On Friday, Donald Trump's doctor basically said that his letter stating that Trump was "astonishingly" healthy was written under pressure and should not be taken at face value.
Trump's response? A call for Hillary Clinton to release more of her health information.
I think that both candidates, Crooked Hillary and myself, should release detailed medical records. I have no problem in doing so! Hillary?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2016
The problem with Trump's tweet is that he has already released far fewer of his own medical records. And those he has released were apparently given only five minutes' worth of thought by his doctor.
This is a bit like calling on your opponent to release a detailed, five-point plan for dealing with immigration when you haven't even said where you stand on deportation.
Trump's negotiating strength here would be much stronger if he had done anything more than the bare minimum. You could make the case that he has done less than the bare minimum. His doctor, Harold Bornstein, told NBC News on Friday that he basically wrote the letter on the fly and that it was probably influenced by the kind of language Trump uses -- i.e., hyperbolic. It included the completely unproved (and strange) assertion, stated "unequivocally," that Trump "will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
Bornstein said that the letter was written as a limousine car waited outside his office.
"I thought about it all day and at the end, I get rushed, and I get anxious when I get rushed," Bornstein said. "So I try to get four or five lines down as fast as possible so that they would be happy.
"I've got five minutes to sit right at this desk and write that letter while the driver waited for me."
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) August 26, 2016
To be clear, we still do not have a real, thoughtful evaluation of Trump's health on record. And as the New York Times noted, even the letter he issued "contained no details about his heart rate, respiratory rate, cholesterol level, past medications or family medical history." Those are all things that are usually included.
They are also things that Clinton's doctor disclosed in a much more detailed letter about her health in July 2015.
Clinton's letter also contained:
- A discussion of her hypothyroidism, pollen allergies, deep vein thrombosis and a past (well-publicized) concussion and elbow fracture.
- Details of a lengthy recovery from the concussion, including double vision.
- The longevity and causes of death for her close relatives.
Earlier this month, the Clinton campaign went even further, proactively debunking a smattering of conspiracy theories about the candidate's health and offering even more detail from her doctor, Lisa Bardack.
Trump's letter, meanwhile, contained no such details. It basically said:
- He has "no significant medical problems."
- His blood pressure was 110/65.
- He has lost 15 pounds recently and takes baby aspirin.
- He has never had cancer or major surgery such as hip, knee or shoulder replacement.
- He has had an appendectomy.
- He has never used alcohol or tobacco.
Otherwise, the letter assures us that Trump's "physical strength and stamina" are extraordinary and that his cardiovascular health is "excellent." His recent medical result also included "only positive results" — which might not actually be the best way of phrasing that, given a "positive" test usually is pretty bad news.
It's easy to dismiss the whole doctor-letter flap as just another fun/ridiculous sideshow — Trump's unique-looking doctor appropriating Trump's language in his own very Trumpian evaluation of the GOP nominee's health. But the Trump campaign and its allies in recent weeks have sought to speculate and raise innuendos about Clinton's health — often in a very underhanded way. And it's presumptuous to call for Clinton to seriously address questions about her health and to disclose more information when you have not taken your own medical evaluation and disclosure seriously.
Unless Trump's goal here is not to get Clinton to disclose more but rather to continue fomenting innuendo about her being gravely ill in a way that gives voters pause.
Update: Clinton's campaign is now having a bit of fun at Trump's expense, annotating his doctor's letter and pointing to its flaws -- clearly an attempt to reinforce Trump hasn't taken his own medical report seriously. This will now be the response whenever Clinton's health is raised as an issue by a Trump supporter.