Sunday, September 29, 2019

@TheEconomist (Ann Wroe?) on Dr. Robert McClelland and #JFK.

Wikipedia, "John F. Kennedy"

image available at https://shrtm.nu/8I21
Like many, I take Sunday afternoon and evening as an opportunity to review The Economist in print. While I scan its articles Thursday morning Pacific Time as they go live in London, I'm looking at the leaders in the throes of a workday. My review of the more detailed discussions and analysis of the newspaper takes place later, as the sun sets, children go to bed, and quiet descends on Sunday. I try to pick out at least one article to save: I don't have a formula for it, but I usually know the piece when I see it.

This week it was the obituary, and I suspect it was written by Ann Wroe (The Economist eschews bylines). She took a first in History and a doctorate in medieval history (Oxford, 1975), then worked for the BBC before joining The Economist in 1976 to cover American politics. She eventually became the Books and Arts editor (1988-1992) and US editor (1992-2000). She has edited the Obituaries page, usually writing the obituaries herself, since October 2003. I personally started reading the Economist in 1991 or 1992, so I've been reading her work for nearly 30 years, although usually unaware of the fact when I'm doing so.

Ann Wroe
Obituaries Editor
The Economist
available at https://shrtm.nu/k5r8 
The obituary this week regards Dr. Robert McClelland, a remarkable surgeon from Dallas in his own right. For nearly 30 years starting in the 1970s, he self-published “Selected Readings in General Surgery,” a regular compendium of journal articles — accompanied by his critiques. As the article notes, at one point, nearly 60% of America's general surgery residents subscribed, as the journal was a collection of the most useful new articles regarding first-hand surgical experience. That alone makes Dr. McClelland noteworthy, but it was the events of one week more than a half century ago that brings his passing to the attention of an English magazine in the 21st century. For Dr. McClelland was called to operate in an emergency on both President John F. Kennedy, and Lee Harvey Oswald, in the space of nearly 48 hours in November 1963.

The maelstrom of theories regarding the Kennedy assassination has never held my interest, despite the fact that the man has always been a hero for me. That he died for his country, rather than how, has always loomed far larger in my psyche. As Mark Shields, the longtime PBS Newshour commentator notes, Americans form individual relationships with the presidents.  Kennedy has always been the figure that comes to mind for me when I consider the office; as a near-mythical figure, and as the only Irish-Catholic (like me) to occupy the Oval Office, that is perhaps natural.

"To save a life"
"Robert McClelland died on September 10th, 2019"
The Economist
available at 
https://shrtm.nu/QNHI
However, the obituary of Dr. McClelland noted that, unlike the other surgeons in the room operating on President Kennedy, he disagreed with the conclusion of the Warren Report. His significant experience in dealing with the consequences of gunshots, and his position at the head of the table, caused him to examine both of the wounds of the stricken President. While the wound to the neck appeared to come from the back, the injury to Kennedy's head, in the opinion of Dr. McClelland, clearly came from the front -- indicating that more than one assassin participated.  After witnessing the Zapruder film years later, Dr. McClelland felt that the theory was validated, as the New York Times wrote in its obituary.

The tone and tenor of the obituary treats Dr. McClelland as a faithful and reliable witness. My sense is that the author thought Dr. McClelland's theory was right. If indeed Wroe is the author, she is unquestionably an individual with a great degree of reporting skill. She has borne witness to the reality of American presidential politics at the highest level for nearly fifty years.  What other discussions Ms. Wroe has had over the decades that informed her opinion, I and perhaps no one else can say.

But that she chose to draw attention to this careful, methodical, dedicated surgeon was no accident.  Both she and he fully appreciated the importance of what happened on November 22, 1963. Dr. McClelland preserved the blood stained shirt in which he operated that day for the rest of his life. He had fought that afternoon to save the life of a 46-year-old father of two, who happened to also be the leader of the free world. He would fight every bit as hard two days later to save the life of the accused assassin. There are fewer higher tributes to the medical profession than the sense of duty that compelled this surgeon to render aid under both circumstances. For that, the McClelland family has much to be proud.

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