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Sweet column: Stroger should release medical records

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I wish Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr. a full recovery from the stroke he suffered this week. With all due respect to Stroger, whom I have covered on and off for almost 25 years, I think a Cook County voter deserves to know the answer to this question before Tuesday's balloting:

Will Stroger be fit to serve another term?

to read entire column, click here


In the next few days, Stroger's campaign needs to release his medical records for an independent third-party evaluation for the voting public. Stroger, 76, is facing a strong Democratic primary challenge from Cook County Board member Forrest Claypool, who is 48.

On Wednesday, Stroger's campaign declared that the message is "full steam ahead'' in the closing days of the primary race, even though the idea that this campaign is now business as usual is absurd. I don't ask this question about determining if Stroger is fit to serve because of his age or his race. I understand this intrudes on his medical privacy, but it is not uncommon for people in public life to disclose their health records.

Candidates for president have opened their medical records when questions have been raised about their health. Doctors for President Bush and former President Bill Clinton routinely make available medical information from annual exams and any physical problems that develop.

With the Illinois primary just days away, I would want to have some detailed medical information about the condition of any candidate, young or old, who is hospitalized for a serious matter -- whether a stroke or hit by a car.

The statement issued by Rush University Medical Center Wednesday said Stroger was able to move "part of his left leg and arm and was able to speak to doctors.'' Stroger's doctor, Robert Simon, said in the statement that he was "cautiously optimistic'' about Stroger's progress and that he was expected to remain in the hospital for the next week.

Simon, however, works for Cook County as well as maintaining a private practice. Nothing against Simon, but I want voters to learn more about Stroger's prognosis from someone not on the county payroll.

There is no chance at all that Stroger will withdraw from the race before Tuesday. But here is what happens if Stroger is nominated and then realizes he is too ill to continue on the job. Instead of the Democratic voters of Cook County deciding on the nominee for board president, it will be a group of 80 Democratic committeemen. That's 50 from the city's wards and 30 from the suburban Cook townships, who will pick the Democrat whose name will be on the November ballot instead of thousands of Democratic voters.

I asked Stroger campaign spokeswoman Anne-Marie St. Germaine if Stroger's medical records could be released for an independent evaluation to determine if he is fit to serve. She told me it was not a campaign question.

Before Stroger's stroke, I was going to devote this column to how the Illinois Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, are split on this contest. Here's the mini-version.

Durbin is endorsing Stroger and is featured in the Stroger campaign's final ad with Mayor Daley. "I've known John since before I was elected and have worked closely with him on health issues, especially Medicaid reimbursement and asthma. I am supporting his re-election,'' Durbin said in an e-mail. Stroger endorsed Durbin in his first Senate primary in 1996.

Obama is neutral in the primary. But given the race-based nature of politics in Cook County, Obama's neutrality is very helpful to Claypool because it sends a silent signal, intended or not.

The Stroger-Claypool race is a manifestation of a generational transition going on in Cook County politics. There is no one machine anymore; there are mini-machines.

Claypool is part of a growing political orbit that includes Obama and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).

Stroger comes from the Daley network and the remnants of the old machine.

Durbin straddles both camps.

But where Stroger gets his support from and who endorses Stroger for the moment are moot. There is one question that needs to be answered before Tuesday: If nominated, can Stroger serve?


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21 Comments

Stroger won't let the voters know if he's able to serve another term in office because it's all about him and the machine, not them.

Any intelligence member of society knows of the HIPPA and the medical confidentality of medical records. Your medical history is private and can only be relased with written consent. If Stroger does not relase his medical records it his choice. Now a voter in turn has a decision based on the circumstances to make whatever vote right he choses. But to say, Stroger should turn over his medical records is unethical. Only the uninformed would make such a commet.

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reply from sweet: i am aware of medical privacy issues. my point was/is he should waiver his rights to privacy and release his records

How many of the 80 Dem committeemen work for the county govt? I can think of a couple @ least.

If Mr Claypool has an un disclosed illness, does this make him an unlikely candidate? Does the fact the Sun-Times has endorsed Mr Claypool have anything to do with your questions? Why is always that someone kicks a person when they are down and not up to a fight? You even made suggestions an why Senator Obama is neutral. State in plain terms what you really want to say, which is DO NOT VOTE FOR STROGER!!

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reply from lynn sweet
the sun-times endorsement has nothing to do with the column i wrote.

"Stroger comes from the Daley network and the remnants of the old machine."

AND CLAYPOOL IS A LONG-TIME MEMBER OF THE INNER CIRCLE OF THE DALEY MACHINE. BOTH CANDIDATES ARE PART OF THE CHICAGO SLEAZE, NO MATTER WHO ENDORSES THEM!

Medical Records = The word is HIPPA


Thank You.

First of all, for Mr. Graf, it is HIPAA NOT HIPPA. Secondly, Cook County is about politics first and people second. I have come to believe that Stroger is worse off than led to believe and if he wins on Tuesday, within 3 weeks, a statement will be issued announcing that he will drop out of the November race for 'health' reasons. By doing so, any chance of reform or change in Cook County politics will go by the wayside. I also base this on the recent radio ad by former President Clinton. Since when does a former President get this involved in a 'local' election? I think there is a fear by the machine that Stroger may lose on Tuesday and they need to pull out all the stops, from supressing factual medical data to bringing in a former President.

I believe it should be left up to Stroger's discretion whether or not he publicizes his medical records. However, I also question the motives of a man in his condition subjecting himself to such a stressful career at his age.

Regardless of who wins the Democrat primary on Tuesday, but especially if Mr. Stroger wins, I hope that the Sun-Times will devote more time to the fact that there is an alternative to the same old story. Tony Peraica.

