This week, it was reported that then-candidate Donald Trump dictated his own doctor’s report during the presidential campaign. It’s just the latest example of Trump’s untruths (he’s told literally thousands of lies as president) and embellishments of his personal history that turned him into a celebrity. Even though the hyperbolic note was ridiculed upon its release — many said it sounded like Trump had written it himself, but did people really believe that? — this is why it actually matters.
1. He made Hillary Clinton’s health a major campaign issue
Trump repeatedly accused Hillary Clinton of being in ill health and unsuited for the presidency. During the presidential debates, Trump said Clinton — who traveled to more than 100 countries as secretary of state — didn’t have the “stamina” for the presidency, and repeated his attacks when she took a few days off the trail after developing pneumonia. Clinton released a letter from her doctor stating she was in good health. Trump wrote a fake doctor’s note. Voters didn’t know that.
2. The Trump fake doctors note further evidence that the presidency is all about him
He’s been accused of using the presidency for personal gain and governing by hyperbole and appearance, not reality. Trump’s fake doctor’s note is another example. “In a world in which everything is justified by self-interest, nothing can be off limits. And that, at the moment, is the space that Donald Trump willingly occupies,” writes Chris Cillizza of CNN.
3. Another norm has been smashed
After historians revealed the extent to which FDR and Woodrow Wilson kept their health status from the public, in the later twentieth century, it became the norm to expect transparency from presidents and candidates. Trump held himself to a different standard, and voters didn’t have the information they thought they did before the election.
And if Trump could coerce his doctor into writing a fake note when he was a civilian, what stopped him from doing the same with White House Physician Ronny Jackson, who reported, implausibly, that the president weighed 239 pounds, and glossed over heart-disease risk in his blood work, extolling his “amazing genes” and saying he could live to be “200 years old”?
4. It puts the lie to Trump’s “best people” promise — again
“If Trump has seriously entrusted his health to a clown who would write a note like this, what does that say about the kinds of people he surrounds himself with? What does it say about his willingness to have people in his inner circle who tell him things he doesn’t want to hear, and who modulate his worst impulses?” wrote Ezra Klein of Vox in December 2015, nearly a full year before the 2016 election.
Klein continued: “Trump’s campaign is an embarrassment. His policy proposals are a joke. The saving grace of his candidacy has been the suspicion that he’s playing a deeper game — that the offensiveness is calculated, that the proposals aren’t serious, that the Donald is more than he appears. But maybe he’s not.”