Pneumonigate

NBC News asks nine questions about Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia, including…

1.) Why hide the pneumonia diagnosis?

Clinton suffered a coughing attack last week during an appearance in Cleveland, which she dismissed as seasonal allergies. She received her pneumonia diagnosis on Friday, but the public was not told about it until hours after the incident at the memorial, raising questions about whether Clinton had any plans to ever inform the public. Between the diagnosis and the near-collapse, Clinton appeared at two fundraisers, ran a national security working session, and held a press conference.

Clinton’s campaign appears to have, at best, withheld information from the public and — at worst — misled them by aggressively batting down “conspiracy theories” that her coughing fit was anything more than allergies. Opponents are already seeing the incident as proof of their claims that Clinton has been hiding health issues. And others may now be more incredulous of the campaign’s statements on her health.

The first question answers itself. Hillary Clinton is as familiar with the truth as she is with marital fidelity.

3.) Who made the call not to go to the hospital and when?

And did Clinton lose consciousness at all? After leaving the memorial, Clinton went to her daughter Chelsea’s apartment and was later examined by her doctor at her own home in Chappaqua, New York. Why was it decided not to visit a hospital immediately?

4.) What is the campaign’s position on the protective press pool?

Presidents and presidential candidates have traditionally traveled with a small, rotating group of journalists so the American public can get real-time updates about unexpected incidents—exactly like the one on Sunday. But Clinton left her press pool behind at the Sept. 11 event and kept them in the dark for 90 minutes before providing any information on her whereabouts or health. Clinton has yet to agree to full “protective pool” coverage, which would allow reporters to follow her door-to-door. Will she now? (Trump, so far, has not allowed for pool coverage, and reporters do not fly with his campaign to events.)

5.) Will Clinton allow a true protective pool if elected president?

Clinton’s health scare is already expected to potentially affect financial markets, but the impact would be far more dramatic if she were president. A 90-minute window with no news about a missing president could lead people to assume the worst. Clinton’s, or her campaign’s, choice to leave the press pool behind broke with precedent on access—will that change if she’s in the White House? Meanwhile, because Clinton has so far not agreed to full coverage, reporters have no way of knowing if she made other stops Sunday.

6.) Does Clinton accept the obligation to inform the public about her health?

Bill Clinton faced questions about his health too, and while he was unforthcoming in 1992, he sat for a detailed interview with the New York Times in 1996. “[T]he public has a right to know the condition of the president’s health,” Clinton said at the time.

8.) Will Clinton’s health affect the first debate?

Clinton’s first debate with Donald Trump is just over two weeks away, on September 26, so she’ll want to be fully recovered by then.

9.) How will voters respond?

Clinton’s core vulnerability is that most Americans don’t find her honest or trustworthy. Will voters now feel like they’ve been misled about her health? Or will the vulnerability of the illness make Americans empathize more with someone who often has difficulty connecting.

To be sure, we know vastly more about Clinton’s health than we do about Donald Trump’s. Not only is the information released by her campaign more comprehensive than that released by his, but Clinton has lived her life in the national spotlight for 25 years.

We have intimate details about her 2012 hospitalization, for instance, because she was secretary of state at the time. Trump has not been subjected to the same kind of scrutiny and has been less forthcoming during his presidential campaign.

Mediaite adds:

[Monday] morning on NPR’s Morning Edition, journalist and author Cokie Roberts indicated that many of the establishment Democrats may be getting antsy over the renewed speculation of Hillary Clinton‘s health. …

“It’s taking her off of the campaign trail,” said Roberts Monday morning, indicating that the pneumonia has forced Clinton to cancel her upcoming trip to California. But as for members of the Democratic party, “It has them very nervously beginning to whisper about her stepping aside and finding another candidate.”

Despite any rumors that someone like Joe Biden would be able step in as the new standard-bearer of the Democratic party in the absence of Hillary Clinton, Roberts admitted that the idea may be farfetched. “I think it’s unlikely to be a real thing. I’m sure it’s an overreaction about an already-skittish party,” she added.”

Of course, whether she’s got merely pneumonia or atrial fibrillation (one online theory), Parkinson’s Disease (another), alcohol issues (ditto) or whatever else, none of those are Hillary’s worst malady, Tim Stanley notes:

It’s often not the crime that undoes a politician, it’s the attempted cover-up. …

This display of infirmity came at the very worst moment possible: a ceremony to commemorate the victims of 9/11. America feels vulnerable, it needs direction and strength. The sight of Mrs Clinton’s fall suggests that she isn’t physically capable of providing either. …

Her supporters have rushed to remind us that other presidents were even frailer. Woodrow Wilson had a massive stroke while in office and his wife had to run the country. Grover Cleveland had oral cancer surgery in secret on what was billed as a fishing trip. And, besides, Clinton’s doctor says that all she has is pneumonia. Lesser mortals would’ve been in hospital being stuffed with antibiotics. Not our Hillary.

Ah, but if Clinton had told the world she had pneumonia earlier then either she could’ve legitimately sat out the weekend’s events, or at least we wouldn’t have been quite so shocked when she appeared unwell. No: Hillary refused to be straightforward. She lied. She was caught out. Hillary has been hoist by her own façade.

The string of deceptions surrounding Clinton’s health is reminiscent of her email problems, the Lewinsky affair, and a host of other challenges that the Clinton family has obfuscated its way through. Keen-eyed observers sensed there was something wrong when Mrs Clinton kept coughing in speeches and interviews. At first she laughed that off, called it a conspiracy theory.

Then she admitted that she had allergies – nothing serious. Then came the fall on 9/11. Suddenly she admitted that she had pneumonia. So this story isn’t just about health. It’s about integrity. Mrs Clinton has validated the suspicions of voters who think that she can’t help lying about everything. Is this why, they ask, she won’t talk to the press or allow them to follow her daily activities?

What does this mean for the race? In a normal election, one might predict a sudden shift in the polls. When electing a president, Americans are looking for someone who can discharge the duties of the office to the best of their ability – and Clinton doesn’t look like she can do that.

But when the only alternative is Trump, anti-Trump sentiment might bolster the Democratic ticket. Some voters might actually rally in sympathy. It depends on how the Clinton team handles it. Recall that Reagan was dubbed old and tired in 1984, yet he laughed it off brilliantly. Mrs Clinton is going to have to somehow “own” her pneumonia.

The story speaks to why the race is so close. Clinton is a bad candidate. She clearly thought that she could just walk this campaign, that Trump’s negative ratings would put her in the White House. Say nothing. Have no big agenda. Just avoid the press and focus on fundraising and speeches attacking her opponent. But that wasn’t enough.

At the first stumble, confidence will drain away. And Trump’s egomania alternative is nothing if not vital and vigorous.

One would have thought that Hillary’s time on the Senate Watergate Committee would have taught her Stanley’s first sentence. Deplorable.

 

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