John Kerry may have thought he could have a simple orthopedic operation without raising questions about whether he's a frail invalid. If so, he was naive. Here's the lead from today's New York Times story on the operation Kerry's about to have:
Trying to head off concern over Senator John Kerry's planned shoulder surgery this week, his campaign on Monday released a letter from his doctor attesting to Mr. Kerry's "excellent health" and arranged for his orthopedist to answer questions about Wednesday's scheduled procedure.
The orthopedist, Dr. Bertram Zarins, said Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, will have to avoid the campaign practice of shaking hands for two to three weeks after the approximately 45-minute outpatient surgery, which will be done under general anesthesia. He should also refrain from hoisting babies, a favorite activity of his, until at least mid-May, Dr. Zarins said, adding, "If the shoulder gets sore, he'll just have to back off."...
By contrast, here's the lead from the story the Times ran last December, when it was revealed that President Bush has knee trouble:
For years, President Bush's joints seemed to defy the forces of age and time. He ran ever faster miles, instituted a professionally timed race for the White House staff and consulted running experts on improving his speed. But on Thursday, in the complex medical wording of a statement from his medical team, there it was for all to see: Mr. Bush, 57, finally has runner's knee.
A magnetic resonance imaging test of both presidential knees at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the morning showed that Mr. Bush had no serious problems — no ligaments torn away, no deep tears or flaps in any cartilage, no bones pressing on bones, no fluid leaking into the joint and no instability, restricted motion or weakness....
The Kerry article leads with a tone of concern. The Bush article begins by telling us all what a stud he is.
No surprise, really. We've been conditioned for a couple of decades now to regard the Republican Party as the party of manliness, strength, and virility, while the popular image of the Democrats is of sissified girly-men.
This despite the fact that Bush apparently isn't at his best unless he gets to sleep at 9:30, sleeping on a pillow from home even when he's on a plane (see David Frum's The Right Man, pp. 55-56, for some of the details, and for a defense of Bush's early bedtime that never quite explains why previous presidents also rose early but were able to stay awake much later), and even though Bush apparently becomes snappish when, as leader of the free world, he has to do what thousands of white-collar workers do regularly without complaint: function in his job while jet-lagged. Remember this?
[Bush] pounced on an American reporter whose double faux pas was to ask him why "there are such strong sentiments in Europe against you and your Administration" and to invite, in French, President Jacques Chirac to comment. "I'm impressed," Mr. Bush deadpanned. "Que bueno. Now I'm literate in two languages." Mr. Bush's bad reaction was probably due largely to jet lag. (Source.)
Today's Kerry article runs frets over his recent prostatectomy (even though it was apparently highly successful), his frequent hoarseness (not that unusual, I'm told, for a guy who's making a lot of speeches), a high (but probably not worrisome) C-reactive protein number, and a number of other health signs that, yes, appear, well, normal.
The Bush knee article goes into no such details.
The Times did recently mention Bush's need for his own pillow, but only as part of an it's-good-to-be-the-king story about the creature comforts on Air Force One that was accompanied by a Leni Riefenstahl photo of Bush addressing a crowd amid American flags.
Message: Bush's special sleep needs are just one more aspect of his greatness.