Why Donald Trump Is Making an Issue of His ‘Astonishingly Excellent’ Health
Policy + Politics

Why Donald Trump Is Making an Issue of His ‘Astonishingly Excellent’ Health

REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry

If a late-night comedy writer had sat down to draft a fake letter from Donald Trump’s doctor describing his patient’s health, it could hardly have been more over-the-top than the document the GOP frontrunner’s campaign actually released on Monday afternoon signed by a man identified as Trump’s personal physician.

On the same day that a Monmouth University poll showed Trump with his biggest lead yet in a national survey, voters also learned that Trump’s blood pressure and lab test results are not just satisfactory. They are “astonishingly excellent.”

Trump is not just physically fit. “His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.”

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Trump won’t just be healthy if he wins the White House in 2016, concluded Dr. Harold Bornstein. No, it’s better than that. “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

Putting aside the fact that the letter reads as though it was dictated by Trump himself, it’s obviously absurd to attempt to compare Trump’s health to that of long-dead chief executives. And pretty hard to believe that a puffy, red-faced 69-year-old Trump is healthier than the basketball-playing Obama of 2008, much less the fitness fanatic George W. Bush of 2000.

Social media immediately erupted with ridicule, but there is a serious issue beneath the surface.

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A clean bill of health for Trump is vital because, should he continue leading the Republican primary polls, the issue of his age will inevitably come to the fore. Most people aren’t aware of it, but if he were elected, Donald Trump would be five months shy of his 71st birthday on the day of his inauguration, making him the oldest first-term president ever elected.

Ronald Reagan currently stands as the oldest person to enter the Oval Office for a first term, and he was 69 at the time, just a few weeks away from his 70th birthday. In the modern era, no other president has taken office at age 65 or older, and only four — Truman, Ford, Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush — have been over 60.

If Trump weren’t Trump, you would expect the issue of age to be more of a factor in the GOP primary than in the general election. A number of Republican candidates challenging Trump are in their 40s and 50s. Should Trump win the nomination, his likely Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be only about 16 months younger than him, making any suggestion that age is an issue treacherous for both candidates.

That risk aside, it can hardly be an accident that Trump’s doctor referred specifically to the candidate’s “strength and stamina” in the letter. On the campaign trail, Trump has constantly hammered Clinton for not having the strength and stamina necessary to do the job of president.

Considering how little he has been affected so far by statements and behavior that would have doomed other candidacies, Trump may have the chutzpah to make age an issue in an election where he is the oldest person running.