Oh, This Will Be Fun! How Ignorant And Misleading Was David Frum’s Vicious Attack On President Trump’s Physical Condition? [PART 2] [CORRECTED!]

David Frum’s assertion that President Trump is one of the “least physically capable” Presidents only shows that his knowledge of the Presidents is an inch deep and about as wide….or, in the alternative, that he knows what he is saying is false but is counting on the public’s ignorance of history and CNN’s complicity in gratuitous Trump bashing to get away with it. Well, at least on Ethics Alarms he’s not going to get away with it.

Let’s look first at Trump’s predecessors after FDR. Recall that Frum’s  statement was that Trump is “the least physically capable president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a wheelchair.”

  • George H.W. Bush, tough old bird that he was, dealt with more health issues as President than Trump. He suffered from bleeding ulcers, arthritis,  atrial fibrillation and the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease.
  • John F. Kennedy was a sick man throughout his short term in office; he just had his staff and reporters cover it up.  His 1947 diagnosis of Addison’s disease, an incurable disorder of the adrenal gland, was kept secret until well after his death. JFK’s chronic back pain caused him to develop an addictions to painkillers, stimulants, and other medication; historians suspect that he made important decisions while “bombed out of his mind.”
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower had three major medical incidents during his two terms in office: a heart attack, a stroke, and Crohn’s disease. Saying Eisenhower was more “physically able” than Donald Trump is either gross ignorance on Frum’s part, or a lie. Of course, Stelter couldn’t correct him, because he’s an idiot, and wouldn’t correct any false attacks on President Trump anyway.

Going back before Franklin Roosevelt (who was beyond question the least physically able President in history when he won his final term in 1944, since he was dying of heart disease and worse, knew it; it had nothing to do with his whellchair) we have a veritable Presidential intensive care unit. Let’s skip over Harding, who suffered his whole life from anxiety and emotional problems, and who had undiagnosed heart problems that ultimately killed him, and go to the runner up champ of physically disabled Presidents, Woodrow Wilson. Afflicted with untreatable (then) hypertension, Wilson was plagued by chronic headaches and double vision until he had  a series of strokes. One affected his right hand, leaving him unable to write normally, then more serious strokes rendered Wilson blind in his left eye, paralyzed on his left side, and eventually unable to discharge his duties as President. This was hidden from the public and Congress, with his wife and his doctor handling most of Wilson’s presidential tasks.

President Taft, as we all know, was morbidly obese at well over 300 pounds, and as a result suffered from sleep apnea (he dozed off during meetings), high blood pressure, and heart disease. Teddy Roosevelt managed to exude health with his ostentatiously vigorous lifestyle, but he wasn’t healthy. TR battled clinical depression his whole life, and despite what you will often read, he never overcame his childhood asthma. He was also diagnosed with a heart murmur, and advised to live a sedate life.  He did not.

This may well have contributed to the fact that he was dead shortly after his 60th birthday.

In addition to being the second most obese President, Grover Cleveland suffered from many maladies while President, most notably cancer, necessitating a secret operation that replaced his upper palate with a rubber prosthetic. My favorite obscure President, Chester A. Arthur, was ill during his entire three years in office, and died shortly after. He had progressive kidney failure from Bright’s Disease.

Before Arthur, the previous physically-limited President was, surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was another depressive, but his symptoms probably had a physical cause: likely permanent brain damage from being kicked in the head by a horse when he was young. Lincoln also had malaria flare-ups, and got smallpox during the Civil War. He may have suffered from mercury poisoning from pills that were frequently prescribed at the time.  Abe’s  photographs indicate drmatic weight loss and muscle wasting during the war, and some doctors believe he  was afflicted with multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2B (MEN2B) or Marfan syndrome, rare genetic disorders, although he lived longer than either of those conditions usually permit.

Two Presidents before Lincoln we had poor, broken Franklin Pierce in the White House, perhaps the most disabled of all.  He spent his entire, disastrous term in office in deep depression following the horrible death of his young son before his eyes in a train accident as his family headed to Washington after his election. Pierce’s wife Jane was never the same after teh accident, and Pierce’s alcoholism became intermittently debilitating.

Donald Trump, as you probably know, is a lifetime abstainer from alcohol.

Jumping past Presidents Taylor and William Henry Harrison, neither of whom were sufficiently physically able to last a single term before succumbing to illness  (Taylor less that a year and a half, Harrison about a month), we finally reach the all-time champion of unhealthy Presidents, Andrew Jackson.

When he finally won the Presidency at the age of 62 (after having been robbed of victory four years earlier), Old Hickory was plagued by the lingering wound from two of his less successful pistol duels. One bullet was lodged in his arm, where it festered and gave him chronic pain. ( This bullet was finally removed when Jackson was President) A second bullet, lodged in his chest near his lung and  heart, was considered inoperable. It caused serious pulmonary problems and caused Jackson to cough up blood periodically. The bullets also caused lead poisoning.

