Donald Trump has been criticized for a variety of faults. He’s a bully, a bigot, a misogynist, mean spirited, dishonest, and self-centered. Stealing a line from columnist Paul Krugman, “On the other hand, he’s a terrible person.”
For all his faults, Trump has one redeeming quality. He selected as his personal physician a man who has a sense of humor. It’s so understated and subtle people may not realize when he’s joking.
Harold Bornstein, M.D., Trump’s personal physician (yes, that’s Bornstein in the photo), wrote a letter concerning Trump’s health that just didn’t seem right. Bornstein has been criticized for his inappropriate use of medical terms—e.g., referring to positive test results as a good thing—and for his hyperbole—Trump “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to be president.” But there’s something more to the letter.
You see, the letter is a joke. Really. Bornstein, who, coincidentally, looks more Jerry Garcia than surgeon general, was playing a joke—though he denied it when interviewed by CNN—on both Trump and everyone else.
Think about it. How in the world could a doctor ever render an opinion that Trump, if elected, would be the healthiest president ever? There’s no way on Earth to compare Trump’s health with all the prior presidents.
But, if you’re Trump’s doctor, you know a lot about Trump, and one of those things is that no one thinks better of Trump than Trump himself, and Trump, with his unbridled ego, will believe anything flattering about himself. Why pull a joke on Trump?
Think about the setting in which the letter was composed and the relationship between Bornstein and Trump.
We were informed initially by NBC News that Bornstein composed the letter in a mere five minutes, while a Trump limousine waited outside Bornstein’s office to pick up the letter. We now know from a subsequent CNN interview there was no Trump limo waiting outside. Bornstein explained, “I was just rushed for time.”
Bornstein said he normally wouldn’t use such exaggeration, but he made an exception for Trump who had previously tweeted that the assessment would show “perfection.” Bornstein also revealed that he “likes Donald Trump because I think he likes me.”
So, imagine you’re Trump’s doctor. You’ve got little time to write the letter, and you like Trump (because you think he likes you), and you want him to continue liking you, and you know this letter is going to get national exposure, and Trump has an ego the size of Staten Island and will believe anything complimentary that is said about him, and, oh, what the heck.
Boom! You tell the world that Trump’s health will trump the health of all other presidents. Sure, that may not be the way they talk in the New England Journal of Medicine, but nobody asked those stuffed shirt academics to write the letter. Why use standard medical jargon? It’s boring. The public won’t understand it, and neither will Trump.
Go for Yuge! Tell the word that Trump’s “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” Think about the word “stamina.” Isn’t it a reference to the Republican primary debates when Trump reassured us, “He [Marco Rubio] referred to my hands. If they’re small, something else just be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem”? See if anybody makes the connection.
Sure enough, Trump believed it. Who cares about the accuracy of the letter? Trump didn’t. He cared only about the fact that the letter made him look good. His only reality is his own, and Bornstein’s letter fit perfectly into Trump’s solipsistic world.
But what about the rest of us? How is the letter a joke on us? Most of the world—those inclined to critical thinking anyway—has come to expect only exaggeration from Trump, and so a letter from his doctor is greeted with skepticism. We expected little depth or gravitas from the man who treats Trump, and so we were inclined to look for every deficiency that might exist in the letter.
But that’s exactly the joke. We all took the letter at face value when Bornstein was just seeing what he could get away with.
Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com
Also published on Medium.
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