After the controversy over last week’s remark by Hillary Clinton that half of Donald Trump’s supporters are in the “basket of deplorables,” she conceded that she had made a mistake. But while the Clinton campaign partly owned up to it, it also complained, “it’s well past time the press stopped grading Trump on a curve.”
Agreed. But here’s the reality: Both of these campaigns are somehow being judged by a different set of standards. Why else could both get away with disclosing less than what we have come to expect from candidates for governor, much less the presidency?
If conspiracy theories about health — or about net worth or charitable giving — are something both of these candidates want to stop, there’s an easy way to do that: disclose.
Hand the voters a Rosetta Stone, not a blindfold. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s health records should be made available, perhaps in the same way John McCain’s were in 2008, when reporters pressed to know more about him as a then-71-year-old cancer survivor. He called in some medical experts, including CNN’s own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and told them, here are 1,000 or so pages of records about my health. Read them.
In the aftermath of Clinton’s pneumonia disclosure, the campaign now says more medical records are forthcoming. Great. Let’s see if they meet the standard McCain set for candidates who are older or who have a pre-existing medical condition.
Speaking of meeting standards, there’s also Trump’s tax returns, which should be released, plain and simple. Presidential candidates have done it for the past 40 years and an ongoing tax audit is no excuse. Trump likes to say he’s released his financial disclosure forms and that’s enough, but it isn’t. It’s just a vague and incomplete snapshot of financial health, sort of like a doctor’s letter is a snapshot of someone’s physical well-being.
There are some things more important than your own personal tax audit — or some potentially embarrassing disclosures in a medical report — and the presidency is one of them. This is not about personal business anymore; it’s about the country deciding who will be able to keep us safe in a dangerous world. Any candidate should want to provide voters with as much pertinent information as possible when making that decision.
When you decide to run for president, your life becomes an open book — and everyone who runs knows it. Secrecy is not an option.
First, Clinton’s health, and a question: Had she not stumbled on Sunday — and had it not been recorded surreptitiously — would her campaign have released the news that she was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday? I would guess not, since apparently it was not even known widely within the campaign.
While some Democrats make the point that candidates get sick all the time, and that pneumonia is not uncommon on the germ-ridden campaign trail, here’s the difference with Clinton: She has a complicated health history, and we don’t know an awful lot about it.
And one more thing: Here’s a candidate whom the public already believes likes to keep secrets, given her personal email account at the State Department and her health history. If that were not the case, the pneumonia could just be a passing problem, quickly handled.
But I can’t figure out how Clinton, or the public, is served by trying to keep her pneumonia a secret. In fact, it’s just the opposite: Disclosing it quickly might actually have explained the cough and blindsided the conspiracy theorists.
It’s also not like an under-50-year-old candidate getting sick. We didn’t know much about Barack Obama’s health history, either, and I think that set a bad precedent. But the public and the press were willing to buy into it because of his age and visible vigor. We also didn’t know much about Mitt Romney because he had no complex medical history. He released a letter, and that was that. He was 65, and in obvious good health. But looking back, that wasn’t good enough.
And neither is Donald Trump’s new plan to release the results of his physical exam. This plan was clearly cobbled together to contrast his physical well-being with Clinton’s coughing episodes — not to mention the laughable letter from his gastroenterologist who called Trump’s blood work “astonishingly excellent.”
Trying to clean up the problem with a one-time physical for a 70-year-old man doesn’t cut it, either. It’s a snapshot in time, as are lab results. It’s like, say, releasing your financial disclosure forms and telling voters that’s just as good as your tax returns. Not true, not even close.
So here we sit: two older candidates offering incomplete medical records. Two mistrusted candidates failing to provide key information. And voters, trying to set their own standards about who deserves their support.