(Sept. 3) United States House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) multiple myeloma diagnosis this week seems to be just too cruel for a man who already miraculously survived an attempted assassin’s bullet; yet if anyone can win such a battle, it’s Scalise.

While attitude alone can’t overcome cancer, the right attitude clearly can play a big part. Scalise has just the right irrepressibly ebullient, upbeat personality.

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer, but one against which modern medicine has made some of the greatest strides. The five-year survival rate for one sort of multiple myeloma is 79.5%, and for another it is nearly 59%. Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw has survived multiple myeloma for more than 10 years now, and at age 83 just published a new book. Scalise’s announcement said his own condition had been detected “early.”

I’ve watched Scalise’s career closely since the first time I spoke to him in 1989, shortly after he graduated from Louisiana State University, where he had twice been elected as speaker (notice a pattern?) of the Student Assembly. From the moment he entered his first race for public office in 1995, which he handily won, it was clear he had a spark and internal drive that would carry him far. From the moment he entered Congress in a special election in 2007, he became what I wrote was a “conservative star ascendant.” Less than five years later he became head of the Republican Study Committee after building a reputation as “an intelligent bulldog with an appetite for chomping away at big government.”

And there is something infectiously likable about Scalise. I saw it when I spent part of Election Day with him in 2014, when even as a shoo-in for reelection he spent several hours knocking on doors to ask voters for their support. The reaction, almost uniformly, was not just favorable but wildly enthusiastic, with some voters reacting to him almost “as if he were Elvis, or Brad Pitt.”….

 

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