ILL-ADVISED: Presidential Health and Public Trust by Robert H. Ferrell

ILL-ADVISED: Presidential Health and Public Trust

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Medical coverups--and goof-ups--in the White House since Grover Cleveland's day, by the author/editor of numerous books on US Presidents (Truman, 1984, etc.). Ferrell's first story is of Cleveland's surgery for oral cancer, performed secretly and passed off to the public as a tooth extraction. Woodrow Wilson's massive stroke and his limitations during his final months in office are now well known; here, Ferrell focuses more on the failure of Wilson's cabinet to deal effectively with the situation. In Warren Harding's case, the coverup was of his personal physician's incompetence, which apparently led to Harding's fatal heart attack. Ferrell next takes up the concealment of FDR's declining health before the 1944 elections. The author's major interest, however, is clearly Eisenhower--who, Ferrell says, suffered from such precarious health that he probably never should have run for President. Ike's personal physician, Howard Snyder, comes in for sharp criticism of both his veracity and his medical judgment. Evidently, living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue guarantees having a doctor who makes house calls but not one who necessarily gives the best medical advice. Ferrell's account relies heavily on the records of General Thomas W. Mattingly, Eisenhower's cardiologist after 1953, who believes that Ike had three heart attacks before his major one in 1955. Missing files and altered records are cited as evidence of deliberate coverups in the cases of both FDR and Eisenhower. Ferrell closes with very brief and not well-substantiated comments about the medical problems of Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush. Though claiming an alarming trend toward medical coverups in the White House during the past century, Ferrell provides extensive data on only Eisenhower's case; if a pattern exists, he doesn't conclusively demonstrate it.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri Press