Following a recent flurry of oddly inexplicable statements by President George W. Bush, even more so than usual, his political advisors became concerned. Worries had actually begun weeks back when the President claimed an ability to make foreign policy by mystically looking Prime Minister Maliki in the eye. Erratic behavior increased dramatically during the ensuing weeks, from giving German Chancellor Angela Merkel a back rub, to his displaying an obsessive infatuation with farm animals at an international press conference:
"I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig...Looking forward to that pig tonight...I haven't seen that pig yet...I thought you were going to ask me about the pig...The pig? I'll tell you tomorrow after I eat it."
However, it was President's compulsive fixation on torture, contrary to every known principle of decency in the American soul (and several unknown principles), that caused aides to sense his disengagement from the world around him. They next noticed a lethargy. And then a breakdown of motor skills.
The situation reached a critical stage when the President was observed in the Oval Office unmoving, unthinking and unfeeling. Neurologists were quickly brought in. Tests were conducted to determine the level of this medical crisis or if it was simply normal behavior.
While doctors tape-recorded the inert President for three days and studied every frame for signs of sense memory, an emergency arose within the Republican Party. With mid-term elections weeks away, leaders needed to ensure that panic over the President's blank condition didn't spread across the nation.
Majority leader Bill Frist (R-TN), a respected surgeon, was enlisted to take the Senate floor and offset growing fears.
Mr. FRIST. I have had the opportunity to look at the video footage. You are looking for responsiveness. From my standpoint as a physician - the President does respond.
When I first heard about the President, I wanted to know more. I asked myself, does President Bush clearly have no hope of being rehabilitated or improved in any way? It is a very tough diagnosis.
So I called one of the neurologists who did evaluate him. And he told me very directly that the President is not in a persistent vegetative state. To be fair, he examined Mr. Bush about 2 years ago.
I met with his family. His wife says he has a severe disability. A lot of people have severe disabilities, but his brother said that he responds to his parents and to him. That is not somebody in persistent vegetative state.
So then it came to, what do you do?
Let me just comment a little bit about George W. Bush. The President is breathing on his own. He is not a terminal case. He is, as I said..."disabled."
As I understand it, the President's wife will not divorce George and will not allow his parents to take care of him.
The attorneys for the President's parents have submitted 33 affidavits from medical professionals. Some of these say they believe that George could benefit from therapy.
The video footage, which I spent an hour looking at, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state. In "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine," on page 1625, it reads:
"In the closely related minimally conscious state the patient may make intermittent rudimentary vocal or motor responses."
Maybe the President is in this minimally conscious state!
I mentioned that George's brother told me George laughs, smiles, and tries to speak. That doesn't sound like a man in a persistent vegetative state.
Remember, he has family members - his parents and brother - who say "they love him. They will take care of him, they will be responsible for him, and...they will support him."
Later, in the Republican Senate cloakroom, a Senator was overheard telling one of his G.O.P. compatriots running for re-election: "Bill Frist proved to my satisfaction that President Bush is not brain dead. Let us hope now that the country is."