Even if Hillary Clinton’s collapse at the New York 9/11 memorial event was a one-off consequence of reported pneumonia, everything that the Clinton campaign has done and said in the aftermath invites scepticism and disbelief that this is the extent of the issue, raising more questions than answers
For the first time, I am nervous that Donald J Trump might just do it – that he, rather than Hillary Clinton, might be the one taking the oath of office on January 20 next year. Not because Donald Trump has in any way become more palatable or presidential – far from it – but because of the growing, gnawing feeling in the pit of the stomach that the Clinton campaign is perched atop a huge unexploded bomb of negative health revelations.
Until yesterday, such discussions about Hillary Clinton’s health were largely confined to the sensationalist or alt-right press, with online journalists such as Mike Cernovich and Paul Joseph Watson collating video “evidence” of what they claimed to be some underlying neurological condition. While Clinton’s behaviour in some of these videos certainly appears strange, none of them met a convincing standard of proof that something is definitely awry.
But then yesterday came shocking footage of Clinton swaying alarmingly as she waited for her motorcade to appear and whisk her to safety after she “overheated” at the 9/11 memorial ceremony in New York City, before her legs finally buckled and she appeared to faint and topple forward into the vehicle, being dragged the remainder of the way into the van by aides and Secret Service personnel.
Nothing that the Clinton campaign has done since the emergence of that video has assuaged the entirely reasonable concerns of journalists and American voters. Among the litany of questionable actions:
- Clinton’s handlers left her press pool stranded at the 9/11 memorial event, leaving without them and giving them no knowledge of what had transpired
- Rather than taking Hillary Clinton to a tier-1 trauma centre hospital for evaluation, which is apparently correct Secret Service procedure in the event of a protectee falling ill and potentially losing consciousness, Clinton was instead driven to her daughter Chelsea’s Manhattan apartment to recuperate
- Approximately 9o minutes later, Clinton emerged from the apartment building all smiles, remarking upon what a beautiful day it was in New York before getting into her waiting vehicle unaided
- The Clinton campaign’s story kept changing throughout the day – first she had simply decided to leave the event due to “overheating” (on a rather mild day), then it was reported that she was dehydrated, and only once she had returned to her home in Chappaqua, New York was it revealed that she was suffering from pneumonia
- The diagnosis of pneumonia was apparently made on Friday 9 September after weeks of speculation about Clinton’s persistent and severe cough (previously attribute to allergies), and yet the campaign never made this public and it would presumably remain a secret even now had Clinton not been filmed collapsing on Sunday
- No further details as to the type of pneumonia suffered by Clinton have yet emerged, even now. If it is the bacterial type Clinton may well be contagious and yet participated in numerous fundraising events, as well as hugging a young child who ran up to greet her in the street
- In a failed attempt at damage control, Bill Clinton told the media that Hillary has suffered from this type of dizziness on several occasions in the past, though the campaign’s official story is that the collapse was pneumonia-related
- In a failed attempt at damage control to the damage control, Hillary Clinton called into the Anderson Cooper AC360 show on CNN, and upon questioning was unable to recall the number of times that she has had these spells in the past five years
This is not good. The millions of Americans who saw one of their two main presidential candidates collapse between the kerb and the open door of her waiting SUV and have to be dragged inside, feet trailing behind and losing a shoe in the process, might reasonably wonder why her entourage and the Secret Service thought it fit and proper to drive her to Chelsea Clinton’s apartment rather than a properly equipped medical facility.
They might also reasonably wonder why that same candidate then breezed out of the apartment building with a beaming smile and seemingly not a care in the world a mere 90 minutes later, exclaiming that she was “fine” and making absolutely no reference to the troubling scene we had witnessed earlier, leaving it to her campaign to make the pneumonia revelation only once she was safely ensconced in her home.
Many more Americans might wonder why so much of the mainstream media, from CNN and MSNBC to more predictable web-based outlets like The Guardian, Slate and the Huffington post, are determined to run interference in defence of Clinton, downplaying the incident as a mere “stumble”, angrily exclaiming that climate change “denialism” is worse than misleading voters about one’s state of health or that past dishonesty by presidential candidates like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F Kennedy effectively excuses any similar dishonesty in 2016.
Worse still from Clinton’s perspective, speculation about her health is now rife within the respectable conservative media – no longer something to be hinted at or linked to on Twitter late at night, but occupying the minds of American conservative thought leaders.
Here’s Rod Dreher, no Clinton or Trump supporter and not normally given to hyperbole or conspiracy theorising, admitting:
Until this weekend, I thought Clinton health rumors were just right-wing conspiracy mongering. That confidence collapsed when Mrs. Clinton did, on the streets of New York. The story now has two narrative lines: 1) How sick is Hillary, really?, and 2) Why did she lie about it?
