By St. Petersburg Times
Sen. John McCain sat in a stately looking office, addressing a national TV audience.
“Good evening, my fellow Americans,” he said. “I ask you: What should we be looking for in our next president? Certainly, someone who is very, very, very old.”
It was all a joke, played on Saturday Night Live. Yet despite self-deprecating attempts to disarm questions about his age, the Republican presidential nominee faces ongoing scrutiny.
The latest sign: More than 90 doctors in Florida have signed a national petition calling on McCain to fully release his medical records, suggesting that more about his bouts with skin cancer needs to be disclosed.
“If you still want to vote for the guy, that’s fine. But you should know about it,” said Dr. Max B. Rubin, a dermatologist in Delray Beach.
“I don’t want to look to see if he’s taking Viagra,” said Tallahassee orthopedic surgeon Ray Bellamy. “I want to see if there’s strong evidence he’s in good health or not.”
McCain, 72, would be the oldest president to take office if elected in November. His campaign dismissed the petition (which has nearly 2,900 signatures) as a stunt and noted it’s driven by a group with ties to the liberal Moveon.org.
Health questions in campaigns are nothing new. In 1995, Republican nominee Bob Dole pre-empted questions by releasing records showing him in fine shape. It was the 73-year-old Dole who was pressuring a younger and less willing President Bill Clinton to do the same.
The Florida doctors — many who acknowledge they favor Democrat Barack Obama — say they are raising concerns because if something were to happen to McCain, Sarah Palin would take over.
“It’s frightening to me to think she could be commander in chief,” said Kathryn Price, a family doctor in Sarasota.
The campaign points out that McCain let reporters review nearly 1,200 pages of records this spring and talk with his doctors.
Obama, by contrast, has released a one-page summary. Obama, 47, was given a mostly clean bill of health, but he has been a smoker.
“The arbiters of this election are not demanding the same level of disclosure about Sen. Obama, who’s essentially running on a doctor’s note,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.
Few medical experts doubt McCain’s vigor.
Questions persist, however. McCain allowed a select group of reporters to view the records, but they were limited to three hours and could not make copies.
At issue are his four cases of malignant melanoma, beginning in 1993. In 2000, he was diagnosed with Stage IIa melanoma (Stage IV is the worst) on his left temple. Rubin said information from what McCain released is not enough to answer questions about the cancer’s ability to spread.
Like other Florida doctors, he was approached by Brave New Films, a group that has produced short videos detailing negative aspects of McCain’s life.