Heartfelt with Dr Melissa Walton-ShirleyView all posts »
Secret Service alert: US President admits to dalliances with "would-be" assassinMar 5, 2010 10:07 EST
It's ironic that President Barack Obama was said to have declined a colonoscopy because he doesn't want to relinquish power during the application of anesthesia. That's a far less concerning scenario than a sudden demise. With a planned procedure, at least Vice President Joe Biden could be briefed on the day's responsibilities, line up a schedule as needed, shift the powers of the office in an orderly fashion, and never miss a beat. As a smoker, the threat of an acute MI is ever looming, and it might be quite a fire drill to get VP Biden over to DC from California or, heaven forbid, the Middle East. Healthy doses of Versed are given as sedation during an emergent cath, and then there's the old cardiac narcotic morphine that is sure to render any president incapable of sound judgment for several hours. Since Mr Obama is an intelligent albeit addicted individual, I hold out that he's just not been given adequate information about the risks of "light smoking," or he would give it up once and for all.
Several prospective studies have confirmed that light smoking is deadly and President Obama's risk of lung cancer is even higher than his risk of heart attack. Both of these disease processes would certainly be major distracters from White House duties. In March 2005, the Oslo study included 23 521 men and 19 000 women aged 35 to 49. There was a threefold increase in dying of ischemic heart disease in those who smoked from one to four cigarettes per day. The Copenhagen city study demonstrated a 2.14 increase in fatal and nonfatal heart attack in three-to-five-cigarettes/day smokers. The US Nurses' Heath Study demonstrated a 1.94 adjusted relative risk in one-to-four-cigarette/day smokers. Add to President Obama's smoking habit his stinky lipid profile and daily life stressors, and you have a recipe for disaster.
It's not like we haven't already had to navigate the rough waters of a sudden presidential exit because of tobacco use. President Warren G Harding died of a sudden MI at age 58. According to Cigar Aficionado, Harding was one of "the biggest cigar consumers" to ever inhabit the White House. If only Calvin Coolidge could talk to VP Biden about his experiences and how he felt when he got that fateful phone call, Biden might be better prepared to assume command under the veil of shock and sadness when a colleague and friend is gone too soon.
On the personal side, my husband is an ex-smoker. Although I love him immensely, he has taught me that all smokers who are trying to become ex-smokers are liars. (Was this what Rep Joe Wilson [R-SC] was really talking about?) "Light smokers" lie about such things as how much they smoke, how often they smoke, or even if they've just been smoking. In 1987, I saw my husband outside, crouched down on our old apartment balcony supposedly "lighting a hibachi grill." His position was very odd so I stepped out and asked, "Are you smoking?" He stood up sheepishly and vehemently denied it, but the plume of smoke originating from the cigarette held firmly behind his back gave him away. Then there was the garage incident 10 years ago when he was supposed to be repairing a lawn mower, and the ever-present nicotine-gum wrappers I've found throughout the years. So just exactly how much our president smokes is always in question.
If it's not the risk of sudden death or lung cancer while in office that will scare our president straight, I implore him to think of Sasha and Malia. At age 9 and 12, their father is their hero and indeed a hero to many, but as Sasha and Malia enter adulthood, they will want him to walk them down the aisle, introduce him to their children, or just call him when they can't think of one of their cousin's mother's names. In our household, all of that was taken away when both of my husband's parents died of lung cancer before they were 64 years of age. One of our daughters doesn't even remember her grandfather. My husband was orphaned at age 40, and although he was well into adulthood, it was still an unnecessary and hurtful family tragedy. The Obama family deserves better than this, and our country deserves better as well. Did the presidential oath mention something about executing duties to the best of his capability? It would be tough to do in the midst of chemotherapy or a large anterior-wall MI.
From my perspective, having a president who smokes one to four cigarettes per day feels about as safe as flying with a smoking pilot. At least he's not solo. He has a junior copilot in VP Biden, who is figuratively standing in the wings to take over when disaster might strike. Literally, however, he's often not in the same state or even the same country for that matter. If I were working at the White House, I'd keep both VP Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi ever ready and on a short leash as long as our president insists on practicing this high-risk behavior.
It's a shame the Secret Service can't step in and protect our president from himself. If a sniper were to make an attempt on his life, they would wrestle him to the ground in two seconds flat. A plane threatening White House airspace would be shot down by fighter pilots after they cross an arbitrary line. Instead, the president takes his "would-be" assassin out of his mouth, exhales deeply, and stubs it out somewhere on the White House lawn. The Secret Service stands nearby watching carefully to make sure the coast is clear.