The Clintons lie to protect their power. Clinton partisans will tell themselves, and the rest of America, that whatever happened on Sunday, and whatever series of tales the Clinton campaign has been telling to manage the story, we have to push it all aside to keep Donald Trump from winning. Feminists did the same thing back in the 1990s with Bill Clinton’s abusive, exploitive relationships with women. But not everybody who dislikes Trump hates him so much that they are willing to overlook Clinton’s lies, especially if they are not about things that happened in the past, as with her husband’s lies in the 1990s, but about things that weigh on her ability to perform as president.
Plus, Bill Clinton had a lot of charisma with which he shielded himself. Hillary has none. People may admire her, but they do not love her. That matters.
Hillary’s lies about her health and her “deplorables” remarks do not make Trump a better person, or a better candidate. But they do make him a slightly more plausible one with some voters than he was going into the weekend. When an election is as close as this one, that kind of thing matters.
And the National Review’s David French:
Taken together, these facts say nothing good about Hillary, her campaign, or the prospects for transparency in a potential Hillary Clinton White House. One of the oldest Americans ever to run for president has had repeated, significant health events, has concealed the true extent of her health problems from the American people, and continues to engage in a pattern of deception to this day. Does anyone really believe that Hillary would have admitted either to a significant health episode or a pneumonia diagnosis had cameras not caught her appearing to pass out on a perfectly temperate September day in New York?
Compounding the problem, not only will she conceal the true extent of any health problem until the facts emerge on their own, she’ll empower her allies to mock those who raise health concerns, to cast them as nothing more than crazed conspiracy theorists.
Anyone can, of course, find crazy things on the Internet easily enough. But the notion that a 68-year-old woman with a history of blood clots, a recent serious concussion, and obvious public discomfort (including apparently passing out at a public event) might not be fit enough to withstand the rigors of the presidency is hardly a fringe thought. Age and health weren’t fringe worries when Bob Dole or John McCain ran for president. When Ronald Reagan was campaigning for reelection in 1984 (especially after he performed poorly in his first debate), age and health dominated the public conversation.
To be clear, this is a preview of how Hillary would conduct herself in office. You can be sure that if she lies and minimizes her health challenges as a candidate, she’ll do so as president. (If past practice is any guide, she’ll lie about anything that makes her look bad.) If she falls ill, the American people risk experiencing the same thing Soviet citizens experienced — being fed the official line that their leaders simply had “colds” (or, in Hillary’s case, “allergies”) until the truth could no longer be concealed.
If it were some other candidate, someone with a more open relationship with the press and minus the history of lawyerly evasiveness, one might accept the belated pneumonia explanation at face value and chalk the confused messages emanating from the Clinton campaign as understandable confusion within the team. But we are not dealing with 2000-era John McCain. Hillary Clinton’s life is not an open book – it is a lengthy tome where several sections are torn out while others are heavily redacted, the censor’s black ink sometimes still wet as one turns the page. And those asking to be made leader of the world’s most powerful and consequential country don’t get the benefit of the doubt.
It brings me no joy to write any of this. While this blog is on the record as being unimpressed bordering on despairing of both candidates, when it comes to choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump there is simply no contest – Clinton represents four more years of dreary continuity with a background hum of ethics concerns whereas Trump, hardly the picture of honesty himself, threatens a truly authoritarian dystopian future with a new crisis every week. Given the binary choice, this blog would choose Hillary Clinton without apology.
But there appears now to be every possibility that the Clinton campaign is perched atop a powder keg of dynamite, and that every public appearance for the next two months will be a heart-in-mouth ordeal of wondering whether she will make it through to the end or else cause what would surely be terminal damage to her campaign by tripping, choking or passing out again on live television.
There are questions which appear to be legitimate and not from the lunatic fringe, asking whether there is something much more significant wrong with Hillary Clinton’s health. And yet the Clinton campaign continues to stonewall and use Trump’s refusal to release full medical records as cover for being equally secretive. Making campaign decisions (like not allowing a full protective press pool) simply because Donald Trump has done the same is unbecoming of a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who should aspire to a standard of transparency significantly higher than that set by the reality TV star.
This is no time for further evasions. If there is a more serious, as-yet undisclosed health issue affecting Hillary Clinton, it needs to be made public. Now. And if public reaction is particularly negative then an urgent discussion needs to take place about replacing Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket while their is still time for the replacement Democratic Party nominee to have a fighting chance against Trump.
Pneumonia can happen to anyone. But this palace intrigue and the swirling conspiracy theories surrounding Hillary’s state of health are entirely self-inflicted, a product of the Clinton campaign’s pathological evasiveness and secrecy not only relating to health matters but other issues too. And it simply can not be allowed to continue.
Hillary Clinton is one more “medical episode” away from effectively gifting the presidency to Donald J Trump. Her campaign needs to decide whether they are happy to have that on their collective conscience.
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