I pray for Strogers full recovery and long time retirement.but for Gods sake, 76 years old,? give it a rest, mr. Stroger.his machine is so bloated with payrollers, and cook country hospital is a joke. the unions run the place, as far as HIPPA, he can sign off on that, at any time, unless he is unable to do so.
I would bet the ranch, that 50% of cook county employees, could be let go, and not missed.

This is shaping up to be a dream for the 80 ward and township committeemen. Expect them to ratchet up their efforts for Stroger over the next five days. If Stroger hangs on and can't run in November they get to appoint any hand-puppet political hack they like.

John Daley would appear to fit the bill, but even King Richard would fear the impression that too many Daleys are in power. Nevermind that the replacement appointee would be someone fully compliant to Daley, anyway.

If Stroger wins and can't run in November, who are the most likely replacements?

Tony Peraica, like his Democratic counterpart, Mike Quigley, Claypool's puppetmaster, can hide behind a cork-screw.

What I find Odd is no one on this Blog are asking the real question: Are we supposed to leave this decision of the Presidency, of the Largest County in this state in the hands of the people who have run it into the ground? Are we Deomcrats or have we turned into sheep? He's a Public figure, he and his staff should consider that for the voters. Otherwise we end up like the Iraqi's.

I pray that President Stroger recovers fully and him and his family will enjoy the rest of their lives traveling and spending time in the sun. However, if we vote for President Stroger are we doing him justice by putting him back in office, knowing that he is gravely ill or disabled, or are we doing a dis-service to him. If Stroger is not able to make the decision to step-down, [for whatever the reason] then should the voting public vote for the opposition and hence the decision will be made for Mr. Stroger? I don't know, but something's gotta give. He either needs to step down or appoint another qualified person to do the job. It is all too apparent that Mr. Stroger needs to rest, take better care of his health, lose weight, exercise, eat healthy, and lead by example to a stress-free life after a stroke. I would think that the people that work closely by his side, [that claim to care about him] and his family would advise Mr. Stroger strongly to do the right thing -- which is to take care of himself first and foremost.

To those who say the 76-year-old, currently hospitalized Stroger should keep his medical records private I would ask, what do you think is implied by the term "running for PUBLIC office"?!

If he wants to keep his medical condition private, let him return to "private life." Hopefully, the voters of Cook County will make the decision for him on Tuesday.

If you want to back Claypool why not be person enough to do so.

Pat's just mad because the diminutive Quigley is still twice the man he is.

I agree about disclosing the medical records, but I think Stroger will take a cue from Cheney. We have no idea the extent of Cheney's health problems and he's the veep. He's morally unfit, but that's another issue.

This is an interesting race, not because of Stroger's health, but because it's a test of county voters on whether or not they have had it with the political machine that runs county government. There has been huge frustration voiced on the national, state, county, and city (Chicago) levels. If Stroger loses, other political bosses will be nervous on whether or not they are next.

Belle Plaine:
Who on earth can define what is morality? I am sure you have ideas on what constitues morality, however, remember your beliefs would only be that; your beliefs.

I'm very happy to hear this morning of former President Bill Clinton's weighing in with support and endorsement of John Stroger. It makes my kind of wonder why Rahm Emanuel has a sign supporting Claypool on his front lawn. Why is Emanuel not supporting one of the staunchest and most tried and tested Franklin Roosevelt Democrats in the Chicago area- a man who has backed up his words with deeds? Who is Rahm Emanuel working for?
Could it be that Rahm Emanuel's 9 million dollar recent years income from his work with the Lazard
Freres related Wasserstein investment bankering interests indicate that Rahm is a "bankers Democrat?"
How about Forrest Claypool's contributions from commodity speculator and pro-drug legalizer "deep pockets" Richard Dennis? Is he a man of the people or another, anti-Franklin Roosevelt "banker's boy," masquarading as a Democrat?
Remember it was Richard Dennis who disrupted and attempted to destroy the Democratic Party in 1986 after LaRouche Democrats Janice Hart and Mark Fairchild won the Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor's Primary. It was Richard Dennis who put the money up to start a third party which drove Ed Vrdolyak and others out of the Democratic Party at that time. So, Claypool is definitely swimming in some dirty money waters!!!
And finally and ironically, Adlai Stevenson leaving the Democratic Party and running on Richard Dennis' disruptive third party, prevented Adlai from reaching the goal that he will tell anyone he really yearned for, running for President of the United States. As the elected Governor of Illinois, which is what most likely would have happened had he stuck with the Democratic Party and Mark Fairchild as his Lieutenant Governor, Adlai would have probably been able to get the 1988 or 1992 Democratic Nomination and gone on to become President of the United States!!!!!
As the campaign manager for the LaRouche Democrats and with the role LaRouche has personally played in inspiring the Democratic Party to return to the FDR principles, I believe that Rahm Emanuel, Forrest Claypool, and Richard Dennis should give up their "evil ways," and return to the FDR principles of the Democratic Party that Lyndon LaRouche has championed.
I wish John Stroger the best of success and remember both FDR and his lieutenant Harry Hopkins gave incredibly courageous public service under conditions of personal medical severe hardships. Maybe there is a lesson in there that the younger generation needs to learn NOW!!! Gerald Pechenuk cities12345@yahoo.com

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 16, 2006 5:41 AM.

Towards Tuesday: Who won 6th CD matchup last night on WTTW? Duckworth, Cegelis or Scott? Open comments on other primary contests was the previous entry in this blog.

Read for yourself: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton slams President Bush in appeal for money for Dem Senate campaigns is the next entry in this blog.

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