The nation is about to elect one of its oldest presidents. On inauguration day, Donald Trump would be 70, the oldest president ever elected. Hillary Clinton would be 69, the second-oldest president, right behind Ronald Reagan.
There are many indicators of a candidate’s ability to endure the stresses of the presidency beyond medical records. Nonetheless, a president’s health matters — and the public has a vested interest in seeing candidates’ detailed health history.
It is ironic that we have gotten to this point after a few weeks of medical nonsense — a whispering campaign that Clinton has some sort of disqualifying illness, a half-baked letter from Trump’s doctor that was dashed off in five minutes as a limousine waited. But when Clinton slumped at a Sept. 11 memorial this weekend and had to be helped into a van, the incident reinforced how important transparency is when it comes to presidential candidates’ health.
We’ve been down this path before. In 1992, after months of media pressure, candidate Bill Clinton gave his doctors permission to discuss his health records publicly. Yes, there were a few embarrassing details — hemorrhoids, weight fluctuation and troubles with cholesterol — but the disclosure took off the table questions about his health and endurance to lead the country. Bill Clinton didn’t think of this as an invasion of privacy. “The public has a right to know the condition of the president’s health,” he said in 1996.
Voters deserve to know more about candidates’ health, too. Without being morbid, eight presidents have died in office, four from natural causes. Americans today live longer than in previous generations, but the responsibility that goes with making world-changing decisions demands as sound a mind and body as possible.
Despite a pneumonia diagnosis Friday, Clinton kept up a demanding schedule. That’s understandable for a presidential candidate on the campaign trail. But after video was released of her stumble Sunday, her campaign took an hour and a half to release information — and initially said she was suffering from the heat.
Was Clinton trying to put on a good face after Trump raised questions about her stamina? Did she allow him to force her hand? In the end, the path she chose likely only fed the health rumors.
“I think that in retrospect, we could have handled it better in terms of providing more information more quickly,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said. We agree.
It is up to each voter to decide what is most relevant in a presidential candidate’s background. Voters deserve as full a profile as possible about a future president’s health before they go to the polls.
Clinton and Trump have both pledged to release additional medical records this week; voters deserve as much.
— The Dallas Morning News