How important is it for Americans to have detailed information about the health of the nominees for president? It should go without saying that it’s a critical component in deciding which candidate should lead the nation – and that its importance only rises with the age of the candidate.
In the United States today, one candidate, Hillary Clinton, is 68 and the other, Donald Trump, is 70. Both are of an age that demands a detailed report on the state of their health. Neither has provided that.
The lack of information has given Trump and some of his more dishonest surrogates an opening to engage in a McCarthy-like ploy of intimating – without a shred of evidence – that Clinton is concealing a serious health issue. Clinton has said that as far as she knows, Trump is “healthy as a horse.”
Both candidates should be making this information public. They’re not auditioning for the church choir – not by a long shot. The job is commander-in-chief of the American armed forces, head of state for the world’s most powerful democracy and occupant of one of the planet’s most stressful offices. It’s fundamental information.
Americans have learned that the hard way. Although his campaign and his doctors concealed the fact from the public, Franklin D. Roosevelt was already at risk of death when he ran for his fourth term in 1944, just as World War II entered its final throes. He died only three months into the new term, leaving Harry Truman – still unaware of the development of the nuclear bomb – to lead the way to the surrender of Germany and then Japan. And voters elected FDR over and over without knowing that polio had rendered him unable to walk unassisted.
More recently, Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years after leaving the White House, but some trained observers, as well as one of his sons, believe there could have been signs of early onset during his two terms in office. He was days away from his 70th birthday when he was inaugurated in January 1981.
Of course, age needn’t be any kind of automatic disqualifier for the presidency. Many people are active and mentally sharp well after reaching their 70th year. But age does eventually take its toll, and that makes it relevant. One offer of evidence that it has not become an issue is through a detailed medical report made available for public review. No such reports have been offered.
Clinton produced a two-page summary from her doctor last year; Trump only a statement from his doctor that he “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” It’s a dubious claim and, beyond that, falls far short of Trump’s previous promise to produce a full medical report. Then again, he also promised to release his tax returns.
What we do know is that there is no basis for Trump’s smears about Clinton’s health. Among those spreading these spurious claims is the increasingly unreliable Rudy Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor who says the evidence of some kind of disqualifying illness can be found through a simple Google search. Of course, a Google search can also tell you the 10 most prominent celebrities to have had a close encounter with an alien, so buyer beware.
Indeed – and as frequently occurs in this campaign – some of Trump’s pronouncements fly in the face of obvious proof to the contrary. In particular, his claim that Clinton “lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS” is refuted by the intellectual requirements and grueling schedules of two presidential campaigns and four years as secretary of state. Clinton’s conduct has raised questions about her trustworthiness, but whatever else voters may think of her, they can take mental and physical stamina off their checklists. They are non-issues.
What they can’t take off is the actual, verifiable health of the candidates who are pursuing the presidency. Innuendo, unsupported claims and breezy affirmations aren’t sufficient for any presidential candidate, especially two who are about to begin their eighth decade on Earth.