Trump Hospital Visit Draws Skeptics 11/19 06:17
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A lack of notice. Past failures to level with the
American people. A tough week for the White House as public impeachment
hearings got under way.
Add it all up, and President Donald Trump's unscheduled weekend visit to
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center raised suspicions about his
health, despite White House officials' insistence that the president was merely
getting a head start on his annual physical.
For any president, a sudden trip to the hospital would raise questions. But
such scrutiny was magnified with a president who has a history of exaggeration
and playing loose with the facts, giving skeptics room to run with their own
"The one thing you can be absolutely sure of is this was not routine and he
didn't go up there for half his physical," tweeted Joe Lockhart, a press
secretary under President Bill Clinton, who was himself impeached for perjury
and obstruction. "What does it mean? It means that we just won't know what the
medical issue was."
The president's medical appointment wasn't listed on his Saturday public
schedule, and his last physical was just nine months ago. Press secretary
Stephanie Grisham said the 73-year-old president was "anticipating a very busy
2020" and wanted to take advantage of "a free weekend" in Washington to begin
portions of his routine checkup.
Grisham followed up Monday night tweeting a memorandum from the president's
physician, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, who described Saturday's visit as a
"routine, planned interim checkup as part of the regular, primary preventative
care he received throughout the year."
Conley said that due to scheduling uncertainties, the trip was kept off the
record. He said after a little more than an hour of examination, labs and
discussion, the president visited with medical staff and the family of a
soldier undergoing surgery.
"Despite some of the speculation, the President has not had any chest pain,
nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues," Conley wrote.
Conley added that Trump consented to sharing his cholesterol level, now at
165, down from 196. A total below 170 is considered good.
Trump's 2018 and 2019 physicals were both announced ahead of time. Grisham
said after the visit that the president had gotten "a quick exam and labs."
"The President remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as
demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands
of Americans several times a week," she said.
But some weren't buying Grisham's explanation.
"The real Donald Trump is getting exposed for what he's done, and that's
what's driving him to the doctor," Rahm Emanuel, a former Clinton aide and
Chicago mayor, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at
the University of Pennsylvania, said it's reasonable for the press to be asking
questions about the president's health. She said the country has a long history
of presidents hiding physical ailments from the public.
Woodrow Wilson suffered a paralytic stroke in 1919 and the full details of
his disability were kept from the public. Franklin D. Roosevelt won a fourth
term despite severe hypertension that would contribute to his death 11 weeks
into his term. Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in his first term,
in 1955, and a reassessment of his medical records and public information four
decades later found that the information released to the public was recast to
serve the president's political interests ahead of his 1956 reelection campaign.
Jamieson noted that Trump was criticized for releasing only cursory details
on his health prior to the election. The president's doctor, Harold N.
Bornstein, wrote in December 2015 that Trump would "unequivocally" be the
healthiest president in history and deemed the celebrity businessman's
condition "astonishingly excellent." Bornstein later said he wrote the note in
five minutes while a limo sent by the candidate waited outside his office.
Jamieson said there is a set of expectations about how a president's annual
exam is handled, which includes the advance public notice that the Trump White
House provided for his first two exams. She said the reasonable question is:
"If this is routine, why was it not handled in a routine manner?"
Grisham said everything the White House has said about the Walter Reed visit
is "true and accurate."
"Just because it was done a little differently doesn't mean anything is
wrong," she said.
Trump and the White House have characterized the visit as "phase 1" of his
annual physical. But the explanation raised questions simply because its
handling was unusual.
First, annual physicals typically aren't performed in installments unless
someone needs a special test not available at their doctor's office ---
something that shouldn't be an issue at a military hospital. Nor are they
usually performed three months early; Trump's last physical was last February.
Conley said that primary preventative medical care is something that occurs
continuously during the year and is not just a single annual event. "As such, I
will continue to monitor the President's health, planning on a more
comprehensive examination after the New Year."
Some lab tests might be performed every few months if a doctor suspects a
problem, but otherwise blood tests such as a check of whether Trump's
medication is keeping his high cholesterol in check normally would be performed
at the one-year mark.
His prior physicals were scheduled in advance not only because that's how
doctors schedule everyone's "wellness" check-ups --- even VIPs --- but because
a presidential visit to a hospital prompts extra security concerns.