President Trump underwent his annual medical exam Friday, and while we don’t know the details of the 72-year-old president’s health yet, his doctor appears to have contracted a highly contagious disease that has afflicted all of Trump’s recent doctors.
Philip Bump first coined that term back when Harold Bornstein was issuing completely unserious reviews of the then-presidential candidate’s health. Bornstein at the time stated Trump would be the healthiest president ever elected, despite also being the oldest. After Trump was elected, White House doctor Ronny L. Jackson appeared to come down with a case when he declared Trump had “incredible genes” and (seemingly joked) that he could live to be 200 years old with a better diet and exercise. He also happened to put Trump exactly one pound shy of being considered “obese” and said Trump didn’t have heart disease even though the data suggested he might.
And now we have Sean Conley.
In a brief letter released Friday by the White House, Conley promised fuller results to come, but he wanted to make something clear right away.
“While the reports and recommendations are being finalized, I am happy to announce that the President of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency, and beyond,” the memo from Conley states.
Whatever the actual state of Trump’s health is, that’s quite the prediction. Trump will be president for at least two more years, assuming he finishes his first term. But if he wins reelection in 2020, he could be president for six more years, and would end his second term at 78. Conley is saying he even expects Trump to be “very” healthy “beyond” that date.
Talking about what could happen between now and then is morbid, and I’m not going to do it here. But suffice it to say, that’s a very long period of time over which to be predicting nothing impacting Trump’s “very good health” — about one-tenth of Trump’s entire life span to this point, in fact. Things can happen that all the medical tests in the world could never see coming, and they’re much more likely to happen when you are in your 70s.
“That speculation is both unnecessary and smacks of politically rosy glasses skewing age and weight and diet,” Arthur R. Caplan, an expert on medical ethics at New York University, said of Conley’s prediction. “We need to know is Trump capable of the office now — not in his second term.”
Caplan added that there was “no ethical prohibition” on predicting a patient’s good health in the years to come, “but rash speculation shaped by political matters is not exemplary professionalism.”
To be clear, this is not Bornstein-level hyperbole, nor does it seem to be on quite the same level as Jackson. But it is a curious inclusion for a president whose past doctors seemed to have felt compelled — or in Bornstein’s case, claims he actually was compelled (he says Trump literally dictated the letter) — to paint as optimistic a picture of Trump’s health as possible. This can’t be a coincidence.
We still don’t seem to have a truly sober and measured verdict of the health for our oldest newly elected president ever. We’ll see if Conley actually gives us one moving forward.