Unfortunately for John McCain, over many years he abused his brain. Head trauma (blows to the head) and binge drinking are both associated with increased risk of brain problems in later life. In recent weeks, McCain’s repeatedly had difficulty remembering basic information. He’s even had trouble recalling basic facts such as
- what car he drives
- how many houses he owns
- the Mayflower carried some Americans’ ancestors, but no Americans’ descendants.
McCain — in the video here — couldn’t even rely on his memory when he announced Sarah Palin as his own pic for Veep!. He had to read her name from a piece of paper. That’s not a problem with vetting: that’s a problem with short-term memory.
Over six months ago at the Lake, we learned about brain function and McCain’s brain. One thing we learned about was dementia pugilistica: the fancy medical name for senility from boxing. Our brains weren’t designed for boxing — or other repetitive forms of head trauma.
"Dementia" is the most severe (and disabling) manifestation of cognitive impairment (the fancy medical term for "problems with thinking"). A less severe and more common form of cognitive impairment is "problems with memory" (one fancy medical name for that is "memory disorders"). Everyone with dementia has a memory disorder; the group of people with memory disorders include some with dementia, and some without such severe brain dysfunction.
Some folks get dementia early in life. The fancy medical name for that is EOD: Early Onset Dementia. Some folks get dementia later in life. The fancy medical name for that is LOD: Late Onset Dementia.
Ain’t medical terminology grand?
By this time your brain is probably wondering what all this has to do with McCain’s brain. Well, unfortunately for John McCain, a great deal. A huge study at the VA associated with UCLA looked at every patient seen in the VA’s Memory Disorders Clinic over four years. What did they find?
The EOD group had significantly more dementia attributed to traumatic brain injury, alcohol, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration compared to the LOD patients. In contrast, the LOD group had significantly more Alzheimer’s disease compared to the EOD group.
Translation: alcohol and head injury (traumatic brain injury) are both associated with early development of the most severe form of probems with thinking: dementia. They are also common among veterans with significant memory problems: like the sort that that John McCain has been showing.
What did the researchers conclude?
Well, they were pleased with the size of their study (hey, it’s a researcher thing):
This study, conducted at a Veterans Affairs Hospital, is the largest series to date on EOD,
More importantly they concluded their large study:
If you’re John McCain’s brain — or you operate John McCain’s brain — that conclusion is a bummer.
Why? John McCain decided to take his brain out boxing — a lot. And he got knocked down — a lot. And he got up with his brain and together they got hit again — a lot. And every time his head took a hard punch, he took another traumatic brain injury.
Aboard his "Straight Talk Express," the candidate can spend hours talking about the sport, describing his interest as the "ramblings of a failed amateur boxer." "I didn’t have a reverse gear," he recalled to NEWSWEEK recently, speaking of his three years as a Navy lightweight. "I was pretty aggressive … I learned how to take hard blows and to get back up and keep going."
Sorry about that, John McCain’s brain. That missing "reverse gear" cold have spared you a lot of blows: and a lot of traumatic brain injury. Ouch.
John McCain also took his brain out drinking: a lot.
At the Naval Academy, his reputation for hard partying and hard living was prodgious:
one classmate said that "being on liberty with John McCain was like being in a train wreck." [Nightingale’s Song, pp 31-35]
After the Academy, John McCain kept taking his brain out drinking:
He earned a reputation as a party man, as he…. spent all his free time on the beach or in a Bachelor Officer Quarters room turned bar and friendly gambling den, and, as he later said, "generally misused my good health and youth".
In private citizens, signs of cognitive impairment such as persistent impairment in remembering "over-learned" information (like the make of car one drives) and persistent impairment in short-term memory (like that which he displayed when he couldn’t even trust himself to recall Palin’s name without resorting to a "cheat sheat") would be a private tragedy for the citzen and those who love them…as well as anyone dependent upon that impaired person for their safety and well-being.
People with serious short-term memory problems don’t solve serious problems well: they just can’t remember everything they need to know about new complex situations long enough to make thorough assessments.
Sadly for John McCain’s brain — and tragically for John McCain — his repeated failures to recall basic "over-learned" information and his apparently compromised short-term memory are highly suggestive that he suffers from significant cognitive impairment.
That’s tragic for America and the rest of the world, as well as for John McCain’s family. If he were to become President, everyone on the planet would depend on him making wise decsions for their very survival.
Behind the wheel of a car, one man with cognitive impairment can kill and maim dozens. Behind the Oval Office desk, one man with cogntive impairment can kill and maim billions. The awesome and immediate power of the US nuclear arsenal means that — so long as he is candidate for President — the mere prospect that John McCain suffers from significant cognitive impairment is everybody’s business.
A planet’s a terrible thing to waste.
What can you do?
Over the next two months, you can help with "McCain’s Brainwatch". Watch for signs that John McCain:
- forgot basic information (example: the fact Czechoslovakia hasn’t existed for a decade)
- fails to comprehend basic factual information (example: Shia and Sunni in Iraq)
- shows impaired short-term memory (example: needing to read Sarah Palin’s name in order to speak it aloud)
- has difficulty recalling common words
- has difficulty speaking simple sentences and words aloud
Then bring your examples from recent or current events back here in the comments.
Watching McCain’s brain falter is a sad task. I wish his brain were completely healthy; I wish he were, too. As we all know, many folks are vital and cognitively intact well into their nineties. I wish everyone were: including John McCain. Unfortunately, he appears to show signs and symptoms his brain is not completely healthy: he appears to show signs of cognitive impairment.
With saturation media coverage, no one person can review all the video and audio and transcripts of McCain’s public appearances. That’s why your help is necessary, and will be welcome here. Together, we can keep watch on John McCain — hoping his brain never falters, but observing should that happen.
Be well — and keep watching!