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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—September 18, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016


During all of the clamor this week about Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health issues, a viewer suggested to me that Clinton was being held to a higher standard in the media simply because she was a woman. "Baloney!" was my response! The public and the media have frequently been obsessed with the health of our Presidents and candidates. Let’s “brunch“ on that this week:

“2016” – We’ve never before had a Presidential campaign where the nominees are this old. Donald Trump just turned 70, and Hillary Clinton will be 69 next month. Yes, with modern health care, maybe 70 is the new 55 (I hope so, for my own sake), but the public has every right to demand full disclosure and scrutiny of any nominee’s health report. It’s not a gender thing; it’s a full-public-disclosure thing in an age when so many candidates claim to run on a platform of transparency.

“The Joggers” – Yes, media scrutiny is now 24/7; and it wasn’t always that way. Still, two of our most recent Presidents were avid joggers, and when each collapsed during a run, the public was rightly concerned. President Jimmy Carter fell down while running in a race in October, 1979. President George H.W. Bush collapsed while running in May, 1991. Both events were widely covered in the press and raised speculation about whether each man was healthy enough to stay in office (which seemed counterintuitive since both were exercise nuts).

“Win One for the Gipper!” – Even before he took office as the oldest President, there were questions about Ronald Reagan’s health, and whether he could withstand the rigors of the White House (which are enormous). Two months into office, he barely escaped death by assassination; then he successfully survived colon cancer surgery. A “meandering” debate performance against Walter Mondale in 1984 raised questions again about Reagan’s fitness to serve and his mental acuity. He was under intense scrutiny; but each health challenge made him seem stronger – not weaker – in the public eye.

“The Past 24 Years” – Nearly every President in the past 100 years – from the term of Woodrow Wilson to that of Barack Obama -- has faced major health issues. It’s fascinating to note that the past three Presidents – Clinton, Bush II, and Obama - were relatively problem free. Yes, Clinton fought obesity and had open-heart surgery after leaving office; and yes, Bush II choked on a pretzel until he was nearly unconscious, but both Clinton and George W. Bush were free of health problems while in office. President Obama has had nary a worry, so maybe our Presidents are getting healthier, as we all live longer.

“The Heart of the Matter” – As I said, despite the relatively good health of the past three, they are the exceptions, not the rule. In 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower had a massive heart attack, and many urged him not to seek a second term. Not long after Ike’s health scare, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson also had a massive heart attack. He recovered to become Vice President in 1960, and President in 1963, though he would be dead from heart disease by 1973, at the age of 64.

“Nixon-Ford” – Aside from a serious case of heartburn caused by Watergate, Richard Nixon had no serious health issues while in office. His successor, Gerald Ford, an All-American college football player and NFL draftee, was perhaps our most athletic President. But Ford had bad knees from football which occasionally showed, as when he stumbled down the steps of Air Force One, prompting the memorable “Saturday Night Live” parody. Still, this was a relatively health-worry-free era in the White House.

“Going Back” – One hundred years ago, Woodrow Wilson was President. He was felled by a serious stroke; and - as we now know – his wife essentially ran the White House the last few years of his term. His successor, President Warren Harding, died in office just two years into his term. Presidents Coolidge and Hoover had no serious health issues we know of; but after them - and for the next 12 years - the country had President Franklin Roosevelt, whose myriad of health issues, including polio and heart trouble, were largely concealed by a sympathetic press.

“The Outliers” – Not only those who get elected, but all contenders for the highest offices have their health scrutinized. In 1972, Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) was removed as the Vice Presidential nominee after it was learned he had undergone electroshock therapy earlier in his life. In 2012, Republican Presidential nominee Senator John McCain underwent intense health scrutiny because he was in his 70s and because of the torturous five and a half years he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“The Secrecy” – Look, I am not naïve. Health concerns were not always as open as they are today. The press knew in the 1930s and '40s that FDR was crippled by polio, yet by “handshake” agreement never released photos of him in his wheelchair or using arm and leg braces. Also largely obscured was the history of back surgeries and painkillers needed by President Kennedy as a result of his World War II injuries. In fact, the alarming facts we now know about the health of these two Presidents may be the reason why there is so much more scrutiny today.

“Why All of This Matters” – If people think Hillary Clinton is somehow being "picked on" or being held to a higher standard, they are badly mistaken. Except for the FDR and JFK histories noted above, the public and the press have been very vigilant and concerned about Presidential health for a long, long time. People want to know if their preferred candidate can stand the rigors of office. Mrs. Clinton’s diagnosis of pneumonia is serious business. On April 4 ,1841, our ninth President, William Henry Harrison, died of pneumonia after serving just 32 days in office. At 68, he was the oldest President ever to take the Oath of Office until Ronald Reagan. Again, with Clinton about to turn 69 and Trump at 70, the press and public have every right to be circumspect.

How concerned are you about the candidates' health? Just click on the comment button at http://[email protected].


Related Slideshow: Presidential Candidate’s Social Media - 2016

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Trump Facebook

5.73 Million

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Trump Twitter

6.19 Million 

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Trump Klout

88 Score 

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Cruz Facebook

1.9 Million 

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Cruz Twitter


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Cruz Klout

89 Score

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Rubio Facebook

1.28 Million 

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Rubio Twitter

1.17 Million 

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Rubio Klout

81 Score 

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Kasich Facebook


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Kasich Twitter


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Kasich Klout

87 Score 

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Bush Facebook


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Bush Twitter


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Bush Klout

80 Score

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Carson Facebook

5.07 Million

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Carson Twitter

1.13 Million

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Carson Klout

80 Score 

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Clinton Facebook

2.46 Million 

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Clinton Twitter

5.4 Million 

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Clinton Klout

94 Score 

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Sanders Facebook

3.10 Million 

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Sanders Twitter

1.44 Million

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Sanders Klout

84 Score 


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