McCain’s Can You Hear Me Now… possibilities

When I wrote this post, I was struck by Senator McCain’s verbal incoherence, and I took it to reflect genuine confusion and a mind not up to the task of constructing and communicating complex thoughts under pressure.

That is, I was picking up on a subterranean line of criticism that has poked above the surface occasionallly, that John McCain is an incurious and not terribly attentive man with a bad temper (in which qualities he does, in fact, seem to have found a soul mate in his ticket’s second banana (sure about that ordinal?– ed.).

But then the whole Spanish Prime Minister/Spain’s in Latin America thing came up.  Now the really telling part of that story is not that McCain botched a question in an interview, but that his campaign spent a day or more coming up with ever more preposterous explanations as to how McCain didn’t botch the question, answered it exactly as he intended, with all the wealth of nuance and sophistication required of a potential President.  Or not.

What most people aren’t saying in loud voices, though, is that the McCain attribute that links these two seemingly disparate verbal performances might simply be that he is…old.

The former instance — his odd, almost incomprehensible rambling on the fundamentals of the economy in Floriday on Monday afternoon —  has already brought comparisons to the waning days of the Bob Dole campaign , which is a pretty naked reference to the fact that McCain now, like Dole then,  has a lot more yesterdays than tomorrows to contemplate.

The notion that McCain is subject to senior moments, especially when tired and/or under pressure is one the campaign surely wants to downplay, but it did come into my mind watching the Florida video.

But when the Spanish interview hit the news, I wondered if there were a simpler explanation for at least some of McCain’s seemingly reckless winging of it on that occasion and in other interviews.

Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions that afflict the aging.  It is more prevalent in men, and exposure to loud noises in one’s life (as, for example, a carrier pilot would have endured on a daily basis) can exacerbate the condition.  Between 25 and 40 percent of the population over 65 suffers from the some age-relating hearing loss, and that percentage jumps as you go over 75.

Now I am reasonably certain that the McCain campaign does not want to trot their candidate out there with a pair of hearing aids in his ears.  The campaign has worked hard to present the image of a candidate much younger in spirit and energy than the calendar would suggest.

But while practicing medicine at a distance and without a license is truly a mug’s game, moderate hearing loss would account for at least some of McCain’s confusion in the Spanish interview…and if this wild speculation turns out to be true, then it will continue to be a problem for McCain in other settings between now and the first Tuesday in November.

And even if it is not, contemplating the chronic conditions that accompany aging — hearing loss, arthritis, cognitive impairments, hypertension and so on — reminds us of the package we might get if we elect a 72 year old man with a history of cancer and of extreme physical hardship.

To put that another way. When you look at McCain, don’t just ponder the memory of our recent Alzheimer Presidency.*  Think about these three words:  President Sarah Palin.

That is all.

*The link leads to a Wikipedia entry that reports that Reagan’s doctors deny that he had Alzheimers in office.  Credible (to me) private communication from a source who was present in the Oval Office with Reagan in his second term suggests — anecdotally, to be sure — that he did show clear symptoms that match those of the disease.

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One Comment on “McCain’s Can You Hear Me Now… possibilities”

  1. Robert Johnson Says:

    Ockham’s razor would favor dementia — mental deterioration — as the diagnosis.


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