USA Today published social media comments as news…this is why you shouldn’t do that

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The health of both presidential candidates has been called into question. A campaign by Trump, his organization and his surrogates has called into question Hillary Clinton’s physical and mental well-being. Trump has also had his health questioned as the sole statement regarding his health was made by his gastroenterologist, statement which was questioned by health experts as to its merits and a statement which the doctor later said he wrote in 5 minutes.

On Sunday Donald Trump tweeted,

USA Today decided to take this tweet as an opportunity to ask their social media followers their opinions on if a candidate’s medical history should be public knowledge. On Tuesday, USA Today published what can be assumed as the best selection of the responses. Here’s one:

“On one hand, I get that people want a healthy president. On the other, I ask why does it matter? Is someone disqualified because of his health? Where would it end? What if Clinton suffers from depression, or takes a mild anti-depressant? Should that disqualify her? And does it really mean much?

My father has lived with heart disease for 30 years, and he’s still around. I’m sure there are many who believe health matters. To me, it doesn’t, and I don’t think we need to know. Are there really any Democrats who would vote for Trump if they found out Clinton was not in good health? Same for Republicans? No? Then it’s a non-issue.”

Two:

“I don’t see why presidential candidates have to release all of their medical records. They should release only those items that would affect their competence for doing the job.

We have enough experts at the National Institutes of Health to determine what those factors are and whether specific candidates pass or fail.”

Finally:

“Clinton should call Trump’s bluff and release her medical records, contingent on Trump first releasing his tax returns.”

This is only a selection of quotes and do not necessarily encompass the viewpoints of all published quotes. However, the vast majority of the opinions published say health records don’t matter and should not be a matter of public record. This is reasonable as past politicians with health issues have done a fine job in office and health records are private and protected under federal law.

Alternatively, would it be valuable information apropos to voting if it is known a candidate could be incapacitated at some point during their time in office due to health concerns? It is unlikely any such concerns would be present, but it is possible. Such information may not change anyone’s mind either, but it would be good information to have.

Whether or not the health of a candidate is meaningful to their ability to hold office is perfectly debatable. That opinions differ is not concerning. What is concerning is that in the above three quotes people confuse a candidate’s health with partisanship, competence and politics. If that is what may be gleaned from medical records then no, they are not meaningful and should not be released. Except medical records have nothing to do with any of those things.

The question of whether or not a candidate should release their medical records is about literal fitness to do the job. It’s not about if a Republican would vote for a Democrat. It’s not about if they would do a good job in office. It’s not about playing chicken with personal records. Do the candidates have any health concerns which would prevent them from being able to perform their sworn duties?

People have opinions, especially when it comes to politics. Media want to know these opinions because it helps them drive eyes and ears. But it doesn’t mean you have to publish them. Especially when many obviously don’t understand the question or the issue.

 

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