Biology of Elections: Evaluating the Research Proposal

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He still occasionally 'bums smokes' and chews nicotine gum to combat cravings (Altman, 2008, p 3). Obama's campaign released records suggesting that he is in excellent health -- only one page long. The only specific data they have revealed is his low cholesterol rating. The question arises -- if Obama is in such good health (and he does work out very frequently) why the reticence about the information (Altman, 2008, p.3).

The Obama campaign has implied that the mere appearance of good health on the part of the candidate should be enough, a statement that they would likely mock if it came from the older McCain. McCain has also cited the longevity of his mother as an example of why people should be unworried about his candidacy but again, this is hardly scientific proof of his fitness (Tasker & Chrissos, 2008, p.1). Of course, one of the reasons that questions about McCain's health seem so pressing is the relatively poor qualifications of his running mate Sarah Palin. However, Palin has been the most reticent of all of the candidates about her health records, except for the fact that she gave birth to a child recently, a condition she kept relatively secret from most of the electorate of Alaska until she delivered (Altman 2008, p.4). The Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has had two aneurisms removed from his brain and has not subjected himself to any screenings for additional aneurisms, even though the likelihood of having one raises the chance of having another (Altman 2008, p.4-5).

While much of this may seem like gossip, it is important to remember that candidates' health affects their ability to govern. However, should a candidate's refusal to provide relevant medical information be a 'voting issue?' Ultimately, the people must decide -- however, when candidates give misleading information, as did Dick Cheney in the 2000 and 2004 elections about the state of his heart, the voters have no way of challenging the information.
They must trust the words of the presidential or vice-presidential candidates' doctors, and the candidate's own character and truthfulness in general. More disclosure, as Altman calls for, may be desirable and laudable, but it is not necessarily a perfect solution. Also, it may not tell voters what they want or need to know, practicing sins of omission -- for example, the Obama campaign's willingness to let voters know about Obama's cholesterol levels, but not how smoking may have impacted other aspects of his health.

And although health impacts a president's life, given that the president is only human, questions remain about what aspects of a candidate's health are relevant. Was Sarah Palin's pregnancy relevant when she was governor? She did not think that was the case, and would it be sexist to suggest that pregnancy might affect a woman's ability to govern? Was Franklin Delano Roosevelt's polio relevant, and should the press have been as deferential towards his concealing of the fact he could not walk during photo opportunities? Will Obama's status as a smoker affect his policy towards healthcare? The suggestion that the candidates are more candid will help, but merely revealing more detailed and extensive information, as Altman calls for may simply raise more troubling ethical questions about what should be a voting issue, and questions of privacy as it relates to medical records for all Americans.

Works Cited

Altman, Lawrence. "Many holes in disclosure of nominees' health." The New York Times.

20 Oct 2008. 20 Oct 2008.

The health and medical history of John F. Kennedy." Doctor Zebra. 6 April 2006.

20 Oct 2008.

The health and medical history of President Ronald Reagan." Doctor Zebra. 29 May 2008.

20 Oct 2008.

Tasker, Fred & Joan Chrissos. "Why questions about McCain, Obama health: Eagleton."

Miami Herald. 28 Sept 2008.….....

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