Texas doc has a stroke over Bush's "drooping mouth"

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published October 15, 2004 8:22PM (EDT)

After watching the third presidential debate Wednesday night, Dr. W. Kendall Tongier, M.D. of Dallas, Texas posted on the Dallas Morning News Web site about his concerns that the President may have had a stroke. The anesthesiologist, who has been in practice for 15 years, wrote: "Having watched the first two debates from start to finish, I was looking forward to listening to a spirited debate between Bush and Kerry. Unfortunately, I barely heard a word that was said. Instead, I found myself staring at and concentrating on the President's drooping mouth.

"As a physician and a professor, I tend to pick up on signs and symptoms of physical problems better than most other people. I am highly concerned with what I saw. The drooping left side of the President's face, his mouth and nasolabial fold (the crease in the face running from the nostril to the side of mouth) may be indicative of a recent stroke, TIA (transient ischemic attack)) or, possibly botox injections. I sincerely hope this was nothing more than botox injections. The other options are truly scary given an upcoming election for President in three weeks." In a phone interview, Dr. Tongier stressed that he's not a neurologist, and no doctor can make a diagnosis from a 90-minute debate. But he did explain why he found Bush's face so distracting Wednesday night: "It struck me across the face to the point where I wasn't really listening to the debate. It looked like the left side of his mouth was downturned. You know how he sneers at times. At first I thought that's what it was, but it didn't change when his face was at rest. It changed when he talked, but you'd expect that. It's the loss of muscle tone there that's really kind of concerning. And it was pretty much persistent throughout the entire debate."

Dr. Tongier isn't the only one wondering if the President's had a stroke. And the fact that President Bush skipped his annual check-up this year, right before the election is only fanning the speculation.

Dr. Tongier, who says that he's a Kerry supporter, but that "my medical opinion is non-partisan," adds that Bush's drooping could well be nothing to be alarmed about: "It certainly could be something as benign as an overzealous botox injection, which causes the paralysis, which is essentially how botox works. A lot of people will get them around the nasolabial fold to decrease those lines. If it's botox, it can be a short-term reaction after an injection. It could last for 24 hours and be gone. But I'd like to see the Bush campaign at least give an explanation."

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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