Analysis / Spin Doctors

This columnist ascribes to himself exceptional expertise in two main medical departments - the heart department and the head department, between which our prime minister is now roaming as between Tzora and Eshtaol; Ariel Sharon, like Samson the Brave in his generation, ripping apart lions like their were baby goats on the ranch. This columnist's expertise was acquired by means of his clinical experiences - a heart attack and catheterization some 20 years ago and sawing open of the head about a year ago to remove a benign growth and clean the skull cavity of edema that had spread throughout it. It might be said therefore that the writer is "the certified patient." Life has certified him.

The certified patient's family doctor is from a health maintenance organization clinic and never ascended to the level of "personal physician," because her patient never ascended to the level of prime minister. She is a good and devoted doctor who takes a dim view of a cholesterol level of a little more than 100 and firmly insists on "a reduction operation."

"Reduce," she tells me, "you must reduce," and I try to. By contrast, Sharon's doctors are less strict and put up with a cholesterol level of nearly 200, and this refers, of course, to the bad cholesterol, or LDL in medical terminology, which can cause arteriosclerosis, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. That is what happens when a person's doctors are also his inadvertent PR guys.

Does anyone doubt the credibility of "the personal physicians"? Not I. First of all, they are certainly decent and reliable people who steer clear of lies. And secondly, what man would be so bold as to pick a fight with doctors of all people, into whose hands even a healthy person might tumble at any moment. There is a limit to civic bravery.

And yet, how do you explain the niggling doubt. In the case of Sharon it is not the doctors who are to blame, but rather the patient. When the culture of lies spreads and trickles down, even doctors catch the disease and carry its germs. They report truthfully, the doctors, and nonetheless you don't always believe them. Too many times Sharon and his people sold us a bill of spun goods, so no wonder the public is having trouble now swallowing an overheated soup of figures, stirring the bowl again and again to see what's really in it.

Credibility is not just a fine and proper quality that it is recommended to adopt. Credibility is first and foremost a governing tool, without which it is impossible to run even a grocery store. Who is willing to shop at a grocery store where the owner is a known double-bookkeeper; and if that's how it is with a grocery store, what's it like with a government? You simply cannot run a country when the credibility tool is broken. Without trust - a people will exact its revenge and it might grow confused between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, a medical file and a police file. If Sharon's doctors were to heed my advice, they would keep all aides and advisers away from the hospital lest the areas become blurred - health aside and noodle soup aside.

When credibility is harmed, giving your word is worthless and a commitment is no commitment; people can only rely on their own discretion, what they read and see between the lines. That is the accepted reading in bad regimes, which cover the rules more and reveal less.

What are people to understand when they find out about a stroke that caused damage - or not, and about a hole in the heart that is big - or small. One thing they certainly grasp, these people - that their destiny is in the hands of somebody whose own destiny is not fully known.

The precise weight of the prime minister also remains shrouded in his suit: 100 kilograms or 150 kilograms - there is a difference, after all - and the weight, as you know, places stress on the heart, which places stress on the brain. It doesn't take the certified patient to determine that physical mass does not guarantee cerebral gravitas.

Even the weight issue will, of course, not be resolved unless the prime minister steps onto the scale on live television. My only fear is that on that occasion another suspicion might arise: is the scale in working order and not been tampered with by the spinologists?