Campaigns - Still Madcap

This column, written by the instigator of this corner, appeared in the Danville Advocate-Messenger, Danville, Ky., on 10 February 1976, the year in which Jimmy Carter was elected to the presidency. It is offered to indicate that the quadrennial silliness of election years has always been with us, except, of course, it begins a year earlier now.

That intrepid guardian of the public’s right to know – TIME (magazine) – in its latest edition surely has established itself forever as the journalistic giant of the world. Only the brightest intellects in the universe could have envisioned such a reportorial project of an almost otherworldly magnitude as TIME’s “Presidential Health Scorecard.”

By reading this latest edition of TIME, one can discover information so indispensable to the knowledgeable voter that he could hardly have hoped to cast an intelligently-arrived-at ballot without it. For, now he does not have to vote from the political and philosophical standpoints alone; rather, he can also cast what might be called an intelligent “corpuscular vote” as well.

For instance, how could a conscientious voter ever be expected to judge a man like Frank Church [Idaho democrat senator] without knowing that the good senator had lost his left testicle 28 years ago? Or, how could Senator Jackson [Washington democrat] ever be thoroughly analyzed relative to his qualifications for the presidency without the certain TIME-furnished knowledge that he is allergic to strawberries and has a stuffy nose?

Then, there is that staggering bit of news about Ronald Reagan, to wit, that he hasn’t had any new bursitis in his left shoulder in recent years. If he had suffered such an attack, he presumably could be a question mark, since, for example, he could hardly give a proper gesture of welcome to visiting heads-of-state whose military customs require a left-handed, rather than a right-handed, salute. After all, what with foreign relations being in a fairly sad shape now, think what such a protocol-weakness could mean.

And for all those [President] Ford-detractors who, after viewing the president’s bloodshot eyes in December, gleefully accused him of over-tippling, there was the disappointing news in TIME’s rundown of presidential maladies that poor Gerald simply had suffered the removal of a small wart from his left eyelid. They can take some comfort, though, from the fact that he suffers from “swelled knees,” perhaps using this tidbit in successfully sloganeering about his having a lower extremity malady to match the upper “swelled head,” which they generously accuse him, also, of possessing.

The report is a decided plus for Senator Bentsen [Texas democrat], who was described as simply stopping a “rhythmic twitching of the cheek, right corner of the mouth, associated with blinking of his eyes,” when he was made aware of such a terrible twitch taking place. Surely an humble millionaire, who can of his own free will stop a “twitch,” has all the qualifications of the presidency. Think how such willpower could be brought to bear on a problem of the magnitude of whether or not to invite Bella Abzug [feminist democrat congresswoman, civil-rights activist] to a presidential dinner honoring Lester Maddox [arch-segregationist/Georgia governor].

Of no little import, either, was the startlingly profound knowledge that Fred Harris [onetime Oklahoma democrat senator] recently had lost twenty pounds. Think how many votes that veritable gem of wisdom automatically won him from “Weight-Watchers of America” and similar organizations. Now, one can expect charts to be in all the media this week listing exactly how much weight each candidate has lost recently.

And the poetic wag possibly would be moved to observe that “Hubert Humphrey is in such fine humor/Simply because he has no tumor.” But there it was – an absolute scoop by TIME – Hubert’s pinhead tumor of the urinary bladder is gone, hopefully forever.

Then, there is the awesome revelation that Sargent Shriver [democrat vice president candidate in 1972] exercises regularly, and that Congressman Udall [democrat, Arizona], at age 53, plays basketball. Think what a team they would make in the White House. Doubtless they would set up a new Department of Recreation. This will go over big with all the joggers and ecology nuts who want to replace the interstates with bike paths. And, in this day of women’s lib, Billie Jean King [champion tennis player] would be the ideal potential Secretary of Recreation to dangle before the eyes of women voters.

There is a paradox in the report, however. Fred Harris was described as being fully healed from a gunshot wound received at age 15, while George Wallace’s [democrat Alabama governor] near-fatal gunshot wounds [received while campaigning] were not even mentioned at all. But, ole George can be happy, anyway. His medical description numbered eleven whole lines. Gerald Ford rated only nine. Nobody else had as much as George, either. And, of course, if the extensive coverage of the Wallace maladies is supposed to be politically significant, the wily Alabaman can always point to Franklin Delano Roosevelt [president 1933-45, also confined to a wheelchair].

TIME can pride itself, of course, upon establishing a trend. Not only do voters now get a look at such things as a candidate’s income tax returns, but they even get to know intimately his blood pressure, wart-locations, the state of his tennis elbow, and whether or not his prostate is enlarged. And when the gals really get into the campaigns, there will be even more titillating tidbits such as information on hysterectomies, abortions, gall bladders, and even which birth-control devices are used.

Ah…shades of progress. But one suspects that the perpetrators of the TIME trivia could be suffering from callouses of the derriere brought on by sitting too long with nothing to do.