Sanjay Gupta's interview with Dick Cheney aired last night on "60 Minutes". What could have been an unendurable puff piece by a timid interviewer, turned out to be an intensly challenging give and take between two forceful personalities.
I have no love for Dick Cheney. He embodies the worst characteristics in Washington politics: the entitled attitude of those who see themselves as omniscient and omnipotent. Were he omnipresent, well, we'd have a god. This is a war profiteer, a sneering know-it-all, an ambitious Iago who, were it not for his extreme health problems, more likely than not, might have run for President.
That's one scary possibility. Even more scary was the state of his health throughout his Vice Presidency.
Cheney was one over-sized, weakened, barely pumping heartbeat away from the Presidency. Dr. Gupta (or "Goop-Ta" as Cheney referred to him at one point) recounts the damage inflicted and attempts to keep this man alive:
- 5 heart attacks
- Open heart surgery & quadruple bypass
- Stents and defibrillators inserted (more surgery)
- Multiple angioplasties and catheterizations
- Heart pump
- Heart transplant two years ago
As Dr. Gupta repeatedly points out, these kinds of medical problems result in limited blood flow to the brain with potential side effects in cognition, memory, decline in decision-making, etc. Cheney refused to acknowledge he had been counseled about these side effects nor was he worried about his decision-making at the time.
In the "60 Minutes" interview, Reiner says he worried that Cheney couldn't stand the pressure that came on Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists attacked the U.S. Medical tests seen that morning showed Cheney had elevated levels of potassium in his blood, a condition called hyperkalemia, which could lead to abnormal heart rhythms and cardiac arrest.
Reiner says he watched news coverage of the day's events on television and thought, "Oh, great, the vice president is going to die tonight from hyperkalemia." huffingtonpost.com
Cheney proudly recounts the critical decisions he had to make. What a tough guy. John Wayne on a defibrillator! Yet, interestingly enough, in 2007 he had his defibrillator "modified" to prevent terrorists from hacking in and giving him a heart attack.
I do not share his enthusiasm. It was not that long ago women were considered too "emotional" to serve as leaders of the land due to everything from monthly hormonal changes to crying to menopause. Most of you reading this blog will remember when a serious discussion involving a woman running for president included the oft repeated phrase
"I wouldn't trust a woman with her finger on the button."
Gupta's interview will get scathing reviews from the Right and kudos from the Left. He did his job. He did not back down from one of the (formerly) most powerful men on the planet. He approached this from a medical point of view and showed the emperor-in-waiting without his clothes.
Can't wait to see Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert riff on this.