The medical records that Hillary Clinton's camp have released thus far—a lone "medical statement," last summer—are thin enough to keep the vast right wing conspiracy distracted by four to eight years of pillow-propping, prat falls, and coughing fits. And for his part, Donald Trump's physician Harold Bornstein stakes suitably Trumpian claims about the Republican nominee's health. He "will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." Oh, okay.
It's theatrical to be sure. But if (thankfully) fictional former president Jed Bartlet's two terms taught us anything, it's that an aging president's health is absolutely the nation's concern. Somewhere on an external hard drive in Aaron Sorkin's office there's an insufferable monologue reminding us that John F. Kennedy's physical frailty and Addison's disease never held back his war heroism—bone spurs be damned—nor did they dampen his televised vigor. Partial paralysis sure didn't defeat FDR. And we now know Woodrow Wilson's wife was our actual first women president during his secret incapacitation after a stroke.
Today, an appearance of transparency is the law. (As it should be: Nobody wants to almost elect the next Eagleton.) Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan supplied doctor's letters in 2012. Up-to-date medical summaries testified each was, more or less, an ox. Senator McCain showed reporters 1,100 pages of his detailed medical records in 2008—still not enough to stamp out rumors. A significantly less robust report of then 65-year-old Joe Biden's medical status hit the headlines next, while the relatively youthful Obama got away with a glorified doctor's note.
As ever, the nominees play off each other's weaknesses. Clinton's secrecy contrasts Trump's bare-it-all brashness. And, still, an interview with Trump's hippie-haired doctor (apparently not another alter ego, after all) yields no more detail than a careful comb-through of Clinton's medical treatments. Although you might get fired for the latter.