Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life: Alexander Chancellor

Article excerpt

Americans want a president with the steadiest possible finger on the nuclear button, which is why they worry about the state of health of their presidential candidates, and why nowadays candidates often try to quash doubts about their health by releasing their medical records. Sometimes they overdo it, as in the case of Senator John McCain, who published 1,173 pages of medical records when he was the Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 election. There was too much there for anyone to absorb, but Barack Obama, who won that election, made do with just a brief letter from his Chicago doctor saying he was 'in excellent health'.

Doctors of potential presidents tend to give them good reports, and they even gave a good reference to Dick Cheney when he was running to be the vice-president of George W. Bush in 2000. They also found him to be in 'excellent health', but went on to mitigate this cheering assessment with disconcerting detail. Mr Cheney, they said, had taken medication for heart disease, gout and metabolic disorders; had suffered three heart attacks and undergone quadruple coronary bypass surgery; had been treated for skin cancer; and, most alarmingly, had a 'potentially fatal allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, from pomegranates'. This last piece of information might have been very useful to a terrorist, but the doctors thought he was nevertheless well suited for the vice-presidential job.

Coming to the present day, Donald Trump has avoided giving any detail about his condition but has attracted much mockery by releasing an overblown encomium by his doctor, Harold Bornstein. Dr Bornstein described his lab tests as 'astonishingly excellent' and an examination of his body as having shown 'only positive results'. 'Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,' he concluded. Questioned by media reporters, Dr Bornstein explained that he had written his letter in a great hurry in five minutes, with a car waiting, and in language inspired by Trumpian rhetoric. 'I think I probably picked up his kind of language,' he said.

Hillary Clinton had already been described in a letter by her doctor as 'in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States', but this hadn't stopped Mr Trump from raising suspicions about her health. …

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