The news about Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia surrounded the world in a heartbeat, especially since her inability to participate in the 9/11 ceremony was initially attributed to a feeling of overheating. Besides stirring interest and controversy among the electorate, it also prompted determined reporters to look deeper into the health issues of the US presidency candidates.
Research revealed that many of them, some of which were eventually elected, suffered from mental and physical health issues. Also, not all of them disclosed their health condition.
In 2006, a group of psychiatrists published their conclusions after reviewing the biographical sources of 37 U.S. presidents active between 1776 and 1974. They assessed that 18 of the respective presidents could have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or alcoholism. In 10 of them, the disorders were present while they were serving.
In an NBC News article, Alex Seitz-Wald gives a list of presidential candidates suffering from various physical and mental illnesses some of them tried to hide, and explains how the Americans developed the need to know the truth about their candidates.
How It All Began
According to Jacob Appel, Mt. Sinai Medical School assistant professor cited by Seitz, Americans began to expect information about their presidency candidates’ health in 1955. Then, President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack, and his doctor made a public statement on his health condition.
This statement created a precedent and raised expectations, especially since many presidents before Eisenhower had hidden severe health issues from the public. The most notorious cases were Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s paralysis, Grover Cleveland’s tumor removal surgery, Woodrow Wilson’s stroke, and John F. Kennedy’s numerous ailments.
After Eisenhower, many US presidency candidates faced serious health issues. Some disclosed them openly to the public, while others tried to keep them a secret or minimize their severity. Alex Seitz-Wald made an interesting list.
Presidential Candidates and Their Health Issues after Eisenhower
- In 1964, Lyndon Johnson had a heart attack and Barry Goldwater was accused of being mentally ill, although the accusations later proved unfounded.
- In 1962, Thomas Eagleton withdrew his candidacy for the vice presidency chair after the word got out that he had received shock therapy.
- Between 1980 and 1984, Ronald Reagan avoided discussions about his health, but it all ended with an Alzheimer’s diagnostic while he was still a president.
- Between 1988 and 1992, George H. W. Bush’s thyroid and heart problems led critics to fear that vice president Dan Quayle would take over his seat.
- In 1992, Senator Paul Tsongas announced that he had overcome non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but the disease’s complications killed him at the age of 55.
- That same year, 1992, Bill Clinton raised numerous questions about his health with his hoarse voice.
- In 1996, Bob Dole received treatment for prostate cancer after falling off a stage during his campaign, but discussed his health openly.
- In 2000, George W. Bush refused to allow his doctor to answer questions related to his health and received questions regarding previous abuse of alcohol and drugs.
- In 2004, John Kerry gave up his presidential campaign to undergo treatment for prostate cancer.
- In 2008, John McCain took medical disclosure to a new level, giving reporters access to his complete health records, after having fought cancer three times and by age 72.
- In 2008, Barack Obama had to answer numerous questions about his history of drug abuse and smoking habits.
In the light of these, Hilary Clinton’s pneumonia no longer seems so important. However, both she and her opponent, Donald Trump, qualify for the title of the oldest president ever elected. Therefore, questions about their health and ability to serve are justified, and a greater transparency on the subject from both of them would be welcome.