Election Issues and Immigration Special: Both Candidates Should Provide Medical Records

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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As a conservative, it is not every day that I find myself concurring with the New York Times Editorial Board. However, there was much to agree with in their September 12th editorial titled “Full Disclosure on Candidates' Health.”1

The editorial discussed both Hillary Clinton's and Donald Trump's reluctance in being forthright about revealing their medical information to voters, something that has been in the news lately in light of Clinton falling ill at a 9/11 memorial service before having it revealed that she had pneumonia, and Trump's general cageyness in conjunction with a bizarre appearance discussing his health on The Dr. Oz Show.

To be clear, Presidential candidates have an obligation to the voters to share information regarding their health. A candidate for President is not only asking the American people to entrust him or her with the heaviest responsibility of any elected official in the United States, but is also doing so of his or her own volition. Beyond the often discussed possibility that a President may die in office, information about a candidate's health may raise more basic questions of his or her fitness to discharge the manifold duties of being President.

Suffice it to say, both Clinton and Trump are being ridiculous in their unwillingness to provide the American people with comprehensive information about their health. While it is important in any election, it is especially important in an election where one candidate will be 69 and the other candidate will be 70 come inauguration day. In Clinton's case, she not only had her recent health scare at the 9/11 memorial service, but also cited her concussion in 2012 to the FBI as a reason for not remembering key details regarding the handling of classified information as Secretary of State. Regardless of whether you find her explanation compelling, it would seem that if she felt that her health was worth discussing with the FBI, she ought to be at least as willing to discuss it with the people from whom she is soliciting votes. In Trump's case, he has been quick to comment on the “energy” and health of opponents such as Clinton and Jeb Bush before her, but he himself is 70 years of age, overweight, and talks about his penchant for fast food. At the very least, comprehensive information about his health may be of value to voters.

The health of a Presidential or Vice Presidential candidate should be but one of many factors considered, and the degree to which it should weigh on a decision should be circumstance-specific. Concerns about health need not be disqualifying. For example, I greatly admire former Vice President Dick Cheney, and then-Governor George W. Bush made the right choice in choosing him as running-mate in 2000 despite his extremely serious heart problems, which would eventually necessitate a heart transplant. In 2008, I voted for the 72-year old Senator John McCain. I would have been proud to have been able to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, when he was 69 and 73 years old respectively.

If physical health was the paramount consideration in this election, I would most likely be casting my vote for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, who counts among his feats summiting Mount Everest (one may consider his marijuana habit a negative, however).2 Instead, for the second time in three elections, I intend to vote for a man who would be the oldest to be inaugurated for a first term as President [see blog]. Nevertheless, the secrecy of both major candidates regarding their health reflects poorly on them. Beyond valid questions about the physical fitness of both candidates to handle the rigors of the Presidency, their secrecy raises pertinent questions about their willingness to be honest with the American people, something that should be considered in assessing their sincerity on immigration issues and a whole host of other issues relevant to the Presidency.

Although this post does not focus on an immigration issue, it should go without saying that the health and trustworthiness are relevant to considering whether we can count on them to fulfill their campaign pledges with regard to immigration (for better or worse). Please see my introductory post to learn more about my views on immigration issues and the November elections [see blog].

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  1. NYT Editorial Board, “Full Disclosure on Candidate's Health,” nytimes.com, (Sep. 12, 2016)
  2. Kirby, Brendan, “Libertarian Gary Johnson once climbed Everest, but that might be only second-highest hurdle,” al.com, (Apr. 7, 2014)