August 27, 2004
Sleepless in Cam Ranh BayBy Daniel Aronstein and Thomas Lifson
The President of the United States holds the most demanding job in the world. The physical and mental fitness of a candidate are matters of legitimate concern for voters. The refusal of John F. Kerry to release his complete medical records should be disconcerting to the press and public. All the more so, given disturbing indications that there may be serious questions about Kerry's health and his ability to perform in office, questions which could be resolved only by the full release of his medical records.
For ordinary jobs, everyone is entitled to the presumption of physical and mental fitness. The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids negative employment judgments based on all but obviously disabling conditions. But the Presidency is not an ordinary job. The welfare and very survival of all of us are at stake. This employment decision is by popular vote, and we voters are entitled to consider anything and everything.
John F. Kerry is a cancer survivor. Fortunately, his prostate cancer was detected early, and treated with a procedure which claims a 97% rate of positive outcomes. Even though prostate cancer is the second biggest cancer killer of men in the United States, his surgeon, Dr. Patrick Walsh, chief urologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, assures us that there is a 95% chance that he will be cancer free in ten years.
John Kerry faced up to his cancer bravely. His prompt treatment of it is a model for the rest of us to emulate. He even likened it to — what else? —— his Vietnam experience:
"The cancer, frankly, was —— it's strange. I think it's a reflection of the experience that I went through in Vietnam, that I didn't feel particularly threatened. That I felt: `I'm going to conquer this.' And it's why I had a confidence that I could run for president.'
So, curiously enough, one of the most serious diseases imaginable, cancer, is not really a serious concern, at least in terms of its threat to candidate Kerry's longevity. For that, we are all thankful. But there is another curious circumstance:
Doctors found the tumor after Kerry took a series of medical tests in November and December in preparation for releasing his medical records to reporters in connection with his presidential bid. [emphasis added]
Yet following his successful treatment, Kerry did not release his medical records, despite the fact that he had intended to do so, and despite the fact that this intention may have saved his life. To date, the national press corps has been entirely incurious as to why Kerry reversed himself, and has refused to provide information which the voters need, and which he had announced his intention to provide.
It seems reasonable to have questions about what further treatments candidate Kerry is receiving, and what their effects on his health, energy, and mental clarity might be. Is he receiving any drugs or hormones, or other substances which have the potential of impairing him, mentally, emotionally, or physically? We don't know. He could easily reveal this information, but refuses to do so.
Much more troubling than cancer, however, are indications, from those who know him well, that John Kerry suffers from parasomnia, a sleep disorder, which can manifest in many ways, including insomnia, sleepwalking, night terrors, and restless leg syndrome, among others.
When Kerry is asked about the nightmares that haunted his sleep for years after he returned from Vietnam, he shrugs. "I don't think I've had a nightmare in a long time," he says. But then Heinz begins to mimic Kerry having a Vietnam nightmare.
"Down! Down, down!" she yells, patting her hands down on her auburn hair.
"I haven't gotten slapped yet," she says. "But there were times when I thought I might get throttled." [emphasis added]
Kerry quivers his right foot [emphasis added] and steers the discussion to the counseling programs he has supported for Vietnam veterans. Asked if he has been in therapy himself, he non—answers [emphasis added]. "It doesn't bother me anymore, I just go back to sleep."
Parasomnia runs in families, and is suspected of being at least partially genetic in origin. It often begins in childhood. It is therefore quite interesting to note that John Kerry's War Journal from his Vietnam service show evidence of sleep disorders:
You wake up with a start thinking that something is wrong [emphasis added] and you grab the bars over your rack and swing down onto the metallic deck in the main cabin. Suddenly you are really awake and realize sheepishly that the startled concern that consumes you is prompted only by the conglomeration of noises that fill POF 44 and the fitful sleep that has characterized the nights on patrol. This is the fourth time during the night that sleep has been startled into movement — and each time the boat was riding smoothly and quietly. [emphasis added] Once you were so sure of danger that you ran up into the pilot house and grabbed the throttles only to laugh with you men at your over—concern and reaction but deep inside you know and understand the pressures that are being brought to play with the mind and the body. And once you laughed at the Captain who talked in his sleep and who demanded that he be notified of any and all changes.
Sleep is probably one of the biggest battles of all [emphasis added] on patrol. There is the constant temptation just to let go and relax and sleep all night —— trusting to the enth degree the young men who man your boat and who make up your watch sections. Eventually you begin to succumb and leave you life and that of the boat in your mouth and with eye lids that cascade down over dirty cheekbones, the sleep is light and restless.
Commander Robert 'Friar Tuck' Brant has publicly said that he bunked with Kerry in Vietnam (when he was a Lt. and a Swiftie in 1968) and that he often had to get up in the middle of the night and put Kerry back into bed after Kerry had gotten up while still asleep and gone for a sleepwalk.
