I won’t waste your time trying to use Feeling Poorlygate as an excuse to play amateur doctor — plenty of people in the basket of deplorables are doing that already — because here’s the sagacious bottom line: Given what we already know about the ’16 presidential candidates — combining their ages, this is the oldest duo in American history — it’s imperative that they both release their medical records.
I won’t waste your time trying to use Feeling Poorlygate as an excuse to play amateur doctor — plenty of people in the basket of deplorables are doing that already — because here’s the sagacious bottom line:
Given what we already know about the ’16 presidential candidates — combining their ages, this is the oldest duo in American history — it’s imperative that they both release their medical records. Only then can we begin to put Hillary Clinton’s ill health episodes, and notably her latest one, in the proper perspective. Only then can we begin to determine whether Donald Trump’s rotten health habits — four hours sleep a night and an insatiable intake of junk food — are blinking yellow lights for an overweight 70-year-old man.
But neither of these candidates is particularly transparent, and there’s no requirement that they come clean on the medical front. Indeed, their predecessors rarely went the extra mile. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney didn’t share those personal histories in 2012. John McCain did it in 2008, but with a big caveat: He dumped 1,000 pages on a select few reporters, and gave them only a few hours to read up. So when Trump tweeted in August that he was willing to “release detailed medical records,” that he had “no problem in doing so,” it just read like a head fake.
But we do need to know, not just because the presidency is such a grueling job (although arguably less grueling than criss-crossing the country umpteen times during a multi-year campaign), but because in the absence of hard information, the conspiracy theories continue metastasise — as we’ve long seen already, like when Karl Rove cited Clinton’s ’12 concussion and conjured brain dramage. And the public wants a lot more info. According to a national poll last month by the survey firm Morning Consult, 64 percent of registered voters want Clinton and Trump to release detailed records, a nine percent hike since the question was asked in May.
Still, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the public will rationally assess the released info. Take a look at what’s happening right now: Clinton’s doctor says she has pneumonia, and the usual loons and trolls, their hair afire, spent their Sunday tweeting pneumonia death stats. This is a big a reason why leaders often embrace secrecy — as arguably evidenced best by FDR. Post-polio, he hid the fact that he couldn’t walk; back then, most Americans didn’t look kindly on “cripples.” The truth would have damaged him politically; only after his death did people learn that Hitler was beaten by a guy who couldn’t stand.
But now that we’re supposedly more sophisticated about these things, and about modern medicine, the scales should tilt toward transparency. At least the rational among us would know more than we know now.
And lest we forget, we know a lot less about Trump’s medical fitness than we do about Clinton’s. All we’ve got from the demagogue is a four-paragraph letter written in five minutes nine months ago in the back of a limo. Trump’s gastroenterologist, Harold Bornstein, did the honors, declaring in suspiciously Trumpy language that “his strength and stamina are extraordinary,” that his lab results “are astonishingly excellent” (no doctor talks that way), and that of course Trump would be the healthiest leader in the history of human endeavor. (Actually, the best part of Bornstein’s letter was his claimed affiliation with the “section of gastroenterology” at Lenox Hill hospital in Manhattan. There is no “section” or “division” of gastroenterlogy at that hospital.)
Trump had actually promised us much more than a limo-scrawled letter packed with superlatives. Shortly before it was written, Trump had tweeted: “I have instructed my long-time doctor to issue, within two weeks, a full medical report — and it will show perfection.” So much for that vow. His idea of transparency is to appear, reportedly later this week, on a daytime TV show hosted by Dr. Mehmet Oz, to discuss his “personal health regimen.” Problem is, Oz has been repeatedly investigated as a quack. He has been roundly assailed by other physicians for his “disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” which is why he’s clearly Trump’s kind of guy.
And with Clinton off the road for the next few days, the health speculation will only get worse. In theory, the best — one that has been floated for years — is to bring in an independent team of doctors to fully examine both candidates. The idea is to depoliticize the situation as much as possible. The potential upside, at minimum, is that the candidates (especially Clinton) would no longer be accused of hiding anything. On the other hand, I fear that everything is so politicized that if Clinton were judged to be basically healthy, the trolls would simply retaliate by sliming the independent doctors.
But here’s one thing we can say for real: The vice-presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence is suddenly more important.