Several outlets are reporting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is 64 years old, had to cut his diplomatic mission short in Korea due to fatigue. As as doctor I find this concerning. This is his second trip and it is already too exhausting? Is he acutely ill? Does he have a health condition that precludes him from travel? Perhaps he is just too out of shape and has insufficient stamina for the job?
My father, an electrical engineer, worked as manager of the systems operating department for a major hydro electric company until he was 67. He never once complained of fatigue. He never once missed a day of work due to illness. Not one. He got an award for it at his retirement. My boyfriend is 60 and he has more energy than almost anyone I know. I seriously doubt he has ever missed a day or work because of illness. I know plenty of doctors who took obstetrics call (i.e. were up all night delivering babies) well into their sixties while working full clinic hours. I never saw one leave and go home because of fatigue. I suspect many of these men had or have incredible energy and others just could not show signs of illness because it was “unmanly.” While the later is wrong, the fact that many men ignore obvious signs of illness, such as fatigue, because of cultural views on health and masculinity makes Tillerson’s work interrupting fatigue all the more concerning. This was his first diplomatic trip and of major importance given the tensions in the Korean peninsula. Everyone was watching.
Hillary Clinton clocked almost one million miles around the globe as Secretary of State and yet her “stamina” and “health issues” plagued her. Not only did Trump harp on about it, but the press took the bait and obsessed over her health giving Trump, who would go on to become the oldest President ever, a free pass. In fact, it wasn’t until I addressed my concerns over Trump’s incompetent and medically fact free letter of “good health” that there seemed to be any concern about Trump’s robustness, but it faded quickly. You know, because women are weak and men are strong.
As a doctor I say that fatigue that interferes enough with functioning that it requires a healthy 64 year old man to cut short a major trip is concerning. If my dad had to cut a trip short when he was 64 because of fatigue, I’d be worried. If my boyfriend has to cut a trip short when he reaches 64 I’ll be at the doctor’s office with him. Healthy people doing jobs of national and international importance who are being observed by most of the world don’t cut diplomatic trips short for “fatigue.” Bored people cut trips short. People who are in over their heads cut trips short. Really sick people cut trips short. It’s not as if Tillerson was actually doing any physical work. He had to attend meetings, have probably amazing meals, take phone calls, and travel in luxury. He wasn’t hauling ass through airports and customs, sitting upright in coach in a non reclining seat unable to sleep for more than 5 minutes, or eating airplane food barely a grade above dog food.
The government owes us an explanation. If Tillerson is sick we deserve to know if his health will interfere with future diplomatic missions and if the press wants to prove they aren’t in it for the misogyny they should be hounding him and the White House. The press would have hounded Clinton mercilessly if she had cut her first trip as Secretary of State short because of “fatigue.” And if Tillerson isn’t sick and just can’t hack it, well, we all deserve to know.
****Update 8:15 pm PST March 17
Post has been updated to reflect the fact this is Tillerson’s second trip
I was sent this tweet countering the claims made in the Korean Herald about Tillerson still being on his trip.
@GlennKesslerWP He didn’t cut short trip. He is still in Seoul, to Beijing tomorrow per plan. There was never a dinner on the schedule
— Nicholas Wadhams (@nwadhams) March 17, 2017
If he didn’t attend all the events he was supposed to because of fatigue, that’s an issue and technically cutting something short.
However, if the press covered Tillerson the way they covered Clinton we’d know and there would be no guessing. It’s not like Korea is important of anything.