Over the past few days, video of a swaying, buckling Hillary Clinton entering a Secret Service van after being overcome with the late summer heat has agitated the active imaginations of 2016 campaign watchers. The incident fueled conspiracy theorists that have for weeks insinuated, baselessly, that Clinton might be suffering from a life-threatening ailment (her doctor later announced that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia). But it also led to reasonable discussions of what the public is entitled to know about the health of presidential candidates, especially ones who are Clinton’s and Trump’s age. She is 68. He is 70.
Mortality, that ultimate wedge issue, had entered the political arena at long last.
If Trump wins in November, he will be the oldest person elected for a first term as president. Clinton would tie current record-holder Ronald Reagan, who was 69 (Clinton’s birthday is in late October). It is an undeniable fact, an un-spinnable assertion, that as the body ages, gets closer to its biological end, its systems start to go on the fritz. David Scheiner, who was Barack Obama’s physician during the 2008 presidential race, recently raised the issue of the 2016 candidates’ age, writing: “I can attest that the American people need much more medical information from these candidates. … At these ages, stuff begins to happen.” Before Reagan, William Henry Harrison was the oldest man to win the office; he did so in 1840 at age 67 and died 31 days after his inauguration.
Age isn’t a perfect proxy for health. The life expectancy of Americans has risen over time.
All life expectancy figures are for white men except Barack Obama’s, which is for black men, and Hillary Clinton’s, which is for white women. The Centers for Disease …