A Healthy Concern

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.

24 thoughts on “A Healthy Concern

  1. REvers

    “Here’s one to ponder: all presidents defecate.”

    It’s more of an overflow when they get full. Which they usually are.

    1. Patrick Maupin

      Puts a whole different spin on “sometimes they puke on foreign dignitaries.”

      “I defecate in your direction using the closest available orifice.”

      It’s a first world problem; poor people need to extract all the nutrition out of their food before using it to make a statement.

  2. Turk

    Often a tough call for someone to make: Because no one wants to be sick. It is human nature to believe you will be better shortly and just soldier through. (Some antibiotics and you’ll be better in a couple days…)

    And good reason to make sure the top of the ticket knows how to pick a good VP and other potential administration members.

    1. SHG Post author

      Pneumonia seems sufficiently serious to be worthy of note. It’s more than sniffles, and that ought to be obvious. Worst part is, had they disclosed it, who would care? Nothing negative about getting pneumonia. Nothing negative about catching a cold, either.

      1. Jonathan Edelstein

        Pneumonia is more than sniffles, but there’s pneumonia and pneumonia. What HRC has is walking pneumonia – if it were viral or bacterial pneumonia, she wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed – and walking pneumonia typically lasts a week and leaves the patient semi-functional. People go to the office with it – I have. It feels like a bad cold or moderate flu. It’s not what killed William Henry Harrison.

        I’m not sure that’s alert-the-media territory even for a presidential candidate, though in HRC’s case, given her relationship with the press and the conspiracy theories swirling around her health, pre-emptive disclosure is never a bad idea.

          1. Jonathan Edelstein

            I have no reason to doubt her campaign’s statement that she was dehydrated, which is something that can happen with walking pneumonia and can make a person feel faint pretty suddenly (again I speak from personal experience). She was apparently functioning until then, and was fine an hour and a half later.

            1. SHG Post author

              I have no reason to doubt it either, but when you’re a presidential candidate, collapsing in public isn’t the sort of thing you shrug off. If she has walking pneumonia, and dehydration happens, and dehydration will cause her to collapse, and you’ve concealed it from the media, then make sure she doesn’t become dehydrated and collapse in public. There are only so many levels of excuses one can tolerate.

  3. Nagita Karunaratne

    How can a campaign me honest when the media scrutinizes every movement, head shake , and misstep? How easy is it to trip over some misalignment in the gangway getting into a plane – it was clear she tripped over something and did not simply lose track of he footing. And is it really newsworthy to see someone eat pizza with a fork – even Trump? And do you need to ask the candidate for an explanation?

    We want 24/7 new coverage, video, social media, etc. where almost anyone can setup a website and call themselves a news organization. And your credibility is measured by the number of people that subscribe to your point of view no matter how well you fact check your information.

    Recent headline on a major new organization – ‘Race for the Whitehouse’. Really? Is this the Amazing Race reality show built for short attention spans and short term thinking?

    This is cultural not a character issue. A lot of very competent people will not run for this office simply because they don’t want (or could not bear) the intense scrutiny.

    1. SHG Post author

      The extent and impact of excessive media coverage is a fair question, but not implicated here. A candidate collapsing in public is a big deal by any standard. This isn’t eating pizza with a fork.

  4. John Barleycorn

    Come to think of it this mellow dramatic weaping of yours reminds me that Dylan  ain’t even dead yet. He might even read your blawg.

    Go figure?

    Don’t forget to express  yourself with a new pack of Crayola Crayons this November.

    It’s good for the economy…you might even enjoy it.

    Coming around to the “conclusion” might be good for you, if it doesn’t break you.

    It’s alright the streams are a raging.

    What-cha-gonna-do? They are only bleeding…


    Might be outside the guild to consider the crossing that has been broken?

  5. Jake DiMare

    While I agree with everything you’ve said in this post, the dilemma remains: We will all be safer if an inanimate object, such as a cactus or perhaps a doorknob was the next president if Trump is the only alternative.

    You lose all credibility if your suggestion is Trump makes more sense than Hillary, even if she has Parkinson’s or MS and flatly refuses to be honest about it. She’s surrounded by an administration and infrastructure with the practical experience to succeed in at least giving us four more years of the status quo.

    Haven’t you even begun to debate whether Peter Thiel will be a constitutional originalist around here? I disappear for a few weeks and everything goes to hell.

    1. SHG Post author

      I keep hoping I’ve taught you something, and you keep making me sad when you show me that you’ve learned nothing here. That HRC’s health is a legitimate issue is not a show of support for Trump or against Clinton. Lying to oneself in the name of one’s ultimate goal is still lying. I realize this is an exceptionally difficult concept to accept, but principle requires that we be honest, even if it’s contrary to a cause in which we believe.

      As for Peter Thiel being a justice, anyone taking that seriously is a total fruitcake. Just because it support your anti-Trump/pro-Hillary politics doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility not to be a total fruitcake. If you can be truthful about Hillary, including her massive failings, and still support her, that’s fine. If you have to believe in lies to rationalize your support, then you’re no better than the other team’s nutjobs.

      1. Jake DiMare

        I voted for Bernie in the Primaries. I’m sorry the Libertarian party can’t produce a candidate who could pass high school geography.

        I’m being honest when I say my decision in November boils down to harm reduction. That both candidates are inveterate liars with dubious overseas business interests is beyond question among any thinking men and women. This isn’t news. That one candidate is also a serial failure with zero experience in government whose CV includes appearances in a wrestling ring with Vince Mcmahon and who would have more wealth today if he had simply put the money his daddy left him in an index fund and STFU for the next 40 years is also beyond question.

        But congratulations on repeating the same, worn out, tired analysis of HIlary’s character we’ve read in a thousand other places. Is this like, an instruction that comes directly from the Cato Institute or something?

          1. Jake DiMare

            I appreciate your concern for my health.

            This place would be less of an echo-chamber if you didn’t always resort to ad-hominem attacks when a dissenting voice strikes a root.

            1. SHG Post author

              Jake, you weren’t a dissenting voice. There was nothing you wrote that was within 100 miles of reality. There are people who agree and disagree, and then there are people who write flaming nutjob nonsense that has nothing to do with anything. That, I’m sorry to say, is where you landed.

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