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Invasion of the Pumpheads


Is America at the mercy of an invasion of the pumpheads?

The bizarre behavior of Bill Clinton during this campaign season, which has seen this once smooth-talking and politically uber-sophisticated campaigner repeatedly stick a foot in his mouth and undermine his wife’s struggling campaign, raises the issue of whether he is suffering from postperfusion syndrome—a now recognized cognitive impairment common in patients who have undergone heart bypass surgery.

Referred to in hospital jargon as “pumphead syndrome,” the condition, thought to be caused by debris and bubbles that are created and released into the bloodstream by artificial pumps used to circulate blood while hearts are being operated on—material that can block blood flow in smaller vessels in the brain, causing neurological damage–this recognized condition has been demonstrated in some studies to lead to significant cognitive impairment that can show up in as many as 42 percent of heart surgery patients even as long as five years after surgery.

Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery on Sept. 6, 2006, and accordiing to his doctors, instead of keeping his heart going during the procedure, they chose the method that involved shutting down his heart temporarily, and putting him temporarily on a heart pump–the method that can cause posperfusion syndrome.

At least in Clinton’s case, if he is a “pumphead,” the only damage he can do is to his wife’s campaign. He is no longer president or commander in chief. (Well, let me take that back. If she were elected, he could create havoc as First Spouse and chief pillow talker, but let’s not even go there!)

But what about Cheney, a man who has had five, count ‘em, five heart surgeries, each of which offered a 42% chance of causing permanent cognitive impairment? No wonder there are reports that this bizarre, eternally snarling, heavy drinking friend shooter is said to hum to himself loudly and tunelessly in the stall of the White House men’s room!

If we consider the likelihood that the man widely seen as the power in this administration is a pumphead, and that Bush himself, who spent a long time as a drunk and a cokehead (talk about the potential for, not to mention the clear evidence of mental impairment!), we are left with the almost inevitable conclusion that we have been led for the past two terms by a pair brain-damaged men—and that’s not even counting the members of the cabinet and National Security Council, the medical histories of whom we know nothing. Given the advanced age of most of the team, it’s a fair bet that a number of them have had heart surgery too.

Call it “Invasion of the Pumpheads!”

Certainly not everyone who undergoes heart surgery and gets put temporarily on a pump ends up mentally deficient, but the prevalence of the problem sounds to me like a pretty good reason to demand full medical disclosure from all candidates for higher office, and not just for president and vice president, but for cabinet posts too—and judgeships.

For starters, Republican presidential presumptive nominee John McCain, 71 and a known cancer survivor, has not released his medical records. That suspicious failure of candor in a man who has already run for president once, should tell us something right away. His behavior places him squarely in the pumphead suspicion category, especially given that the guy repeatedly fails to recognize the difference between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq, and thinks that the Iranians—nearly all Shia—are backing Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group that is so anti-Iran that they are publicly calling on the US to attack that country! Even if he hasn’t had heart surgery, if he were elected and took office at age 72, he’d be the oldest president in history, and his prognosis for making it through one, much less two terms in one of the world’s most stressful jobs without having a heart attack seem slim.

Not that seemingly intelligent presidents haven’t been disastrous or haven’t made terrible decisions (think Nixon, Kennedy, Hoover and Wilson). But we’ve just endured two terms of a president with some kind of mental impairment with catastrophic results, and we had one in the 1980s with Alzheimer-afflicted Ronald Reagan, which set the nation on its course to bankruptcy. We certainly don’t need yet a third president of limited mental ability. It’s almost like we’re institutionalizing the concept.

DAVE LINDORFF is an investigative journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition. His work is available at






Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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