Heart attack, heart attack, who’s had a heart attack? I suppose this argument was inevitable in a three way race between candidates whose combined age nearly equals the age of the United States, but it’s a bad look for Democrats. It started off with another declaration from Bernie Sanders last night in a CNN town hall that he would not release any more of his own medical records, not even after having had a heart attack a few months ago:
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had a heart attack last year, tells @andersoncooper that he doesn’t think he will release any more medical records than he already has. #cnntownhall https://t.co/DcVxz2JQLM pic.twitter.com/mObVIbJHFO
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) February 19, 2020
COOPER: In September, just last September, you said that you would release your medical records by — before the primaries. You haven’t done that. You have released three letters from doctors, two of them cardiologists. One is your — your physician. Is releasing full medical records — is that no longer something…
SANDERS: Now, we have released, I think, Anderson, quite as much as any other candidate has. We received — released two, rather, detailed letters from cardiologists and we received — released a letter that came from the head of the U.S. Congress medical group, the physicians there. So I think we have released a detailed report. And I’m comfortable with what we have done.
And by the way, you think I’m not in good health, come on out with me on the campaign trail and I’ll let you introduce me to the three or four rallies a day that we do. How’s that?
COOPER: But just to be clear, you don’t plan to release any more records?
SANDERS: I don’t. I don’t think we will, no.
That’s quite a turnaround from Sanders’ pre-heart attack declaration that voters deserve complete transparency on candidate health, and it has some suspicious over Sanders’ motives. This morning, CNN’s John Berman followed up with Team Bernie press secretary Briahna Joy Gray, who scolded John Berman over “smear”campaigns about Sanders’ health. To prove her point, Gray claimed that Michael Bloomberg had had heart attacks in his past as well:
Bloomberg had an irregular heartbeat & stents. But I've seen no record of attack. Checking now.pic.twitter.com/iW5Ag2xbUt
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) February 19, 2020
BERMAN: He had a heart attack in the fall. Do you think the American people deserve to know more about his health going forward?
GRAY: I think the American people deserve to know exactly as much as every other candidate has released in this race — currently and historically. And what you’re seeing right now is really reminiscent of some of the kind of smear, kind of skepticism campaigns that have been run against a lot of different candidates in the past, questioning where they’re from, aspects of their lineage, et cetera et cetera. And it’s really telling, given that none of the same concern is being demonstrated for Michael Bloomberg, who’s the same age as Bernie Sanders [and] who has suffered heart attacks in the past.
That’s a great example of what Gray’s discussing — only not an example of a double standard, but of a campaign smear. As it turns out, Bloomberg never had a heart attack, let alone “attacks” plural, although he had a stent placed in one coronary artery to clear it:
Bloomberg, who is also 78, underwent a coronary stent placement in 2000 for a blocked artery, but that does not mean he had a heart attack.
Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager, said Gray’s reference to Bloomberg having suffered heart attacks is “an absolute lie.”
Bloomberg’s campaign in December released a letter from the candidate’s doctor that said he is in “outstanding health” with no medical conditions that would prevent him from serving as president. Bloomberg has had annual cardiac stress testing since the stent placement, and his 2019 test was “normal and demonstrated excellent exercise tolerance,” the letter said.
Bloomberg campaign adviser Tim O’Brien accused Team Bernie of sounding a lot like … Donald Trump:
This is such a Trumpy lie from the Sanders camp, which rolls like Trump in many ways.
Mike Bloomberg has *never* had a heart attack. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has had a heart attack.
Those are the facts.
It’s a dangerous time when Sanders goes all in with Trumpism. https://t.co/Yk6RlI8WaN
— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) February 19, 2020
Ouch, baby. Very ouch.
Now we know that Bloomberg’s okay, for a 77-year-old multibillionaire, anyway. He has some issues with atrial fibrillation that’s being controlled with medication, but doctors attest that it’s well-controlled. What about Sanders? We don’t know, thanks to his flip-flop on transparency, but it doesn’t look good, as one Democratic strategist pointed out this morning:
Sanders campaign has clearly concluded that the heat he's taking for hiding his medical records is not as bad as what's in them.
— Greg Pinelo (@gregpinelo) February 19, 2020
Exactly, which is why no one’s going to just “trust Bernie” on this issue.
As inevitable as this feud is, it’s only making matters worse. Right now the top three national polling candidates approach 235 combined years of age, ranging from 77 to, er, 78. Donald Trump is no spring chicken either but he practically hums with vitality at a relatively junior 73 years old (74 in June). The Democratic field looks like a Soviet politburo in terms of age, and maybe in terms of health too. The longer they keep debating each others’ heart attacks, the more voters will start figuring that another four years of Trump looks better and better.
Addendum: And of course, no apologies:
“Before he was elected mayor in 2001, Michael R. Bloomberg had surgery to have two stents implanted in a coronary artery because of blockage in his heart, a person with knowledge of Mr. Bloomberg’s health said last night.” https://t.co/efXmDQRfD3
— Briahna Joy Gray (@briebriejoy) February 19, 2020