The video went viral, as it should. Hillary Clinton nearly collapsed.
A few hours later, her campaign announced that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia a few days earlier. It raised questions of whether this was true and why it was concealed. After all, pneumonia happens. It’s not a loathsome disease that reflects poorly on a person’s hygiene or posterity.
Concealment, on the other hand, is a different issue, especially for someone who polls show has serious trust issues. The rationale for keeping health issues under wraps is obvious. Hillary Clinton’s health has been challenged, that she suffers from some debilitating health issues that would make her an inappropriate candidate for president, has for some time and is being dishonest about it.
Assuming it is pneumonia, and despite the best efforts at diagnosis over the internet, there is no basis to assume this is false, it’s not a big deal. Presidents get colds, the occasional flu, and sometimes puke on foreign dignitaries. Stercus accidit. Even people in high office get sick.
Is a presidential candidate’s health a matter of concern? Some raised the question of why this is anybody’s business, and where the line should be drawn between health disclosures that should be revealed and those too trivial to be worthy of mention. The former question is asinine. The latter is not so easily answered.
The job of president is extremely demanding, stressful, and requires the ability to maintain a clear head. Knowing that the person we put in charge of our nuclear arsenal will be healthy enough to handle the responsibility matters. And, while there is no assurance that this will be the case with any person of a certain age, we seek to hedge our bets that the person we elect will live long enough to reach the end of their term of office. That anyone would ask why this matters can only be explained by willful ignorance.
At the same time, the tit-for-tat reaction of blind advocates, “what about the other guy,” is the response of a child. The other guy may well have issues of his own, maybe far worse issues, but just because he’s ugly doesn’t mean your candidate isn’t ugly as well. They are independent factors, and become no less independent because you scream louder, stomp your feet like a three-year-old or accuse anyone challenging your feelz of a flavor of -ism.
The candidates for president aren’t kids this time around. Bodies don’t last forever, no matter how well you care for them. And even if they’re in great shape today, every morning brings new pains in body parts you never thought about before. We need to grow up and stop thinking that these aren’t regular people, as well as presidential candidates.
We similarly need to end this insane denial of their humanity because it doesn’t enhance their electibality or present them as invulnerable. Here’s one to ponder: all presidents defecate. We may not want to think about it, but they do. Just like you. Get over it.
So where is the line as to health issues that are worthy of disclosure? That’s a harder question, and one less easily quantified. Rhetorically, it could be where it impacts on the individual’s ability to do the job, but that doesn’t really help. Alzheimer’s is pretty clearly over the line, but pneumonia is transitory, unless it kills you. So a brief bout of pneumonia may not be much, but a president dead from pneumonia is a pretty big thing. Ain’t that right, Tippecanoe?
But what of the Clinton campaign’s concealment of her putative pneumonia? On the one hand, presidents have a long and storied history of keeping their ailments from the public eye. From Wilson to FDR, not to mention JFK, there were things the public should have known but didn’t. Were they wrong? Of course. But what would have happened had we known? We wouldn’t have had the first female president, Edith Wilson, for one thing.
You love your favored candidate? That’s great. You hate the other candidate? That’s great too. But neither position renders rational the refusal to face reality. This applies equally to blithering idiots who make the ridiculous arguments on social media that any question raised about their beloved candidate makes them the enemy, supporting their hated candidate, or places them squarely in the basket of deplorables. Charles Blow recognized this failing.
Candidates do themselves a tremendous disservice when they attack voters rather than campaigns. Whatever advantage is procured through the rallying of one’s own base is outweighed by what will be read as divisiveness and disdain.
Is he suddenly a Trump supporter? Hardly. Otherwise smart people are falling into this trap of lunacy, responding to the same observation as Blow’s with the childishness of self-righteousness. This is to be expected of the intellectually challenged, just as it should come as no surprise that the other team has its own nutjobs screaming “kill the bitch.” Neither side owns stupidity.
But one day, we will have a new president, for worse or worser, and to the extent we can choose the individual who is least awful, it should be done on the basis of accurate information. No one will vote for your candidate because you called them a “racist.” No one will vote for your candidate because you made an absurd excuse for their concealment of a material fact about their health. No one will vote for your candidate because you feel so deeply passionate about your subjective beliefs that you will deny the obvious.
Hillary Clinton’s health matters. So does Donald Trump’s, but that in no way makes the Clinton campaign’s concealment of pneumonia acceptable. And even though the concealment is unacceptable, that doesn’t mean Trump’s negatives suddenly disappear.
And if you want to give some thought to this poor decision on the part of the Clinton campaign to conceal an illness that just isn’t any big deal, consider that the Clinton campaign hired Zerlina Maxwell to head her digital outreach. Yeah, that Zerlina Maxwell. If you think pneumonia is the worst thing they are concealing, consider a presidential candidate has chosen someone who prefers lies to truth and couldn’t care less about the lives she would destroy to achieve her goals. That’s a great deal more worrisome than whether Hillary Clinton has pneumonia.