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Why Dr. Oz Fears John Fetterman

Recovering from a stroke is one of the hardest things in the world. Running a campaign while doing it is a sign of amazing strength and grit.
November 3, 2022
Why Dr. Oz Fears John Fetterman
Dr. Mehmet Oz (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Dr. Oz isn’t “ableist.” He’s afraid.

Throughout his campaign, Oz has sought to turn John Fetterman’s stroke into a political millstone. That’s because he does not want you to know what he knows: John Fetterman’s ability to recover from a stroke while running a top-notch campaign—all with happy-warrior aplomb—is nothing short of incredible. Oz’s criticisms of Fetterman speak of a fear of Fetterman’s drive. Oz sees that drive and it has Oz spooked.

Traumatic brain injury is no joke. Aside from those who have suffered a brain injury, only medical professionals understand what recovery entails. Only this small subset of the population (which includes Oz) understands the hell of temporarily living inside a mind that refuses to obey you. Oz may be a quack, but he’s still a doctor. He knows what this stroke has told people about Fetterman’s character. And it scares him.

I know all of this because I’m part of this small subset of the population, too.

I had two strokes as a result of a neck injury, and words cannot begin to capture the mental challenge. People grasp the physical challenge. It’s visible. But the mental challenge requires the focus and forbearance of a monk.

First, there’s the tedium: You must focus all day, every day, on forcing your brain to perform what were previously simple tasks. But, despite your best efforts to bring it to heel, your brain, like Bartleby, simply prefers not to.

And then there’s the drive: Despite the previous day’s failures, you have to get up the next day and do it again. And again. And again. You have to take your frustrations, conjure up some stubbornness, and combine them to create the drive and focus that Oz prays you aren’t noticing in Fetterman.

One of the most common questions that I get about my strokes is, “Why didn’t you give up?”

Oz knows the answer to this, too. For young stroke victims, giving up isn’t an option. You cannot recover without work. So giving up means no recovery. And that’s selfish. That’s when you become an anchor lashed to the people you love, for decades.

I don’t normally try to explain this process, but it sounds like complaining—and complaining is toxic to the soul. So let me share an anecdote. Remember the typing programs we used as kids to learn touch typing? I spent hours a day with those, reteaching myself how to type. For 10 years.

Enduring that kind of monotony, knowing that the next day will bring more of the same, requires you to dig deep.

I had my strokes very young—I was in my 30s. I was too young, dumb, and obstinate to give up. Piss and vinegar were my superpowers, and I ended every single day exhausted. Some days I was lucky to make it to my bed. It astonishes me that Fetterman has a reserve of strength to do the rehab work and hit the campaign trail.

Frankly, it blows me away.

Despite the fact that Oz had a national TV show and a career launched by Oprah, despite the former president endorsing him, despite Republicans showering the Pennsylvania race with cash, and despite the political environment greatly favoring the Republicans—John Fetterman has fought Oz to a statistical dead heat for a seat that has been in GOP hands since 1981.

And he’s done it all while recovering from a stroke.

I am certain that John Fetterman and I disagree on most political issues, but the man has my respect. And even if he doesn’t have your vote, he deserves your respect, too. He has the kind of moxie that we want in the political arena. America is better when people as determined as he is step forward to lead.

What’s the opposite of Fetterman’s moxie? A smug and smarmy Dr. Mehmet Oz who fears Fetterman. Republicans are worse off when the man they choose to represent them isn’t big enough to respect what his opponent brings to the table.

Kristofer Harrison

Kristofer Harrison is senior managing director for a macroeconomic consultancy and is a Russia expert. Previously, he served as an official at both the State and Defense Departments during the George W. Bush administration.  Twitter: @ToferH.