Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2002 / 17 Kislev, 5763

Bill Steigerwald

Bill Steigerwald
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


JFK's secret health woes are revealed


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | What else don't we know that we should?

That's the question you're left asking after reading Atlantic Monthly's incredible cover piece on "The Medical Ordeals of JFK," which reveals that the energetic, youthful John F. Kennedy the public fell for in 1960 was - take your pick - a dangerous myth or a political fraud.

The JFK that the country was fed via TV and in Life magazine photo spreads when he was alive, and the JFK that persists in the national consciousness to this day, was of a vigorous, robust and athletic politician.

In fact, as historian Robert Dallek profusely details, the real JFK - the one his family and handlers succeeded in hiding for obvious reasons - was a sickly medical wreck often on the verge of dying much of his life.

Dallek's nine-page article, based on records recently released to him by the Kennedy family for a coming JFK biography, often reads like a medical textbook.

From his teens, JFK spent long periods in the hospital with severe intestinal ailments, infections, crippling back problems and a mysterious ailment that doctors thought for a while was leukemia.

Before he was out of his 30s, he had been in two comas and had been given last rites at least twice by priests. He had chronic ulcers, colitis, urinary infections and was dangerously underweight and often in severe pain.

He had Addison's disease, a debilitating and potentially life-threatening condition of the adrenal glands that screws up hormones that regulate your blood and can affect the body's response to stressful situations like, say, a Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 1960, when JFK was fighting Lyndon Johnson for the presidential nomination, Dallek says LBJ's forces told the press JFK had a life-threatening case of Addison's disease, which he did, but the Kennedys produced doctors who swore JFK's health was excellent.

In JFK's first six months in office, Dallek says, "he suffered stomach, colon and prostate problems, high fevers, occasional dehydration, abscesses, sleeplessness and high cholesterol, in addition to his ongoing back and adrenal problems."

While president, he could barely walk up steps and, as a photo shows, often was off-loaded from Air Force One in a cherry picker, out of sight of the clueless or compliant news media. How JFK's maladies affected his sex life, Dallek never says.

Dallek does acknowledge the obvious - if the public had known how ill JFK really was, he never would have been elected president. But he contends that JFK's lifelong health problems did not affect his thinking or his decision making, before or during his presidency.

Of course, Dallek is a JFK-friendly historian who ultimately puts a positive spin on both the Kennedy machine's evil machinations and JFK's gamble that - during the heat of the Cold War - his serious medical troubles wouldn't affect his handling of the job.

The scope of Kennedy's suffering is amazing, and it's partly true, as Dallek says, that knowing about it now actually makes JFK a more heroic and sympathetic character, albeit a more reckless one. And knowing about it now - 40 years too late - also makes you wonder what other dirty "little" secrets have been hidden from us by our great leaders.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.




JWR contributor Bill Steigerwald is an associate editor and columnist at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Comment by clicking here.

11/19/02: “It's best to contain Saddam”: Ten minutes with Col. David Hackworth
11/15/02: Brushing up on the affairs of a wild world
11/12/02: Make Dems filibuster 10 minutes with Robert L. Bartley
11/08/02: National Geographic: Urban overpopulation is good
11/05/02: The bloody consequences of a broken INS: Ten minutes with Michelle Malkin
11/01/02: Going to pot; thank heaven for media overkill
10/29/02: It's all about federalism: Ten minutes with Jonah Goldberg
10/25/02: Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain, Mad Magazine will never die
10/22/02: Here's why Orwell matters: Ten minutes with Christopher Hitchens
10/18/02: The sniper knocks Iraq off the covers
10/15/02: Iraq, oil and war: 10 minutes with ... economist/historian Daniel Yergin
10/11/02: England's gun-control experiment has backfired
10/04/02: Buchanan the media baron?
09/27/02: Analyzing Esquire, GQ is not for the squeamish
09/20/02: CEOs: The rise and fall of American heroes
09/13/02: Skeptics remind U.S. to calm down
09/10/02: 'A failure to recognize a failure': 15 minutes with ... Bill Gertz
09/06/02: Rating the 9-11 mags
08/30/02: Bad trains, bad planes, and bad automobiles
08/28/02: Baseball, broken, can be fixed: 15 minutes with George Will
08/16/02: 9-11 overload has already begun
08/13/02: Tell us what you really think, Ann Coulter
08/09/02: A funny take on a new kind of suburb
08/02/02: It's not the humidity, it's the (media) heat wave; the death of American cities
07/12/02: Colombia's drug lords are all business
07/09/02: If capitalism is 'soulless' then show me something better: 10 minutes with Alan Reynolds
06/25/02: Origins of a scandal: 10 minutes with Michael Rose
06/21/02: 9/11 report unearths good, bad and ugly
06/18/02: The FBI is rebounding 10 Minutes with Ronald Kessler
06/14/02: U.S. News opens closet of Secret Service
06/11/02: 10 minutes with William Lind: Can America survive in this 'fourth-generation' world?
06/07/02: America, warts and all
05/30/02: FBI saga gets more depressing
05/13/02: The magazine industry's annual exercise in self-puffery
04/30/02: 10 Minutes with ... The New York Sun's Seth Lipsky
04/26/02: Will the American Taliban go free?
04/23/02: 10 minutes with ... Dinesh D'Souza
04/19/02: Saddam starting to show his age
04/12/02: Newsweek puts suicide bombing in perspective
04/09/02: How polls distort the news, change the outcome of elections and encourage legislation that undermines the foundations of the republic
04/05/02: Looking into the state of American greatness
03/25/02: The American President and the Peruvian Shoeshine Boys
03/22/02: Troublemaking intellectual puts Churchill in spotlight
03/20/02: 10 minutes with ... Bill Bennett
03/18/02: Suddenly, it's cool again to be a man
03/12/02: 10 minutes with Ken Adelman
03/08/02: TIME asks the nation a scary question
03/05/02: 10 minutes with ... Rich Lowry
02/26/02: 10 minutes with ... Tony Snow
02/12/02: Has Soldier of Fortune gone soft?

© 2002, Bill Steigerwald