WE ARE not worried that Hillary Clinton is, as she jokingly put it on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last month, “on the brink.” Pneumonia can be a serious condition, but it is generally treatable, and Ms. Clinton appears to be getting good care. Even a 30-something would struggle to stay perfectly healthy on Ms. Clinton’s grueling campaign schedule. We are instead worried about what we might not know about each major-party presidential candidate’s health — concerns that both of them have encouraged by a lack of transparency.
Both campaigns are now promising to be more forthcoming. They need to be much more so.
Following a pneumonia diagnosis that went undisclosed for multiple days, Ms. Clinton has received the brunt of the criticism on medical disclosure. To a degree, this has been self-inflicted. First she hid her diagnosis, attempting to press on as though nothing were wrong. Then, when this decision got the best of her, she hastily left an event and kept the public in the dark about her condition for part of Sunday afternoon, fueling founded and unfounded speculations. A bout of pneumonia is not a major story; she could have taken some of the air out of the hysteria if she had been more open in the first place.
It is important not to get lost in the specifics of this episode and lose sight of the bigger picture. Donald Trump and his circle have encouraged dark conspiracy theories about Ms. Clinton’s health. Yet, at 70, Mr. Trump is the older of the two. In fact, he would be the oldest person ever elected to the presidency. Ms. Clinton has at least revealed some specifics about her medical history, releasing a doctor’s letter last year describing previous medical events and current conditions that appear to be under control. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has released nothing more than an absurd gastroenterologist’s note that is so short on specifics and long on hyperbole that it sounds like Mr. Trump could have written it himself. Perversely, Mr. Trump may now benefit from concerns over the candidates’ health.
Both need to do better. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was 71 when he ran for president in 2008, released nearly 1,200 pages of medical records. He did not do this to feed pure voyeurism. He did it so that voters could evaluate their comfort with the health of a septuagenarian applying for the toughest job in the world — in which there are no sick days and a slip of the tongue can become an international incident. Neither Ms. Clinton, who is 68, nor Mr. Trump have come close to this level of disclosure.
The campaigns promised Monday to release more information. We will believe them when we see the documents. Mr. Trump, in particular, promised to disclose official forms before — his tax returns — and has since offered bogus excuses for not doing so. The candidates must do more than simply reveal a few current blood-test numbers. They should provide historical documents reflecting examinations not conducted in the midst of a presidential campaign. The goal must be to assure voters that they have disclosed anything that could hinder them while in office or create a risk that they could not serve a full term.
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