The Health Issue in an Unhealthy Presidential Election Year

One of the crazier things about this crazy election year is that the major party candidates are, by historical standards, a couple of old geezers. Either Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton or Republican nominee Donald J. Trump will likely be the oldest person ever elected to a first term as President of the United States, which seems a crazy choice for such a traditionally youth-obsessed country to be choosing from. Yet it’s no surprise, given the country’s current craze for physical fitness, that the relative haleness of the candidates has become an issue.
Even the most reliably Democratic media seem to understand that Clinton looks to be at a disadvantage on the issue. Although a year younger than Trump, Clinton hews to a less-rigorous campaign schedule than her rival, has well-documented coughing fits that never seem to bedevil Trump’s steam-of-consciousness orations, been photographed being helped up a few stairs, and is clearly unready to face any of those amazonian “ultimate fighting” women in a cage match. The headlines that tout her “excellent health” are obliged to acknowledge a couple of paragraphs into the story that they refer to released the same medical reports that acknowledge she does suffer hyperthyroidism, and until a few years ago had transverse sinus thrombosis, and still takes a regimen of a blood thinner and the purportedly energy-boosting Vitamin B12, along with antihistamines for seasonal allergies, and that she’s pushing 70 and probably with all the usual complaints of that age. Those more impolite Trump partisans on the internet go so far as to post footage of an apparent bulge on the front of her ubiquitous pants suits that might be a medical device and a dark stain on the bottom that might also be embarrassing, and they speculate everything from Parkinson’s Disease to dementia to demon possession, all of which seem alarmingly plausible enough in this crazy election year.
Although year a older than Clinton, Trump does seem the more hale of the two. He routinely bounds unaided up the steps to the platforms of well-attended rallies to enthrall his audiences with those stream-of-consciousness orations, which are no doubt tiring, and afterwards he’s always seen rushing up the steps of those “Trump”-branded airplanes to get back to New York and sleep in his bed, and he’s got those famously long fingers, and you know what that means about longevity, wink-wink nudge-nudge, not to mention those naked photos of his third wife on the front page of  The New York Post, and we know he gets by on four hours of sleep because he’s “tweeting” insults at obscure cable talk show hosts in the early morning. No wonder that Trump himself has made a campaign issue of his seemingly better health, or that his supporters have run so very far with it.
In this crazy election year, though, the Republican nominee and his more fervid supporters always seem to run too far with an issue. That Clinton is not the picture of youthful health is plain enough, and should suffice for a political issue in such a youth-obsessed and physical fitness-crazed country, but any insistence that she’s too feeble to open a pickle jar only invites the ridicule of the late night comics. Late night comic Jimmy Kimmel, who’s actually rather bipartisan in his ridicule as far as what we call from the videos that occasionally pop up in the political news, made sport of it by having special guest Clinton actually open a pickle jar on his program. The crazed conspiracy-monger and Trump supporter Alex Jones tried to debunk the stunt on his much lower-rated and tin-foil-hat-wearing “Infowars” program, where Trump has been a frequent guest, insisting over seven full minutes that the “pickle can” had been pre-opened, giving Kimmel the opportunity for higher-rated ridicule.
Trump and his supporters have the same tendency to overstate his own health, of course, which has revived another round of ridicule. Those reports of Clinton’s hyperthyroidism and seasonal allergies and all that come from her relatively routine disclosure of her medical records, whereas the Republican nominee has only disclosed a year-old letter from a doctor who wrote “To whom my concern” that Trump’s health is “extraordinary” and his blood pressure is “astonishingly excellent,” with strength and stamina that is “extraordinary,” and that overall, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” It got a few chuckles, even at a time when Trump’s candidacy seem a quixotic prank, that a doctor would assert in such Trumpian hyperbole that the old geezer was healthier than the famously athletic and much younger Washingtons and Jeffersons and Theodore Roosevelts and other presidents the doctor had never had a chance to examine, but with Trump giving them a chance to revisit that doctor’s note the ridicule has been much harsher. Throw in that the doctor crowed how all of Trump’s disease tests had proved “positive,” which every doctor knows is actually a negative outcome for the patient, and all that Trumpian prose suggests that it’s a lot like those obviously fake letters from Epstein’s mother on the old “Welcome Back, Kotter” sit-com that were signed by “Epstein’s mother.” The National Broadcasting Company’s news division took the opportunity to interview Trump’s enthusiastically testifying doctor, who turns out to be a gastroenterologist who looks the like the last of The Grateful Dead, and he explained that he wrote the note in five minutes under stress while awaiting a limousine and that perhaps “I think I kind of picked up his kind of language and then interpreted to my own.”
In this crazy election year such dueling embarrassments are likely to cancel one another out, and in any case we don’t much care. We’d much prefer the infamously obese William Howard Taft to either one of these nominees, or even the famously hale yet actually addled-by-Huntington’s disease and drug-addiction John F. Kennedy or the polio-crippled Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and although we don’t wish anyone an early death we’d like think that either candidate’s administration would be as short-lived and inconsequential as William Henry Harrison’s. If we were making a choice based solely on a candidate’s physical fitness we’d have to go with the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, who has climbed the highest peaks on every continent and runs in grueling athletic contests despite his admitted until-recent marijuana use, and has scoffed at Trump’s physical fitness with the same foul language that Trump used when one of his Republican rivals went wobbly on torturing terror suspects. We’ve got some fundamental disagreements with him, too, though, no matter how buff and mellow he might be, so there’s still no telling how we’ll wind up voting in this crazy election year.
Perhaps we’d write in Jack LaLanne, but even he didn’t last forever.

