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George Davis | In the dark about leaders' health

Published:Wednesday | September 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMGeorge Davis

A reasonably curious American, or any other national for that matter, could've known even before Barack Obama ran for president that as a high-schooler, he smoked ganja and did a little cocaine. They could've known this because Obama himself said so.

They also could've known this if they read his first book, Dreams From My Father, published in 1995, thirteen years before he stood for the most powerful political job in the world. They would also have known that during his first tilt at the presidency in 2008, Obama submitted a one-page letter from his doctor summarising 21 years of his medical history. Though one page was not enough for details to be provided, the letter spoke about his blood pressure, cholesterol profile, blood tests and the health of his prostate.

Even before Obama, the American public was told details about the massive heart attack that struck 64-year-old President Dwight David Eisenhower as he played golf on September 24, 1955. Despite his privileged position, news about Eisenhower's condition was widely reported, with some reports that the Dow Jones lost US$14 billion in value on the news that the USA's war hero president was sharing a cigar with Mr Death. That heart attack was one of several major illnesses that attacked Eisenhower over the course of his eight years in the White House.

 

Hillary's healthy howler

 

I was reminded of the Obama and Eisenhower health issues immediately upon seeing Hillary Clinton's legs give way as she left a 9/11 memorial ceremony on Sunday in New York City. Thankfully, her minders were close and prevented the 68-year-old presidential favourite from a potentially dangerous fall on the hard pavement.

It swiftly emerged that Hillary, who has had coughing fits for several weeks on the campaign trail, was overcome by heat exhaustion, brought on by a bout of pneumonia.

Immediately the television networks went to town, framing Hillary's stumble against claims from her 70-year-old rival Donald Trump that she's essentially a sick woman who can't be entrusted with the job of leader of the free world.

Trump's line of attack about Hillary's health received such legitimacy from the episode that he could afford to feign sympathy after initially offering no comment about the matter. He has promised to release specific details about his health to satisfy the American people of his suitability for the job of president.

Sunday's stumble, metaphorically and literally, goes to the heart of why, even though I want her to win, I find it difficult to like Hillary Clinton. Why has she refused to come clean about her health?

Why can she not simply talk about what her maladies are and how she's managing them as she seeks to convince voters that she's the better choice for president?

If Obama's vices and medical history were an open book in 2008, without them being a drag on his presidency, why is Hillary resorting to ginnalship? If Eisenhower was brave enough to allow details of his heart attack and other ailments to be made public and still serve two terms as president, who is Hillary to want to hide her true medical status?

But hear this now. How can I or any other Jamaican talk about Hillary's lack of forthrightness about her health status when, in February, we participated in a general election in which neither of the two party leaders submitted a health report? We knew nothing about the wellness of the 43-year-old Andrew Holness before we went to the polls, nor anything concerning the status of the 70-year-old Portia Simpson Miller.

With one now installed as our prime minister and the other as opposition leader, we still know nothing about their health status. And because we know no facts about their health status, persons with evil intent are free to spread rumours about the health of our two most senior political leaders, especially Portia, claiming she's afflicted by everything from cancer to dementia.

In a Jamaica where the law dictates that persons be fit and proper to serve in various capacities or hold certain credentials, it's cruelly ironic that we have no idea about the health of those who hold high political office.

Selah.

- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.