Commander in Health: Why We Can’t Have a Sick President

By: Robyn Ollodort

When you imagine a leader, what characteristics, qualifications, and attributes do they have? Is physical fitness or overall wellness one of them, and if so, why?

The current preoccupation with presidential candidate ‘health’ follows Clinton's pause in campaigning after fainting and receiving a diagnosis of pneumonia. In response, the Trump campaign has arranged to apparently prove his health via television interview with Dr. Oz tonight, and his doctor has promised that Trump will be the "healthiest president ever elected." Stock image of red 3lb hand weights and a sweaty green apple with a white tape measure with black lettering wrapped around it and in a coil to the right. This debate has eclipsed any generative discussion of who our next president should be, instead focusing on measuring and quantifying bodily integrity. Following Clinton’s collapse, the Democratic candidate released her health documents in hopes of saving face, though the ordeal underscores a trend in this presidential election of candidates’ avoiding coverage to keep their health issues relatively secret. Of course, this is not the first time that those vying for the oval office have practiced some level of attempted discretion: see President Eisenhower and the 2016 Candidates ages.

Even our current President has faced scrutiny regarding his well being. Candid photo of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, on the phone and grinning with his right hand to his face. This recent scandal reveals that presidential candidacy, and indeed serving as Commander in Chief, is not just about age, but about proving some overall standard of health and fitness to rule the free world. Of course our disabled president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also faced intense scrutiny and some claimed that he tried to hide it.

Having to prove your ‘health’ status as a qualification for a job is: a) illegal, and b) impertinent. Insisting that the President, or any leader, have their health proven according to some arbitrary, needlessly rigorous standards have been demonstrated unnecessary by FDR’s effective leadership during one of the most trying times in US history, and by many disability rights movements, most notably Section 504. Indeed, this year’s candidates should be considered according to the WHO’s definition: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” There were then, and continue to be now, people in leadership positions (yes, even high up ones!) with diverse bodies and relationships to medicine. Portrait of Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, against a brown background with an American flag behind on her right. The Congresswoman wears an American flag pin on her lapel. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth Black and whit image of Judith E. Heumann, with an American flag behind her. Special Adviser for International Disability Rights                

We need to realize, as Americans who can vote, that our decisions should be based not on people’s bodies and their relationships to them, but on their carefully considered positions and carefully-articulated plans to address our nation’s ailing social body. Illustrated image of three figures holding signs that read "VOTE". The figure on the left has a guide dog; the figure in the middle is seated in a wheelchair; the figure on the right has a prosthetic left leg. #cripthevote