— Bud Norman

Crazy Possibilities in a Crazy Year

By all reliable accounts this past weekend’s Libertarian Party convention was quite an unconventional affair, replete with the party’s chairman stripping down to his underwear at the podium and the eventual nominee being heavily invested in the more-or-less legal marijuana industry, but in this crazy election year none of that is at all beyond the pale. The hypothetical ticket of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld was already poling at 10 percent before it actually won the  Libertarian nod, and in this crazy election year nothing that happened at the crazy convention seems likely to budge that significant number.
At least the party chairman didn’t boast about what was hidden by his underwear, as the Republican party’s presumptive nominee has done on a nationally-televised debate stage, and whatever quibbles one might with have the nominee’s dealings in a business that is still technically illegal according to federal law if not in the states where he is operating, it seems a rather small point in the post-legal age his thoroughly corrupt Democratic opponent and her lawless “Choom Gang” successor have wrought. The presumptive Republican nominee has run casinos and strip joints that were until rather recently illegal and social proscribed in most sane jurisdictions and still strike us as pandering to worse vices than marijuana use, and the crimes credibly alleged against the presumptive Democratic nominee involve national security, so that ten percent of the public willing to vote for someone they’ve never heard of might well persist even after they find out who he is.
At this point there’s no telling how that might affect what is shaping up as a close election. The Libertarian Party’s radically laissez-faire economic policy is the exact opposite of stubborn Democratic challenger Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander’s self-described socialism, but we expect that Johnson’s pro-dope stance will lure some of them away from from the presumptive Democratic nominee, who is so quintessentially establishment in this crazy anti-establishment year that she’s a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State, and was awful in every single post. The Libertarians’ insane isolationist foreign policy is at this point no more worrisome than what the major parties’ presumptive nominees are offering, and unlike either of the major party nominees they’re at least for free speech if you want to gripe about it. In this crazy anti-establishment year there are a lot of otherwise Republican voters who are just tired of being bossed around, though, and aren’t nclined to be told “you’re fired” and “shut up” by some proudly bossy reality show star, so the Libertarians should peel off a few Republican votes as well, and even if both members of the ticket are twice-elected governors they’re still so far outside the mainstream they’re a deadlier  blow to the hated-on-both-sides “establishment” than either major party ticket..
In this crazy year it’s hard to tell how it will shake out, as there are bound to be other twists and counter-twists in the plot. The brilliant but ever-hopefudl Bill Kristol of the essential Weekly Standard is still clinging to some faint  hope that a third or fourth or fifth party deus ex machina will provide some plausible alternative to what the established two-party system has vomited up, and at this point in this crazy year one can only hold out such hope.

— Bud Norman

Another Plot Twist in a Crazy Year

For those of us still clinging to some some faint hope that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, a few stories that appeared in the press Wednesday provided some straws to grasp at.
A couple of them were about polls showing that a significant percentage of the population would be willing to consider a credible third party candidate, which is not surprising given that all the other polls show both of the two major parties’ presumptive nominees are distrusted and disliked by significant portions of their own parties and unprecedented majorities of the country. One poll in New Hampshire had Mitt Romney earning 21 percent of the vote, within shouting distance of Clinton’s 37 percent and Trump’s 33 percent, which is somewhat more surprising given that Romney isn’t even running. A national poll found 58 percent of the country dissatisfied with the major party choices, 55 percent hoping for another choice, and 65 percent of the country “somewhat,” “pretty,” or “very willing” to vote for that third candidate. An eye-popping 91 percent of the under-30 set want a third choice, and the pollsters conclude that a credible third-party candidate would start out with 21 percent of the entire vote.
At this this late date it would be difficult for an independent candidate to be on enough state ballots to affect the election, and the few minor but-oh-so-sincere parties that have been diligent and organized enough to maintain that access usually nominate people who have been so far outside the political mainstream they have never held public office, but another story suggests this crazy election cycle might yet provide another exception to the usual political rules. The Libertarian Party won’t choose a nominee until its convention later this month, but the heavy betting favorite is Gary Johnson, a former two-term and well-regarded governor of New Mexico, the odds went up further on Wednesday when it was announced that ,his running mate would be William Weld,  a former two-term and and well-regarded governor of Massachusetts, and if the party chooses this quite credible ticket it will be right there on the ballot in all 50 states.
It sounds crazy, to be sure, but as we grasp at such straws we can at least console ourselves that this has thus far been one crazy election cycle. This is a year when the Libertarian Party’s ticket seems likely to have a vastly more proven budget-balancing and government-restraining record than whatever the Republican ticket of a four-times-bankrupt-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and whatever he lackey he chooses as a running mate, and the Democratic nominee’s indefensible record as a First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State pretty much explains the national and bi-partisan “anti-establishment” mood that propelled the Republican to his nomination and could easily be exploited by a couple of former two-term governors running on a third-party ticket. The media might love this plot twist as much as they’ve loved all the presumptive Republican nominee’s surreality show, two or three capitalism-loving billionaires and a whole lot of disgruntled small donors and a small but diligent and well-organized and oh-so-sincere activists who have managed to keep their party on the ballot in all 50 states could provide a lot of further publicity and a plausible if improbable claim that to that hypothetical starting-out 21 percent of the vote.
At that point the craziest election cycle of our lifetimes, which includes the crazy three-way race of ’68, might get crazier yet.

–Bud Norman