Jackson was seriously underweight, and there was a good reason for that: his digestive tract was permanently damaged. He suffered from recurring flare-ups of malaria, typhoid, typhus and dysentery, progressive heart failure, and some sources say he had tuberculosis as well. Like Lincoln, Jackson was poisoned by mercury pills given to him by his doctors.

I think I’ll stop with Andy, the President that Trump most identifies with, and justly so.  There is more than sufficient evidence that David Frum didn’t know what he was talking about, and that CNN allowed him to misinform its viewers by adding fake history to its usual fare of biased and fake news.

Oh, This Will Be Fun! How Ignorant And Misleading Was David Frum’s Vicious Attack On President Trump’s Physical Condition? [PART I]

Answer: Spectacularly ignorant and misleading.

As you know, I love fake history about the Presidents, a specialty on CNN. Add to this the feature that Atlantic contributor and former Bush speechwriter David Frum–he’s also a prominent NeverTrumper, as are virtually all former members of the Bush camp—had his gratuitous ad hominem attack outburst on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” fake media ethicist Brain Stelter’s reliably unreliable bias-fest, and debunking Frum’s blather is  like Christmas morning for me.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Here’s what Frum said:

“One of the ideas that Donald Trump tried to spread in 2016 is that Hillary Clinton was somehow physically incapable of managing the presidency. It’s audacious, Donald Trump was the oldest presidents ever, one of the fattest presidents ever, the least physically capable president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a wheelchair…He can’t pick up a ball, never mind throw it. But he was able to put in the minds of tens of millions of people the idea that Hillary Clinton, who is a very vigorous woman in good health, was somehow too sick to be president.”

First up, Frum’s mischaracterization of Hillary’s health issues. She had episodes of uncontrolled coughing fits throughout the 2016 campaign, and actually collapsed during a 9/11 event in New York while suffering a bout of pneumonia. Then she lied about it, until video made it necessary to admit she was ill. When a candidate tries to cover up the truth about her health, her health becomes a legitimate issue. This would be true no matter who the candidate was.

Another easy one is Frum’s absurd remarks about how Trump can’t pick up or throw a ball, wherever that came from. This is the kind of statement that would be defamatory if it wasn’t about the President—I’m up on my defamation law after having to defend myself against a defamation suit for the past two years. That’s the kind of inherently slanderous  allegation that suggests unrevealed sources or evidence that the listener has no access to, when in fact such evidence doesn’t exist, because the claim is malicious and false. The President is constantly criticized for playing golf—and he cheats at it, according to Mike Bloomberg’s billboards—but he can’t pick up a ball? What proof does Frum have that Trump, who played baseball as a young man, can’t throw a ball now? Frum made all that up.

Now comes my favorite part, Frum’s claims about where Trump fits in the spectrum of Presidential health. As a starting point, all that matters is that a President is healthy enough and able enough to do his job, and by the evidence of the results so far, that’s not a problem. The health of other Presidents have been a problem for them in discharging their duties, as we shall see.

The oft-stated point that Trump was the oldest President at the time of his election is true, but misleading. He was 70 when he was elected, but the significance of age is relative, as well as what constitutes “old” in our society. The average life expectancy of a white male in the US today (and in 2016) is just under 80; if you make it to 70, your life expectancy jumps into the mid-80s. Many Presidents before Trump were well over the nation’s life expectancy for their demographic group when they were elected, including all of the 19th century Presidents, who were relatively “older” than Trump.

In fact, it wasn’t until 1920, when Warren G. Harding was elected, that a President wasn’t over the average mortality age, and Harding was right at it: 54. He also died in office, three years later. Herbert Hoover became the first US President to be elected at a younger age than the average age of death for white males,  in 1928. After that, no American President has been elected after he reached the average morality age.

Is Trump one of the fattest Presidents? No doubt about it, but he’s also in a group of hefty Presidents who were all about the  same degree of obese. Here is a chart of the fattest Presidents as measured by their body mass index, which admittedly is a blunt instrument, not distinguishing between muscle mass and fat:

So it is fair to say that Trump is in the top 25% of overweight Presidents, and who cares? Of the porky POTUSes on the list, only Zachary Taylor wasn’t able to complete his term, and there is no evidence that his weight had anything to do with his demise.  Among the Presidents ahead of Trump on the fat list is Theodore Roosevelt, who nobody ever dared call “fat” when he was running amuck across the political landscape, not while he was climbing mountains and seemingly in perpetual motion.  In short, that part of Frum’s rant is pure cheap shot.

I’ll debunk the best part of Frum’s garbage in Part 2.

