in which 134 sailors were killed.
McCain flew his 23rd and final mission on October 23, 1967 when his plane was shot down over Hanoi and he began five years of imprisonment by the North Vietnamese, who refused to treat his very serious injuries (two broken arms, a broken leg and more, including a bashed shoulder and stab wounds received from angry North Vietnamese who pulled him out of Truc Bach Lake ) until they discovered that he was the son of a four-star Admiral, after which the North Vietnamese tried to cultivate world opinion by broadcasting the fact that they were treating Mr. McCain's wounds. Subsequently, he was put into solitary confinement for two years, beginning in March, 1968. He was tortured mercilessly by the North Vietnamese and was coerced into giving a "confession" of "war crimes". He was released on March 14, 1973.
"... we embrace the fine members of the religious conservative community. But that does not mean that we will pander to their self-appointed leaders."133
- Worth the Fighting For by John McCain, Mark Salter (Random House, September 2002) ISBN 0-375-50542-3
- Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life by John McCain, Mark Salter (Random House, April 2004) ISBN 1-4000-6030-3
- Character Is Destiny: Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember by John McCain, Mark Salter (Random House, October 2005) ISBN 1-4000-6412-0
- Hard Call: Great Decisions and the Extraordinary People Who Made Them by John McCain, Mark Salter (Hachette, August 2007) ISBN 978-0-446-58040-3
- "How the POW's Fought Back", by John S. McCain III, Lieut. Commander, U.S. Navy, U.S. News and World Report, May 14, 1973 (reprinted for web under different title in 2008). Reprinted in Reporting Vietnam, Part Two: American Journalism 1969–1975 (The Library of America, 1998) ISBN 1-883-01159-0
- "The Code of Conduct and the Vietnam Prisoners of War", by John S. McCain, Commander USN, National War College, 1974-04-08
- Foreword by John McCain to A Code to Keep: The True Story of America's Longest-Held Civilian POW in Vietnam by Ernest C. Brace (St. Martin's Press, 1988) ISBN 0-709-03560-8
- Speeches of John McCain, 1988–2000
- Foreword by John McCain to Glory Denied: The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-held Prisoner by Tom Philpott (W. W. Norton, 2001) ISBN 0-393-02012-6
- Foreword by John McCain to The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam (Random House, 2001 edition) ISBN 1-588-36098-9
- Foreword by John S. McCain to Unfinished Business: Afghanistan, the Middle East and Beyond – Defusing the Dangers That Threaten America's Security by Harlan Ullman (Citadel Press, June 2002) ISBN 0-8065-2431-6
- Foreword by John McCain and Max Cleland to Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming by Jonathan Shay (Scribner, November 2002) ISBN 0-7432-1156-1
- Foreword by John McCain to Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts by the Editors of Popular Mechanics (Hearst, August 2006) ISBN 1-588-16635-X
- Introduction by John McCain to Pearl Harbor, the Day of Infamy, an Illustrated History by Dan van der Vat (Black Walnut Books, 2007) ISBN 1-897-33028-6
- "An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom: Securing America's Future" by John McCain Foreign Affairs, November/December 2007
On May 30, when he told a public gathering that things were going swimmingly in Iraq: "I can tell you that it (the Surge) is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it's succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-Surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr City are quiet."
Just as McCain’s initial assertion about Iran training al Qaeda was false, his claim that he “corrected it immediately” is also false. In fact, McCain made the claim at least three times on two separate occasions. He corrected himself only after the third utterance when Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) whispered in his ear.
While NBC aired only a snippet of O’Donnell’s interview, in the full video, which isposted online, McCain also played the common conservative game of using “intentionally deceptive language” to blur “the differences between groups with different goals and ideologies in order to create the illusion of a united Islamofascist enemy”:
Al Qaeda is military. Al Qaeda is killing Americans as we speak. Islamic extremists are being trained in Iran and they are being sent back into Iran, I mean into Iraq.
Making a false claim and then making it again is the opposite of the correcting it immediately. It’s also the opposite of “straight talk.”
KELLY O’DONNELL: I’d like to ask you about a moment yesterday when you were speaking about the influence of Iran and there was a gaffe, if you’d call it that. When you described Iran aiding al Qaeda, does that suggest that your depth of knowledge on some of the cultural issues may not be as great as some of your military knowledge?
JOHN MCCAIN: Al Qaeda is military. Al Qaeda is killing Americans as we speak. Islamic extremists are being trained in Iran and they are being sent back into Iran, I mean into Iraq. And explosive devices, these copper ones, which we just discovered, uncovered a large cache, are killing American soldiers. We should care about that. We should care about Iranians who are sending these lethal devices, the most lethal devices, into Iraq and killing Americans. That’s what I care about. That’s what the subject is. I just simply misspoke when I said al Qaeda. But they are training extremists and they are sending the most lethal devices that are killing Americans. That’s what we should care about.
O’DONNELL: Do you feel comfortable with understanding the differences between the Shia and Sunni political agendas?
MCCAIN: In all due respect, that was my eighth visit to Iraq. I am constantly briefed. I am constantly engaged in this issue. I’ve been involved in every major national security challenge this nation has faced for the last 20 years.
O’DONNELL: I ask it respectfully because people did notice that you made this comment and wondered, was it simply a slip of the tongue…
MCCAIN: I corrected it immediately. I corrected it, my comment immediately. I don’t claim that I won’t misspeak on occassion, but I will correct it immediately. Ha ha ha, I’m astonished. Frankly, I’m astonished.
O’DONNELL: You don’t think that’s a fair question?
MCCAIN: I think anything is a fair question, but to think that I would have some lack of knowledge about Sunni and Shia after my eigth visit and my deep involvement in this issue is a bit ludicrous.
To my way of thinking, the foregoing mistakes are too severe to overlook, even if it did come in the midst of the bruising Obama/Clinton race for the Democratic nomination. This is either the mistake of a very uninformed person or someone who is unable to mentally hold simple facts in his brain due to some organic malfunction.
" As you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they’re moving back into Iraq. I think Americans should be very angry when we know that Iran is exporting weapons into Iraq that kill Americans."This again betrays a fundamental mistake as to who is whom in the Middle East. Joe Lieberman was not around at that point to correct him and Mr. Hewitt did not of course correct Mr. McCain's mistake.
Katie Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/22/mccain-gets-history-of-th_n_114419.html
These are not the mistakes of an intelligent man who has Mr. McCain's education, life and political experience could make unless something was organically wrong with his brain.
Unless otherwise stated, the data herein is obtained from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McCain.