One of the biggest non-political issues in the presidential campaign this year has been the health of the two main candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Together, they are the oldest pair of major-party candidates in history; Clinton is 68 while Trump is 70. When Clinton seemed to stumble after attending a 9/11 memorial event, all attention was turned towards figuring out if Clinton had a medical condition that she was hiding. Not long after, it was announced Clinton was suffering from Pneumonia.
The history of U.S. presidents is rife with illness; four have died of natural causes while still in office, one being Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At age 39, FDR contracted polio leaving him paralyzed in both legs. Though he was portrayed as having “triumphed” against his affliction, many newspapers still published pictures of him using a wheelchair, effectively showing his weakness. Despite that, he was elected for four terms in office and led the US through most of World War II.
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Less well known, John F. Kennedy suffered from Addison’s disease, defined by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases as a hormonal disorder that causes an adrenal insufficiency. Though JFK treated his disease in secret, it led to him fainting twice: once during an election campaign and once on a congressional visit to Britain.
Comparatively, pneumonia is nothing to worry about. According to the LA Times, a 1996 study showed that an estimated 4.8 million patients a year develop pneumonia in the United States, which translates to about one in 56 people each year.
Trump and his supporters have repeatedly called for a detailed summary of Clinton’s health records, claiming she never recovered from a blood clot she suffered in 2012. In August Trump argued that Clinton “lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on Isis [Islamic State] and all of the many adversaries we face.” Though himself two years older than Clinton, Trump’s infamous doctor’s note and his seemingly healthy physicality during the campaign trail has been one of his ways of proving himself as the strongest presidential candidate; however, this argument ignores the fact that Trump is a germaphobe. In his 1997 book The Art of Comeback, he wrote “I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.”
What Clinton has shown in the aftermath of the diagnosis is her resilience and strength. She is already back on the campaign trail, walking out to the song “I Feel Good” by James Brown at a rally in North Carolina. In comparison, Trump was given a military deferment during the Vietnam War for heel spurs.
Moving past how the two main candidates have fought about health, a voter must remember to look at the bigger picture. Is a small case of Pneumonia really a big deal when looking at the other choices for president? Do not forget that Trump has said that he and Vladimir Putin would “get along very well” in an interview with CNN. On September 7th, A North Dakota judge issued a warrant of arrest for the Green Party’s presidential nominee Jill Stein. A day later, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson asked “What is Aleppo?” while being interviewed on MSNBC. The health of the next president of the United States is important, but it should not overshadow the actual beliefs of the candidate in question.