Donald Trump's decision to deliver his long-hyped health records release on Dr. Oz's show is as strange as everything else about this election. Yet, much like the key decisions that made him the Republican nominee, Trump's play was crazy like a fox.
The week began with Hillary Clinton's near-collapse while trying to make an early exit out of a Sunday morning New York City 9/11 memorial
. The dramatic video has now been viewed by essentially every potential voter. Trump seized on this by delivering his health record release in the wobble's wake. It's brilliant.
Clinton clinched every narrative about her propensity for secrecy and information control by bungling her pneumonia disclosure
. We went from learning she was overheated, to fainting, to fighting an infection over the course of a single day. That day concluded with Clinton's personal physician Dr. Bardack issuing a sparse statement about diagnosing pneumonia 48 hours prior.
It took until Tuesday for the Clinton campaign to address the wave of questions Dr. Bardack's limited Sunday statement generated. They allowed one news cycle to needlessly precipitate another. We didn't know about the type or extent of Clinton's pneumonia until Dr. Bardack finally told us it took a CT scan (rather than a less-sensitive X-ray) to diagnose it, and that the pneumonia only affected one of the three lobes of Clinton's right lung.
The detailed clinical history Dr. Bardack supplied yesterday delivers strong reassurance that Ms. Clinton's diagnosis isn't a part of any larger medical issue. The story is classic. I think it lays to rest concerns that Clinton's near-fainting spell had any more serious origins whatsoever. That doesn't mean the "healthers" dogging Secretary Clinton won't quit making their off-kilter case that she's suffering from a neurodegenerative condition, reminiscent of the birthers (including Trump himself) who still chant into the desert winds about the President's birthplace to this very day.
But Trump's well-timed appearance on "The Dr. Oz Show," beloved by local stations for its "tremendous multiplatform sales and marketing opportunities,"
blew the Clinton campaign's continuing mop-up job out of the water with the kind of sheer spectacle Trump builds professionally.
Dr. Oz is not exactly the blue-ribbon panel that I and other commentators have recommended our chief executive candidates submit their medical records to. He's certainly a duly licensed physician, well regarded at his academic medical center, but his show has rightly come under severe scrutiny
for the vital oxygen it channels to quacky health cure-alls, like the green coffee bean.
Dr. Oz's latest bean is orange and shaped like Donald Trump. But unlike some of the other shady sales jobs this most unusual cardiothoracic surgeon has made in the past, this time Dr. Oz pulled it off. I actually sat and watched the whole thing, and I was unexpectedly awed as Mehmet Oz connected with his subject and actually got this frenetic force of nature to calm down and focus for much of the time, rather than rattle off his usual mix of rote campaign attacks and tangential non sequiturs. Dr. Oz earns some journalistic stripes for this feat alone.
What's more, Trump delivered the goods, more or less. With his usual dramatic flair, Trump handed over Dr. Bornstein's latest one-pager (accompanied oddly by a reappointment notice from Lenox Hill Hospital).
Dr. Bornstein clearly learned some lessons, spending more than five minutes
to cull together some actual data. Gone were the superfluous superlatives and instead the concise document packed meat. A litany of commonly ordered preventative medicine labs were supplied, every one of them with a normal number. The sole abnormality is his patient's height/weight ratio, aka his BMI. Donald Trump is almost obese. He's at the top end of overweight with a BMI of 29.5 (30 would make him obese).
Dr. Bornstein didn't talk about this fact at all in his letter, but Dr. Oz caught it and asked a series of appropriate questions. Trump doesn't exercise. He famously doesn't eat right. He knows he should do better. He says he's always been overweight. He came off as genuine and probably only further endeared himself to a wide swath of voters. Like Trump, most of us are overweight
. Only half of us even claim to work out the minimum amount we need.
Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, eats an ideal diet "rich in lean protein, vegetables and fruits" and regularly does "yoga, swimming, walking and weight training" for her exercise regimen. Tsk tsk. What country is she running to lead, Denmark?
Trump's personal health wisdom, by contrast, includes dutifully wearing his hat while golfing and delivering his gesture-heavy speeches in "sauna"-like venues, he told Dr. Oz.
Despite stepping it up a notch, Dr. Bornstein still managed not to say his patient has a diagnosis of high cholesterol, a diagnosis we can piece together only through Trump confiding in Dr. Oz that he's tried two prior statin drugs and only the latest has done the trick. Bornstein also doesn't explain why his patient bothered to have an echocardiogram, even if the results proved normal. That's not a typical screening test
A couple of moments proved creepy to me, like seeing this racially and culturally insensitive candidate invoke and credit the genetic profile he inherited from his Scottish ancestors for his good health. When Dr. Oz asked Trump what he saw in the mirror, Trump replied that his 35-year-old self stood there beaming back at him. Coming from one of the most narcissistic people in public life today, I suspect the candidate is quite genuine in this answer.
But put it all together and the appearance was a win for both Mehmet Oz and Donald Trump. Oz got a 48-hour cycle of worldwide hype for his show, and delivered a truly compelling product. Trump dragged out Hillary's painful misstep from Sunday, and connected with Dr. Oz's mostly female daytime audience calmly and comfortably. Both candidates are healthy enough to serve as our chief executive. But only one of them has proved that to the voters.