Major Ethics Alarm: American Journalism Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes [Part 1: Signature Significance]

flag-american-crumbling

…and without trustworthy journalism, democracy cannot survive.

There was reason to hope that following its beyond miserable performance in its coverage of the campaign and election just concluded, American journalism would respond to reality and dedicate itself to repairing its broken relationship with traditional professional ethics. Poll after poll shows that the news media’s standing with the public has never been lower. Because the profession itself ought to be more keenly aware than anyone of how vital honest, fair and competent journalism is to the health of a democracy, one would expect that this would be a moment demanding brutal self-examination and rapid reform.

This is not what we are seeing, however. Consider:

  • Last weekend, ABC’s Jonathan Karl interviewed Donna Brazile in a New Year’s Day review of the election. I couldn’t believe it. She was introduced as a respectable commentator with no acknowledgment of her role in the Clinton fiasco and the news media’s disgrace. As Ed Morrissey wrote,

Why is Jonathan Karl interviewing Brazile in the first place? …It has been 62 days since CNN severed their ties with Donna Brazile over the fact (no longer an “allegation”) that she cheated during one of the Democratic presidential primary debates and attempted to cheat during a second one in Flint, Michigan. And yet ABC News is inviting her to sit down for a casual New Years Day chat like any other political analyst.

CNN shouldn’t have allowed her to be a staff member to begin with, since she was a partisan political operative. She used that relationship and exploited her conflict of interest to try to do what she could to  rig the election. She was exposed, lied by denying it, and fired. Now, after the election, she behaves as if nothing has changed, and ABC again presents her as a reliable analyst.

  • After WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta revealed collusion and shockingly unethical ties between prominent journalists and the Clinton campaign, as well as the campaign openly referring to such journalists as allies, none of the journalists so exposed have been disciplined, nor have any of the news organization employing them indicated that they were so much as troubled by the revelation.

Continue reading

Sandy Hook Massacre Ethics Train Wreck Special: Distortions From The Media, Excuses From The Biased, And A Call For Accountability

The Daily Beast, through the words of columnist David Frum. calls the latest disgraceful example of the news media bending the truth to manipulate public opinion regarding gun control, “The Newtown Heckling Controversy,.” This places that website on this train wreck as a Big Lie player. The classic formula for a Big Lie smear, for those of you who have read your Goebbels followers, is to make a blatantly false assertion, make the target of the unfair accusation deny it, and then treat it as a legitimate “controversy.” There is no controversy here, only liars and those who want to benefit from the lie, because there was no “heckling.” The real news story here is that the United States has not only developed an arrogant and ethics-free media establishment that no longer can tell true from false, it is getting more brazen by the day. There must be accountability.

The incident—or, as journalists who have decided that their jobs are not to report the news but to drive public policy in their favored direction would call it, the opportunity—occurred during the testimony before the Connecticut legislature by a parent of one of the Sandy Hook victims. [Note: I believe strongly that such testimony is itself unethical. Sorry. Legislation should be based on research, analysis, balancing, and objective analysis of what is in the best interests of the the public. There is literally nothing these parents contribute to this process, other than confusion, emotion, and dramatic video footage. They are not experts on guns, violence, the culture, the Constitution or the law. Their position is the epitome of bias. Their opinions are accorded undeserved weight by the media and mush-headed lawmakesr because they have suffered a personal , as if suffering confers sudden wisdom and balanced perspective. I know the practice is virtually routine, but it does no good, a lot of harm, and should be opposed by anyone interested in competent government.] Tearful and distraught, the grief-stricken father, Neil Heslin, said,

” I don’t know how many people have young children or children. But just try putting yourself in the place that I’m in or these other parents that are here. Having a child that you lost. It’s not a good feeling; not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips.”

He waited, and glanced around the room. Then he said, “Not one person can answer that question!” Whereupon one clear voice with a several  others behind it call out,“The Second Amendment shall not be infringed!”

A moderator then says, “Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we’ll clear the room. Mr. Heslin, please continue.”

This is what happened..this is what obviously happened. Heslin asked the occupants of the room a question posed as a challenge. Pro-gun advocates did not answer, assuming that despite the ambiguous form of the query—Heslin is not a skilled public speaker—it was a rhetorical question. Apparently Heslin didn’t think it was rhetorical, however, because he waited, as if for a response, and then made a statement that concluded unfairly, inaccurately and misleadingly that nobody in the room “can answer the question.” Predictably, a few then did answer his question, only to get slapped down by the moderator.

The headline writer at the Connecticut Post described this scene—falsely—as “Father of Newtown victim heckled at hearing.” That is a lie. Anyone who watches the video and equivocates in calling it a lie is allowing their judgment to be completely liquified by confirmation bias, or trying to facilitate a deception. Continue reading