October 8th, 2008
02:02 PM ET

Presidential health and your vote

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta uncovers the health secrets of presidents past and future.
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta uncovers the health secrets of presidents past and future.
Caleb Hellerman
CNN Medical Senior Producer

A few weeks ago I saw something extraordinary: the medical planning book for one of President Bush’s presidential trips. It was almost three dozen pages. Not a briefing book, not a policy paper, just collected medical information, itineraries, routes and contact information for every possible specialist who might be in the area. What was really extraordinary is that this was no special moment – just a simple day trip, a half-day of official business in another state.

The president is no ordinary patient. As we put together a documentary, "Fit to Lead," about White House medical care, we’ve seen again and again that caring for the president comes with special considerations. The logistics alone are staggering. Along with planning books like the one I saw, the president always has his doctor nearby, or one of a handful of backups on the White House medical staff. Air Force One has a mobile operating room on board. When the president is in a foreign country, some poor medical staffer has to lug around a heavy cooler filled with containers of the president’s blood type.

The stakes are high, but presidents are flesh and blood, subject to the same ailments as the rest of us. It’s just that when the president gets sick, it can change the course of history. Franklin Roosevelt was suffering from congestive heart failure at the Yalta peace talks after World War Two. He died two months later. Some historians say he wasn’t thinking clearly – that he never would have given Joseph Stalin so much control over Eastern Europe if he weren’t so sick and physically weak. Of course we’ll never know for sure.


Programming note: Don’t miss CNN Special Investigations Unit “Fit to Lead” with Dr. Sanjay Gupta Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th at 8p and 11p ET

Filed under: Caleb Hellerman • Dr. Sanjay Gupta • Raw Politics
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Papasan in Arizona

    Here in Arizona we know first hand that McCain's people hide his many physical and mental woes. He undoubtedly has PTSD, notoriously bad temper, poor sudden and erratic decision process. As for his multiple cancers, lets say it speaks for it self. He is highly guarded, handled, and has very little contact with people that have not been fully screened. McCain is Un-Fit to be in any office...

    October 8, 2008 at 8:06 pm |
  2. Susan

    I am more concerned with the president's mental health than physical health, even though I question both for McCain.

    October 8, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  3. julie

    What bothers me most is that given the age of John McCain and the fact that he has had cancer 4 times already in his life, is more likely to die during office than the much younger Barak Obama. Given these facts I would be more inclined to trust Joe Biden stepping into the Presidency . If Sarah Palin were to become president I would be very worried for our country and everyones safety that is really scary.

    October 8, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  4. harriett

    No one wants to admit that Senator McCain suffer from POST TRAMATIC STRESS from crashing several airplanes and being a prisoner of war. Why? I know the mental records show some time of trauma and Psychotic prescription drugs. If this was Senator Obama we would have known day one. Dr. Gupta failed to give the American people a good medical report.Why?

    October 8, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  5. Maureen / Newman, California

    McCain brought on this scrutiny by deciding to run with a crazy, incompetent, gun toting, book burning, religious fanatic. Since Palin's approval rating is near Bush's, people are afraid of what will happen to the country if McCain does pass away in office.

    October 8, 2008 at 4:22 pm |
  6. Fay, CA

    McCain is reportedly taking a number of medications and it would be interesting to know how much they impacting his mental health. At a rally today in Pennsylvania, he referred to Americans as "my fellow prisoners" - of course an occasional slip-up by the candidates is to be expected, but McCain's age and health issues makes moments like this a bit more concerning.

    October 8, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  7. larry

    Dr. Gupta. I hope that you can address the documentation on far east prisoners of war (studies of allied pows by Japan) and prolonged neurological disorders.

    October 8, 2008 at 3:39 pm |
  8. larry

    Obama sets a truly bad example of health by his continued smoking.

    Obama is not 'black', he is bi-racial. Did his dad, when he was over here, have to go to the back of the bus?

    October 8, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  9. carol

    It's very frustrating for me NEVER to have heard about John McCain's father. All health stories point to his 92 year olf mother. Was it an immaculate conception? WHAT ABOUT THE FATHER'sHEALTH?

    October 8, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  10. Cynthia

    I do believe that age is a factor that should be considered when voting for a President. At age 72 and having had 3 bouts of cancer McCain age and overall health is of concern to me and especially because he picked Palin – someone who I don't think is ready to be a heartbeat away from a 72 year old hear.

    October 8, 2008 at 2:57 pm |
  11. Ken

    It would appear that both candidates are exhibiting very good health. I would suggest that if Senator Obama hasn't quit smoking that he does as soon as possible. Not just for political reasons, but that his children deserve to grow up with a father around.

    October 8, 2008 at 2:45 pm |
  12. Craig

    How come no one is talking about the large majority of debate viewers are Obama supporters and that there are many people who will vote for the conservative candidate and many people who will vote against a black candidate regardless of what is said in the debates or what is said in any of the media. I am an Obama supporter, but I think the polls are wrong, the media is missing this point, and that McCain is poised to win this election going away.

    October 8, 2008 at 2:23 pm |
  13. Cindy

    OK...is this another scare tactic by the liberal media to make people think about John McCain and his age? The truth is any one of us could fall over dead tomorrow for no apparent reason. Obama could die his first day in office of a heart attack or something that could be totally unforeseen like an aneurysm. No one can be certain of anything regarding their health or how long they will live. Having a clean bill of health doesn't mean anything.

    People should vote on the issues and how that person's stance best fits what you want for this nation, not on how someone looks, their health, their color or anything else.


    October 8, 2008 at 2:17 pm |