Hillary Clinton is again being faulted for instinctively preferring to keep what she thinks should be private just that. She fell ill last Friday but decided to “power through”, sticking with her original schedule that included appearing at a 9/11 memorial service on Sunday in New York. That led to her now famous swoon and – she has now admitted – was clearly a mistake.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal,” she told CNN on Monday night about the pneumonia diagnosis she had received. We have heard that before. From the moment questions were raised about her use of a personal email server, she downplayed the issue any way she could. That, she attempted, was also no big deal. Except of course that it was.
But Ms Clinton is also asking for fairness when it comes to transparency, or lack of it, from the runners for the White House; that the same standards being demanded of her are applied to Donald Trump. “Compare everything you know about me with my opponent, I think it's time he met the same level of disclosure that I have for years,” she told CNN.
Mr Trump is meant to be the “tells-it-like-it-is” candidate. He has also reveled in labeling his opponent "crooked Hillary", inferring that she has lied about her private email server, including by hiding thousands of emails from investigators, and lied also about the Benghazi attacks in 2012 when she was Secretary of State that left four Americans dead. But when it comes to being upfront about his personal and business affairs, his transparency deficit is indeed in a league of its own.
What have we seen from Trump when it comes to his health?
What we have so far is as good as useless. It’s a letter that his doctor, Harold Bornstein, said he wrote in five minutes while waiting on the curb for a limousine. It’s almost cartoonish in tone. “If elected, Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” he asserted. But beyond that, we know very little about the 70-year-old’s health record, beyond the fact that he loves fast food and takes little or no exercise. Hence this from Joe Biden, who is 73, this week: “I'd like to jog with him. I don't think he could keep up.”
Has Ms Clinton done any better?
A bit. At the start of the campaign she released a two-page letter from her physician, Dr Lisa Bardack, saying the candidate was “in excellent health” and was “fit to serve” as president. However, it did offer some considerable detail about Ms Clinton’s medical history, noting that she takes blood thinners and medicine for hypothyroidism. It also detailed her past episodes of deep vein thrombosis and blood clots. But the letter was issued in July last ear and was then based on a medical exam she underwent in March. That is 18 months ago now.
Are they going to remedy matters?
Apparently so. Both campaigns said on Monday that they would be issuing new details about the health histories of their candidates. Mr Trump has said he had a full exam last week and will release the results when “they are ready”, perhaps when he appears on the Dr Oz syndicated TV chat show this Thursday.
When they are ready? Why does that already sound like a dodge in the making?
Because of the parallel controversy over his failure to release his tax returns. Answering repeated calls from the Democrats to release his returns, preferably from a multi-year period, Mr Trump says he will only do so when the tax authorities have completed an audit of his tax affairs currently under way, even though there is nothing about an audit that precludes releasing those details. But that is how he is playing it and there seems very little chance we will be seeing any of those documents before election day on 8 November. We have about 30 years of returns from Clinton. She had $10.6m (£8m) in 2015 income.
When Trump was asked on ABC TV early this year what kind of tax rate he was paying, his reply was to the point. “It’s none of your business,” he said. Some voters may beg to differ.
Why isn’t he giving us those returns?
That is the question. The murkiness about Mr Trump’s personal financial affairs and the financial health of his property empire is profound. “I think it is a fundamental issue about him in this campaign that we're going to talk about in one way or another…because he clearly has something to hide,” Ms Clinton declared to reporters on her campaign plane last week.
Part of the premise of his campaign is that he is a searingly brilliant businessman who alone can put America back on its feet and, by the way, that he is worth at least $10bn (£8bn). There is general suspicion that his net worth is far below that. Fortune magazine recently put it in the $3bn (£2bn) range. That’s not shabby, but it would reveal some extreme exaggerating on Mr Trump’s part.
We may also learn the truth behind assertions that over the years he has donated “tens of millions” of dollars to charitable causes. “Anyone who knows about Donald Trump and his career knows that this is a man who’s given away tens of millions of dollars to charitable causes throughout his business life,” Mike Pence, his running mate, repeated just this week.
But The Washington Post has challenged the claim, saying that neither Trump nor his campaign have offered any evidence to support it. The paper has noted that its own search of 326 charities with connections to Trump found that between 2008 and May of this year they had collectively benefited from a mere $10,000 (£7588) in donations from his own pockets.
Trump does have his own charitable organisation, the Trump Foundation, but it’s not clear how much of the money it gives away actually comes from Trump himself. And it has come under additional scrutiny recently for a political donation it made to a group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi just as she was considering fraud allegations against Trump University
Ah yes, Trump University. How dodgy was that exactly?
Mr Trump is being sued by New York’s attorney general for allegedly misleading people into signing up for seminars on how to be as successful as he is in property development for as much as $35,000 (£26,551). A group of former students are also suing and the trial could start later this year.
But his companies we know about, right?
Not exactly. Another line he repeats at rallies and elsewhere is that his core business involving the full or part ownership of trophy buildings on both coasts of the United States is remarkable light on debt. But Fortune recently reckoned that the debt carried by Trump’s core business – not counting all his assorted franchising and marketing agreements where he allows his name to be used on products and buildings for fees – amounts to about $1bn (£758m) much more than he has disclosed. Among entities giving the loans has been the Bank of China.
What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, except bashing China for allegedly defrauding the US on trade and by manipulating its currency, has been more central to his campaign, a fact that Democratic running mate Tim Kaine recently noted. “He is also more in debt including to the state owned Bank of China. Now, Donald will say he’s going to hold China to account,” he said last week. “How can he do that when his accounts to China are in the red?”
Mr Trump’s boast that he has successfully negotiated 120 overseas deals is also drawing scrutiny. With whom exactly? “That’s 120 potential conflicts of interest, 120 opportunities for business elsewhere or governments elsewhere to influence what he might do as president,” Mr Kaine said.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies