Oh, excuse us.
We’re in the midst of pure political silly season. Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis (and her campaign’s decision not to make it public until she was filmed stumbling out of a 9/11 remembrance event this weekend) has led us into a pretty crazy news cycle that’s largely missing the point. From non-stop cable news speculation to a nine-page slideshow of photos of Clinton drinking water to conspiracy theories about body doubles, the madness this week is overshadowing what is actually a pretty important political question:
Do voters have a right to presidential candidates’ medical information?
What do you think?
Countable wants to know what you think. Tell us and other users if you think presidential candidates should provide their medical histories to voters before Election Day. Check out our survey here.
What we have so far
Both Clinton and rival Donald Trump have released some medical information and have been criticized for not releasing more. If Trump wins in November, he will be the oldest person ever elected to the presidency at 70 years of age. If Clinton wins, she’ll be just a few months shy of the record set by Ronald Reagan, at 69 years old.
Clinton released a two-page letter from her doctor last July, which stated that she suffers from seasonal allergies and hypothyroidism. The letter also noted that after Clinton fell in 2012 and suffered a concussion, she had double-vision for two months and suffered a blood-clot in her brain. She is now on blood-thinners.
Trump released a letter of his own in December of last year, though it includes much less detail. In the letter, his doctor stated that the candidate had “no significant medical problems” to report in the last 39 years. Trump’s physician, who was mocked for his gushing tone in the letter, went on to write: “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Trump has promised to release the results of a physical exam this week, ahead of an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show on Thursday. And Clinton’s campaign has said they will also release more medical information about their candidate this week.
There’s no law requiring it
Presidential candidates aren’t required to disclose their medical histories, records or the results of physical exams to the public. But it has become common practice in recent elections.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is now 80 years old, became the oldest person to win a major party’s presidential nomination in 2008. Facing questions about his health, particularly as a cancer survivor, McCain set what some reporters are calling “the gold standard” in medical transparency by giving reporters access to 1,173 pages of his health records.
This is an incredibly new trend
As Time magazine notes, releasing medical information, particularly at the level set by McCain, is a very new trend in U.S. politics.
There have been numerous presidents throughout our history who have kept serious ailments from the public. Franklin Roosevelt concealed the severity of his paralysis caused by polio. Some historians and observers have speculated that Ronald Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s began while he was still in office. John F. Kennedy hid his troubles with Addison’s disease. And the country was actually run by First Lady Edith Wilson for more than a year, after President Woodrow Wilson suffered from a massive stroke, which she helped to conceal from the public and many in his own government.
But back then, as Time notes, “by and large, even as presidents’ health concerns affected their ability to govern, American society seemed willing to let candidate health remain a private matter.” That changed, the magazine argues, when Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-MA) ran for president in 1992. Tsongas, a cancer survivor, emphasized his good health during the campaign (which he ultimately lost to Bill Clinton), but announced just after the election that his cancer had returned.
“Though he had not been elected, he had come close enough for the news to shock the nation. Even as people wished for his recovery, they wondered whether candidates should be required to disclose their full medical records,” Time writes.
But Time also points out that “of the eight presidents who have died in office, only half were from natural causes related to their health.”
Take our survey
Let other Countable users know what you think: Do voters have a right to presidential candidates’ medical histories? Take our survey here.
— Sarah Mimms
Originally published on Tumblr