When the health of candidates becomes the issue


The good news is it sounds like Bernie Sanders survived his heart attack and subsequent corrective surgery quite well and is on the road to recovery. And just for the record, his campaign confirmed yesterday that it was indeed a heart attack, though they chose the more clinical description of myocardial infarction. He’s already out of the hospital and getting around pretty well from the look of things. (Associated Press)

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had a heart attack.

His campaign confirmed in a statement released Friday afternoon that the Vermont senator was diagnosed with a myocardial infarction, otherwise known as a heart attack, when he went to a hospital in Las Vegas Tuesday night…

The Vermont senator’s campaign said in a statement released Friday that he walked out of Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center feeling great and looking forward to getting back to work.

While I’m sincerely happy for Senator Sanders and grateful that this didn’t take a much darker turn, it’s impossible to ignore the political ramifications of this. It’s true that many people undergo procedures like this and go on to lead long, healthy, full lives, and I hope that’s what happens for Bernie. But he’s out on the campaign trail at least 16 hours per day and that takes a toll on people. (Speaking from first-hand experience here.) And the office of the presidency famously ages people prematurely, though thus far Donald Trump seems to be largely immune from the effect.

This is definitely raising questions in the minds of voters and media analysts already. New York Times reporter (and also a physician) Lawrence K. Altman raised questions about how Sanders’ team has handled the issue. On Friday, he penned a story under the title, “Bernie Sanders Had a Common Heart Procedure. So Why the Mystery?”

That was before the official announcement from Bernie’s team about the nature of his medical procedure, but I think the question remains valid and the answer is rather obvious. They did the right thing by eventually coming clean, but no candidate wants to admit that they underwent a coronary procedure. Just the words “heart attack” raise concerns in the minds of potential supporters. The guy is well into his seventies, which might be worrisome enough to begin with. But now he’s got this story dogging him on the trail.

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Frankly, I’m kind of surprised that there hasn’t been more of an effect on the polls from Joe Biden’s eye filling with blood during a debate in September. It could easily be something innocuous, but it was an alarming visual to say the least. Perhaps even more concerning are the many times that he’s seemed to become confused and begin rambling when answering questions. Neither of these men are spring chickens.

In fact, of all the septuagenarian Democratic candidates, Elizabeth Warren is the only one who seems to be plowing forward without any obvious medical concerns stemming from her age.

I’m not suggesting that anyone be eliminated from consideration because of their age. The Constitution imposes a minimum age to serve in the Oval Office, not a maximum. But that doesn’t mean that the public can’t take such factors, real or perceived, into consideration when making their choices. And we’ve definitely got some candidates in the running right now who appear to be on shaky ground in terms of health scares. There’s still a lot of race left to run and the winner will have a grueling general election battle ahead of them. If they somehow manage to unseat Donald Trump they will then be facing at least four years of shouldering the weight of all the world’s troubles.

So how are the three oldest Democrats the ones leading the pack? I’ve got a feeling that this condition may change if we see any more reports like these coming in from the field.

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