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Too much information?

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One of the drawbacks of being a politician, especially an elderly politician, is that your medical history is apparently fair game for the public.Sen. John McCain, who continues to campaign aimlessly for president as he awaits a Democratic opponent, was forced to release his medical records to the media in a bid to show voters he is, despite his nearly 72 years on the planet, healthy enough to govern the last Superpower.We know from release of his records that he has seen no recurrence of the skin cancer he once experienced, but has suffered from colon polyps and kidney stones. McCain's doctor, the fellow who regularly looks up the chute to see if the polyps have returned, expressed nothing but optimism for the senator's prognosis.Wow. That is really too much information.This extraordinary sharing of information is, of course, a reflection of modern politics and media, where almost nothing is considered off the radar screen. It is also a reflection of the conflicting tendancies of the voting publlic to both embrace older candidates and worry about whether they are healthy enough to govern.At 72 (in August), McCain could be the oldest first-term president ever elected. Canada has regularly elected Prime Ministers in their 60s or older. Paul Martin was 63 when he was finally made Prime Minister in December 2003. Martin replaced Jean Chretien, who was 69 at the time.When Chretien returned to politics in the early 1990s to campaign for prime minister, he faced much of the same scrutiny now experienced by McCain. Chretien had a cancer scare in 1991 while out of politics, and there was some speculation he was not up to the task of leading Canada. In an exchange on a campaign plane during the 1997 federal election, Chretien treated reporters (me included) to a story about how his advisors decided to quash rumours of his ill health by inviting a photographer to the family's cottage in Quebec to take pictures of the aspiring prime minister water skiing.Chretien has been an accomplished water sportsman most of his life. But at 60 years of age, could he still carve up the water? The iconic image of a grimacing Chretien, skiing slalom on a solo ski, certainly put to an end any concern about his well being and set the stage for his impressive decade-long run as PM.I know he's much younger, but has Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a physical lately? If so, can Canada's new government explain why we haven't seen the results of his colonoscopy and some blood work? Are they trying to hide something? And perhaps Liberal Leader Stephane Dion could pee in a cup provided by the National Press Gallery.The life of a big-time politician is many things, but it's never dull.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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