How crazy has the 2016 campaign gotten? If Rudy Giuliani’s urging the public to “Google Hillary Clinton illness” wasn’t absurd enough for you, how did you like the Democratic nominee’s rebuttal on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Monday night in which she demonstrated her fitness for the presidency by opening a pickle jar?
I’m probably not the only American who doubts Kimmel’s claim the jar had not been tampered with prior to Clinton’s test of strength. Though in good health, I generally need a spoon to help pry open new sealed pickle jars. Maybe that just demonstrates I’m really not tough enough to be president. But Clinton’s stunt does show that she understands the power of paranoid politics in an age when people do Google topics and believe whatever poorly sourced stories or outright falsehoods they find.
The Trump campaign’s effort to raise doubts about Clinton’s health speaks directly to the same National Enquirer mentality that helped produce a celebrity billionaire nominee for the Republicans. Trump was, after all, the nation’s leading purveyor of birther slurs about President Obama and his effort to help along the growth of urban legends about his opponent is his specialty.
But as much as the charges voiced by Trump and Giuliani deserves the censure of observers no matter where they stand on the political spectrum, there actually are serious questions about the health of both of these candidates.
As the New York Times points out today, Trump, who is 70, and Clinton, who is 68, comprise the oldest pair of major party presidential candidates in our history. Yet they have both released fewer details about their medical histories than any candidate in the last 40 years. Neither has made their complete medical records available. Nor has either of them made their doctors available for questioning by the press. When challenged on this, both point fingers at their opponent and dare the other to release records.
Does either have anything important to hide? There’s no tougher job in the world than running for President of the United States. Though both are blanketed with security and travel on planes with luxurious accommodations before heading to equally cushy hotels (Trump does own a few) or the homes of wealthy friends, the demands and pace of a presidential campaign are enough to test the mettle of far younger people than this pair. Though both Trump and Clinton seem to be willing to pace themselves far more than, say, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did four years ago, both have been running hard, often campaigning seven days a week for more than a year. Compared to this, living above the store in the White House, as Ronald Reagan used to describe the presidency, will seem like a vacation. If they can hold up under this strain, then they are probably healthy enough to be president so long as there aren’t some long-term underlying issues.
But their failure to release full health records is nonetheless a betrayal of the public trust. We know all too well that past presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy actively concealed serious health issues from the public with the complicity of the press. The possibility that a candidate might be impaired or facing a debilitating illness has long been understood to be something that the public had a right to know. But so long as Trump and Clinton, two figures who are unrivaled in our recent political history for their lack of transparency and untrustworthiness, refuse to comply, perhaps Americans ought to be forgiven for falling for whatever new birther-style slanders arise.