Kerry and Brant slept in the same quarters, and Brant used to put Kerry back to bed at night when Kerry was sleepwalking
Suggestive, but by no means conclusive, evidence that parasomnia may have bedeviled John Kerry when he was even younger comes from the record recorded by his high school band, The Electras. One of the tracks on the album was entitled 'Sleepwalking.' Could this have been the band's little bit of fun?
It may be tempting to dismiss parasomnia as a minor affliction. But a clinical description contains the following information:
Parasomniacs may look as if they are awake, but they are clinically asleep. One of the best known parasomnias is night terrors, extreme and animated versions of nightmares. The sleeper may scream or shout, suddenly leap up from bed — it's as if they have been woken in the middle of a terrible crisis, which in a way they have. Typically, the sleeper experiences a sense of terrible danger and will twist and fight and scream in an effort to defend themselves. It's a frightening and potentially dangerous experience for bed partners, who may also find themselves attacked [see Teresa's testimony above] in mistake for the dangerous presence. Parasomniacs may sleepwalk into other rooms, even run into walls and windows. They can wake up covered in bruises and blood but with little or no memory of their actions or details of the terror. Others recall their dreams in vivid and violent detail.[...]
Treatment is not with intensive psychotherapy but with sedatives [emphasis added] which act as REM suppressants. 'They don't stop REM sleep,' says Ebrahim, 'but they calm it down. It's as if the REM segment has become over stimulated and medication normalises it.'
The dreams of post—traumatic stress sufferers attest to the power of the psyche to invade our sleep, while the enormous variety of our sleeping and dreaming experiences reveal that the mind, as well as the brain, guides our sleeping selves as much as our waking ones. 'We treat patients with medication, psychotherapy, CBT, acupuncture or a mixture of them all,' says Ebrahim. 'I am a doctor, but in treating sleep disorders, we have to address the physical, emotional and spiritual — our sleeping lives encompass the whole range of what makes us who we are.'
Is Kerry getting medical and or psychological treatment including drugs or counseling for parasomnia or any other sleep disorder? If he is not getting therapy for it now, did he ever get therapy for it in the past — and if so what kind of therapy?
To answer these questions, Kerry MUST release his complete medical records.
According to the New York Daily News, the Kerry campaign considers mental health to be a perfectly valid subject of controversy, at least when it concerns one of their political opponents. James Zumwalt, son of illustrious Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, is said to be the subject of a dossier compiled by campaign opposition researchers, because he testified in support of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He is said to have
attempted to kill himself with an overdose of prescription drugs," after the murder of his ex—wife's fiance, John Kowalczyk, according to the dossier.
at least the Democrats have agreed in principle that medical records should be released as a basis for public debate in this presidential cycle. Bush released his, now Zumwalt's are out in the open —— so where are Kerry's?
Politics aside, sleep disorders have the potential of seriously impairing judgment. Nearly everyone has the experience of making bad decisions, losing self—control, or simply being sub—par in our job performance, when we aren't sleeping well. A President of the United States has to be prepared to handle terror attacks, nuclear threats, and other extreme challenges. A lack of good judgment or job performance due to ongoing sleep issues could have an impact far beyond the sufferer or his family.
President Bush has been far more open about releasing important information than has Senator Kerry, who behaves as if he has secrets he wants to keep buried. President Bush has released his and his wife's tax returns, whereas John Kerry has chosen to keep secret his wife's tax returns, despite the fact that his lifestyle depends on her money, not his own, and the fact that his campaign was kept alive by mortgaging 'his share' of the Beacon Hill mansion he could not have purchased with his own money.
To put an end to questions about his service in the Air National Guard, President Bush released his entire military record, while candidate Kerry refuses to sign Form 180, releasing all of his military records. And, of course, President Bush has released his complete medical records.
The public has a right to know if the man who may be our next president is healthy — or not. The electorate has the right to any and all relevant information about a candidate which can aid in forming an opinion as to that candidate's fitness for office. Health is certainly one of them. We are long past the time when it is or should be acceptable for a candidate to cover—up his ill—health.
It is now a matter of public record that another man with the initials JFK covered up his suffering from Addison's Disease, and his reliance on a variety of drugs to alleviate his chronic back pain. Most commentators have agreed that this cover—up was a shameful episode, that the public had a right to know the condition of the man who led them through perilous times. Kennedy's Presidency may have been adversely affected by his condition and its therapies, though such opinions can only be speculative.
The American public deserves to know that there is serious reason for concern over the health of the other JFK, too, and that he should avoid emulating the first JFK's deception of the American public about the true state of his health.
Daniel Aronstein is a screenwriter and artist who lives in Manhattan. He has been a registered Democrat since 1974.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of The American Thinker.