A few years before he died, my friend Charles Krauthammer, a psychiatrist turned Pulitzer-winning political commentator, told me that the quality of health care you receive tends to rise in tandem with your income—up to a point. For some people, the two lines separate when they get so rich that they can afford the diagnoses and treatments they want rather than the ones they need.
Look at Steve Jobs and Michael Jackson, Charles said: very different people who shared a common addiction to getting their way. Jobs thought he could outsmart pancreatic cancer, rejecting conventional approaches until it was too late. Jackson could afford a doctor who would give him drugs no normal patient could get from a doctor. Jackson died from an overdose of propofol, a general anesthetic he used as a sleep aid.
This all came to mind over the weekend as the chaos that has followed Donald Trump around for his entire presidency like the cloud of dirt accompanying Pig-Pen moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, needlessly clouded the waters by getting the timeline of Trump’s diagnosis wrong. Then, when asked whether the president had been on supplemental oxygen, Conley dodged so transparently that everyone paying attention knew the answer had to be yes—Trump had needed oxygen—when Conley was trying to leave the impression the answer was no.
The next day, Conley admitted as much, saying his weird hedges were an attempt “to reflect the upbeat attitude” of the president and his team. He added that he “didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of the illness in another direction.”