Important advice for us about the election from Obama’s doctor

Summary: One of the great oddities of American politics is that we elect presidents after a two year long campaign — but know little about them. That’s especially odd now, as we prepare an elderly president without basic knowledge of his or her health. Yesterday we received another warning about our folly. See the follow-up, after HRC’s 9-11 incident: We can learn much from the stories about Hillary’s health.

Ignorance is not bliss

Late in the election a vital question arises: how healthy are the major candidates? Trump would be our oldest president; Clinton would be our second oldest, slightly behind Reagan in his second term (see this list of presidents by age). It’s a legitimate question given the long history of lies about the health of presidents. Most notably, the public was grossly deceived about the physical weakness of FDR and JFK. Even more embarrassingly, Reagan had Alzheimer’s in 1984 & we elected him anyway.

Yesterday we got advice from Dr. David Scheiner, whose liberal and medical credentials are unimpeachable. He is a physician (B.A. Princeton University, M.D. Columbia) and a well-known advocate for single-payer health care (a leading member of Physicians for a National Health Program). He was Obama’s personal physician from 1987 till 2008 in Chicago, where he worked with Quentin Young — who had been personal physician to Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have been lucky three times; let’s not rely on luck. So we should heed his advice, given yesterday’s on CNN’s Erin Burnett “Outfront”. We can shape Campaign 2016, if we have the will to do so.

From the transcript

BURNETT: Dr. David Scheiner was President Obama’s doctor for more than 20 years. He wrote the letter stating Obama was in excellent health when he was running for president in 2008. Dr. Scheiner, in your letter, you wrote President Obama was in excellent when he was running for the White House. Donald Trump’s doctor has written that he is in astonishingly excellent health. …

{See this WaPo article about the strange letter by Dr. Harold Bornstein, with its bizarre conclusion “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”}

Dr. Harold Bornstein
Dr. Harold Bornstein in his office. Photo by NBC news.

DR. SCHEINER: Yes. Our side was referring to a man who was in his mid-40s, who has solid muscle and who was in obviously in great condition. He was not 70 years old, the oldest man to enter the White House should he be elected.

This was arguably one of the most important things Dr. Bornstein ever wrote and he showed absolutely no concern for the public to whom he was really meant to read, all of the lab results were positive. Well, when the doctor says positive it means abnormal. If results are normal, you say the results were negative. I also had difficulty with a gastroneurologist {sic} evaluating the mental health of a patient.

BURNETT: So, when Dr. Bornstein, Trump’s doctor, was asked about Trump’s health in an actual interview, he sort of laughed at one point. And I want to play for you exactly what he said. Here he is.

(From video clip) DR. HAROLD BORNSTEIN: “His health is excellent, particularly his mental health. He thinks he’s the best. He would be fit because I think his brain is turned on 24 hours a day.”

BURNETT: Brain turned on 24 hours a day. But you just mentioned, of course, that he’s a gastroenterologist and not someone who focuses on the health of someone’s brain and mind.

SCHEINER: It’s also peculiar that he should laugh when he talked about his mental health. Does he think that that’s an issue? It was just a strange time for him to be laughing.

BURNETT: Do you have concern as a doctor? What more would you want from Donald Trump when it comes to these specific issues? What information do voters need?

Dr. David Scheiner
Dr. David Scheiner.

SCHEINER: I think you need real details. I think you need actual medical records and just somebody making a few statements about astoundingly excellent, that’s not good enough and I’d like to know his height and weight to know what his BMI is. He looks a bit overweight to me.

BURNETT: So, Trump has said he’ll release his medical records if and only if Hillary Clinton releases hers. Now, she did release a two-page letter from her doctor with real medical information, including some of the things you mentioned, cholesterol and things like that. It also talked about the incident in December of 2012 when she had a concussion and a blood clot in her brain.

And the letter says she had follow-up testing in 2013 which revealed complete resolution of the effects of the concussion, as well as total dissolution of the thrombosis. Mrs. Clinton also tested negative for all clotting disorders. Is that enough?

SCHEINER: No. A number of questions I have. First of all, she’s also 68 years old and I think that medical letter was well-written and was very professional, unlike Dr. Bornstein, it’s not enough. For example, she was on Coumadin, a medication to prevent blood clots. You have to monitor that and it says she’s being monitored regularly. I would like to know how well she is being controlled. That’s a difficult drug to use.

Also, I think she should have had a neurological examination, a thorough neurological examination in 2016. We know what happens to football players who have had concussions, how they begin to lose some of their cognitive ability. I think both of them should release their records.



The election serves our needs. American history shows that our ruling elites respond to public opinion when we mobilize. Campaign 2016 has become a circus — entertainment for the Outer Party (America’s professionals, managers, and small business owners) — but it need not be so. This is a point on which both Left and Right can agree: both candidates should have medical examinations by independent doctors and release summaries.

Let’s make it happen. Once successful in this small but serious matter we can consider larger actions.

For More Information

See the follow-up, after HRC’s 9-11 incident: We can learn much from the stories about Hillary’s health.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Campaign 2016, about ways to reform America’s politics, and these about Clinton…

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