There was a fierce stampede to check out John McCain's medical records last week. After all, the guy's 71, suffered for five and a half years tortured and beaten as a prisoner of war, and survived a bout with melanoma. Reporters pored over the reams of medical files and came up with one conclusion: McCain's fine.
In politics, as in life, it's usually the thing you least expect that comes out of nowhere and hits you upside the head. (See: Hillary, inevitability; Obama, from left field).
While most people are focused on McCain's health, no one seems to be much concerned about the health of his chief rival. After all, Obama is a robust 46, works out regularly, and watches what he eats. He looks fit n' trim.
But for 20 years, Obama has done what most doctors say is the single worst thing you can do to hurt your health: he smoked.
His physician released a one-page medical report on him. (One page? McCain released hundreds of pages.). In it, his doctor says Obama is trying to contain the urge for cigarettes by chewing Nicorette gum, which he's been using for far longer than its maximum recommended use of 12 weeks.
Reporters following him on the campaign trail whisper that he occasionally falls off the wagon and takes some drags. Obama himself says if his wife Michelle caught him in the act, he'd be toast.
Americans should know if their president is a smoker, or is someone desperately trying to become a former smoker.
Because Obama has created the "savior" image for himself---the liberal idealist, the first viable black candidate for president, Mr. Perfect--- nobody wants to impute anything negative to him. Not even a bad and dangerous habit he struggles every day to give up.
Pat Nixon and Jackie Kennedy were closet smokers as First Lady. No one saw them do it, but they puffed away when they could. Mrs. Nixon suffered from emphysema for years and Mrs. Onassis died from cancer.
While we think about McCain's health, we should also be thinking about Obama's. There are no guarantees in anyone's life. But given Obama's two-decade cigarette habit, his physical condition is as much an issue as McCain's.