Update Mar. 7, 2006:
This quote from today’s New York Times struck me because it supports my view that people whose identity rests on being perceived as "men’s men" like Cheney internalize their stress under a "thick hide" and set themselves up for heart attacks:
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he went hunting with the vice president late last year and did not sense that the trial was bothering him. â€œHeâ€™s got a thick hide,â€ Mr. Graham said, â€œand he needs it.â€
No matter how thick the hide may be, under that leather exterior, and no matter how heartless they may be, these always literally a beating heart. I think Cheney is a cold, cold person who doesn’t let people get close to him emotionally. Never-the-less, he apparently did let his guard down with "Scooter" Libby. Consider this from the same New York Times article:
On a personal level, friends of the vice president say the trial has been deeply painful for him. Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney were all but inseparable â€” Ms. Matalin has called the former aide â€œCheneyâ€™s Cheneyâ€ â€” and often started their days by riding to work together. Mr. Libby accompanied the vice president almost everywhere he went, and Mr. Cheney made clear his high professional and personal regard for his aide, even playing host to a book party for him in 2002 at his official residence.
Cheney is in the headlines again. He’s being scrutinized in a most unflattering way. He typically shrugs off such things, but if he continues his pattern of repressing his feelings it adds to the buried stress that can be detremental to his health.
As far as Libby’s conviction goes, I doubt that Cheney is letting himself mourn the loss of what apparently was as close a friendship as he allows himself.
When people don’t grieve the unfelt feelings are buried where they will generally come out inother ways. With Cheney, If my theory about Cheney’s personality dynamics is correct, this will also effect his physical health.
I think there is a reasonable chance that Vice President Cheney will either die or have to resign for health reasons. The news today is that he is being treated for a blood clot, or a deep venous thrombosis, in his leg. Such blood clots can travel into the lungs, causing what are called pulmonary embolisms. They are frequently lethal. Most people aren’t aware that pulmonary embolisms are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Cheney is extremely lucky his blood clots were diagnosed, since treatment with anticoagulant medicines like Coumadin and Plavix is usually effective. (These medicines are often erroneously called blood thinners by lay people. They don’t "thin" the blood, they inhibit clotting.)
Obesity, immobility and age are risk factors for these dangerous blood clots.
Other risk factors can be exacerbated by long airplane trips like the one Cheney just completed. Sitting in one place for a long time is a problem, as is lower oxygen levels in airplanes which lowers oxygen in the bloodstream. This increases the risk of clots.
Another risk factor effecting Cheney is that people who have heart and circulation problems can have slower circulation.
One of the reasons doctors recommend that travelers get up and walk around every couple of hours is to prevent such clots in the legs. These clots can be very dangerous because they can come loose and move in the circulatory system through the body, especially to the lungs.
Dick Cheney does have a heart condition. He’s had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasty procedures, an operation to implant a pacemaker, and has been told by his doctors to keep his weight down. My observations of him suggest he is having difficult keeping those potentially lethal pounds off.
Anyone who has tried to loose twenty or thirty pound on a doctor’s recommendation knows that dieting is especially difficult when you’re under stress.
I don’t think there’s anyone who doubts that the vice president is under stress. I wonder what Cheney’s personal physician is telling him about how to spend the next two years. Should he remain in an incredibly high stress job or retire and take time to enjoy his family and whatever time he has left?
It may be in his best interest to retire, but would his doctor have the guts to tell him this if it is true?
This being noted, the Cheney I observe would be loath to give up the last two years as the second most powerful person in the world. This decision could kill him.
Whether he dies in office or resigns for health reasons, the 25th Amendment states that:
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
This would mean that President Bush would appoint a new vice president and the Congress, which of course is Democratic, would have to confirm his choice. That’s both houses by a majority vote. If his choice was confirmed by a majority of one in the Senate, the House could still easily deny his choice if the Democrats had strong objections.
Most of the Republicans running for president are distancing themselves from President Bush.
Would Bush choose one of them?
Whoever he chooses would, if they so choose, become the Bush heir apparent to the presidency. Thus a Condoleeza Rice candicacy, if she became vice president, would be a real possibilty.
So far the mainstream news media isn’t dealing with the suddenly increased possibility of Cheney having to retire or dying in office, but they need to get real. It very well could happen.
Note: I am a clinical social worker, not a physician. The medical information here comes from several reputable medical websites.
(Hal Brown is a clinical social worker and former mental health center director who is mostly retired from his private psychotherapy practice. He writes on the psychopathology of public figures and other topics that pique his interest. He can be found online at www.stressline.com)