Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Clinton's health: New right-wing conspiracy theory backfires

Donald Trump's ghost writer, Tony Schwartz, observed "Something I saw early on w/ Trump: most negative things he says about others are actually describing him. Read his tweets with that in mind."

We would do well to remember that in the face of the latest conspiracy theory touted by the right-wing, particularly (1) those accusations by Trump about Clinton's health (themselves based on flimsy evidence), and (2) the confusing and seemingly bogus attestation about Trump's own health.

I am only going to take on a small slice of this, because AZBlueMeanie has a complete chronology at Blog for Arizona this morning. I'm going to focus on the letter from Trump's doctor about his health - and on the doctor himself.

First, consider the news broken last week by Rachel Maddow, namely that Trump's doctor has been padding his resume (story in the Washington Examiner).

Donald Trump's long-time doctor, Harold N. Bornstein, has been calling himself a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology, but a new report late Thursday indicates Trump's physician has not been a member of that group for more than 20 years yet still uses the title.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow stated the network received a tip from a viewer Wednesday that Bornstein's December letter regarding Trump's health had a flaw in it.

"The letters after the Trump doctor's name — there's his name. It says, M.D. for medical doctor and then it says, FACG, which stands for fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology," Maddow said.

"So we called them, and they said, 'yeah, that's right.' They said, quote, 'Dr. Bornstein joined the ACG in 1981. He was a fellow. When his membership lapsed in 1995.' He hasn't been affiliated with the ACG since that year. Given that, we asked if that means he should stop identifying himself the way he does, putting FACG after his name. They told us this: 'People who are no longer members of the organization would be expected to stop using FACG or any other reference to membership in the organization as they are no longer members.'"

So this guy is misrepresenting himself. In professional circles, it ranks right up there with plagiarism. The bottom line: Bornstein turned deadbeat on paying his dues to his own professional organization but continued to flash his now invalid credential anyway.

Even more damning are the observations by Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek, Donald Trump tests positive for everything, according to his own doctor. (h/t Blue Meanie)

First, to counter everything Trump says about Clinton's health.

On July 28, 2015, the Clinton campaign released a typical medical letter from an internist, whom she has seen since 2001—Lisa Bardack, director of internal medicine, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical. The letter is a typical medical history, and begins with the usual summary of a full physical, calling her a “healthy 67-year-old female.” It lists medical issues and the findings of testing. The tests, it says, were negative, meaning they showed no problems. To use the medical terminology, it is an unremarkable document.

Later in 2015, the Trump campaign released a letter supposedly from Trump's physician.

On December 4, 2015, the Trump campaign released…something.

It purports to be a medical letter, but it is one of the most ridiculous documents ever to emerge in any political campaign. First, the letterhead is in the same font as the letter, which appears to have been created using Microsoft Word. The signature from the doctor is several inches past the signature line—the result you might get if the document had been signed as a blank and filled in later. The letterhead includes a Gmail address—something doctors tell me is extremely unusual, since doctors do not want patients contacting them directly by email as a substitute for scheduling an appointment.

There is also a website listed, but if you follow the URL (haroldbornsteinmd.com), sometimes it takes you to cdn.freefarcy.com, a blank page that asks if you want to upload an update to a Flash program onto your computer (the domain name, freefarcy.com, is still for sale. No, I can’t explain that.) If you decline, it does so anyway and, based on the response of the security system on my computer, the “program” on the doctor’s supposed website is a virus. (Other times it takes you to a generic medical website. No, I can't explain that either.)

We could stop right here and conclude that the letter is a complete fraud, either written by someone without much if any knowledge of medicine or by a medical professional who is incompetent and botched the fabrication.

Then, there is the doctor who allegedly signed this document. His name is Harold N. Bornstein, and he is a gastroenterologist. This kind of physician is a specialist who treats the digestive tract. This is not an internist, who is trained specifically in providing full histories and physicals of patients. The letter signed by Dr. Bornstein, who did not return an email from Newsweek seeking comment, says that he has treated Trump since 1980. However, it mentions no history of the gastrointestinal problem that led the Republican candidate for president to seek out his help. In fact, the letter says Trump has had no significant medical problems. So why has he been seeing a gastroenterologist for over 35 years?

Unlike the Clinton letter, it does not contain a full medical history for Trump. The letter also has problems with sentence structure and major typographical errors, such as the opening line, “To Whom My Concern.” Most amusing, it says that his medical examination of Trump has “only positive results.” In medical terms, if the test is positive, it confirms the existence of disease. Is this doctor saying Trump has every medical ailment that could be found in examination? Does he not know the meaning of the word? Or, as I suspect, was the letter written by someone in the Trump campaign?

Anyone reading the letter can make a good guess about who that person might be. It says results were “extraordinarily excellent.” (Not a medical term.) It says, “His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” (Again, not a medical term.) Then, in the most hilarious, Trump-esque line of all, it says, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency.” In other words, this letter purports to show that a doctor has assessed the health of 43 people he has never examined, including the four who are still alive.

Now, if conservative conspiracy theorists want to play a “the candidate could have health problems” game, let’s do that. The letter from the Trump campaign mentions nothing about family history, as any normal letter assessing someone’s medical condition would. (Clinton’s does.) Family history is critical in understanding possible diseases that may emerge, particularly those with a genetic link. Trump’s father, Fred Trump, died from complications of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. That condition, which is the most common form of Alzheimer’s, emerges in people in their mid-60s or later. Trump is 70.

There is a genetic component to the disease. Risk increases when a person has a particular type of apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene on the 19th chromosome. The type of APOE gene a person has is testable. Has Dr. Bornstein, the gastroenterologist, tested for it? If not, why not? Is that why Trump has avoided seeing an internist, since they would conduct such a test? Such a test might reveal that Trump is unfit for office since dementia, unlike epilepsy, could damage a president’s ability to think coherently.

Moreover, people have been suggesting that they may have seen symptoms of Alzheimer’s in Trump’s behavior. Yes, I am using Trump argument style of “people say,” but I’m going to help you identify the people. Type “Trump and Alzheimer’s” into Google and lots of articles and online comments pop up pointing out behaviors of Trump’s that are consistent with Alzheimer’s: meandering speech, poor self-control, not properly responding to questions that are asked, erratic behavior.

See? I can generate conspiracy theories too. Please understand, I’m not saying Trump has Alzheimer’s. I’m just showing how easy it is to take a few facts and line them up to play the “I’m only asking questions” game. So if conservatives want to keep pushing their “Clinton’s health” conspiracy theory, even though they have a full assessment of her medical status from her doctor, then I’m going to keep demanding that Trump release a letter from a real internist that has real medical tests and results for Alzheimer’s. I’m not going to let kids with epilepsy be told they can’t be president of the United States or anything else they want simply so a bunch of liars can score political points. The case that there may be medical problems with Trump, given the nonsense of his medical letter and his poor family history, is much stronger than that against Clinton. It’s time for Trump and the conservative media to drop this line of attack, one that harms innocent people. Or get ready to answer questions that “people are asking” about what horrible things Trump is hiding about his health.

Let's push the latter questions, and along the way, note that this is classic Trump - more bluster and bullshit and manufacturing "facts." Now we need to see if the new campaign manager, KelleyAnne Conway, will seek the Way of the Con.

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