While medical information is protected and a private matter for all Americans, when it comes to the President, all want to know about his health. That's not just out of concern but to also know whether he is still capable of leading the country and the world. However, Donald Trump and his physician aren't eager to share details about his condition after he confirmed to have tested positive for the Coronavirus.
On Friday (October 2), he was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as a precautionary measure considering his age susceptibility to the virus. He also reassured the public of his health in a video message saying he was feeling well. At the hospital, White House physician Dr Sean Conley and pulmonologist Dr Sean Dooley said the President was "doing well" and he was "fever-free for over 24 hours." But he refused to answer his temperature and if he had been treated with concentrated oxygen.
Shortly after his statement, sources close to the development told the media that President's vitals were "very concerning". Even White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows confirmed to Fox News that the President's blood oxygen level dropped rapidly.
Those statements combined have given rise to speculations and conspiracy theories. Some say Trump was carrying a portable oxygen concentrator while some are concerned as to why he was accompanied with a nuclear launch briefcase, known as The Biscuit.
That brings to the question of why lie and deception precede the lives of U.S Presidents from the public when transparency could have made things simpler. The answer is simple: there is less than a month left for the Presidential Election. Trump at 74 is definitely at a higher risk as in the U.S., the mortality rate from COVID-19 is over 10 percent — greater than the national average. But he is obviously eager to get back on the campaign trail as his record of handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and racial protests among other things has been heavily criticized.
But this is time for him to show his strength that if he can come back from the virus, despite his age and underlying health condition (obesity), it is possible for everyone. That could even potentially win him the election. However, as he is being treated with an experimental but promising antibody cocktail and remdesivir, besides immunity boosters like zinc and vitamin D along with melatonin and famotidine, it is perhaps believed safer to keep things under wraps than spill out every detail.
In some ways, Dr Conley is also responsible. He could choose transparency over secrecy but it is understandable that he is under pressure from the White House. However, in doing so, he is essentially repeating history.
Former Presidents' Health Crisis
In 1919, when former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was reportedly diagnosed with the Spanish Flu, a deadlier pandemic, the White House chose to conceal the truth. He didn't want to distract the public of bad news while World War I efforts were still ongoing.
But his health condition didn't improve and six months after being diagnosed with the virus, he suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on the left side. The life-threatening condition was also kept secret. However, Wilson or his physician Cary Grayson weren't the only ones.
President Grover Cleveland underwent oral surgery in secret to remove a cancerous lesion from his mouth. Lyndon B Johnson too had undergone surgery to remove a skin lesion in 1967 but it was also kept under wraps.
Franklin Roosevelt's condition was even more serious. He was diagnosed with high blood pressure, heart condition and arteriosclerosis but his White House staff downplayed all that with an election coming (1944). The result was fatal. Roosevelt died in April 1945 from a massive intracerebral hemorrhage.
President Dwight D Eisenhower too suffered a similar fate. After suffering a serious heart attack in 1955 and spending six months in hospital, his physician Dr Howard Snyder advised him to seek a second term. His physician was accused of falsifying evidence to certify his good health under oath. However, Eisenhower completed his term.
There were previous Presidents involving similar incidents of downplaying, lying and deceiving the public and the Trump Administration is just keeping the tradition going. Professor of American politics at the University of Chicago, William Howell, told KTXS that he wasn't expecting the White House to be transparent.
"He is obviously going to be eager to get back onto the campaign trail. He has all kinds of incentives to signal strength and to get back into the mix. He's going to want to," he said.