Four takeways from Hillary’s ‘medical episode’ about the health of her campaign

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on television, so I’ll take a pass on diagnosing Hillary Clinton’s medical condition.

Instead, I’m reading Mrs. Clinton’s political chart. And it indicates at least four ways that concerns over her personal health could adversely affect the health of her presidential run.

1. An Inconvenient Metaphor. Some presidential candidates (FDR in 1944, JFK in 1960) ran while hiding big health secrets.

For others, a medical episode became an inconvenient metaphor – one of a politician stuck behind an eight ball.

News cycles change in the blink of an eye. But for some voters, that Twitter feed of a wobbly Mrs. Clinton being whisked away by her handlers will leave an indelible mark from now until November.

Think Jimmy Carter’s collapse during a road race, or George H.W. Bush vomiting and fainting at a state dinner with the Japanese prime minister.

News cycles change in the blink of an eye. But for some voters, that Twitter feed of a wobbly Mrs. Clinton being whisked away by her handlers will leave an indelible mark from now until November.

The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →

2. Good Luck Laughing It Off. In 1984, Ronald Reagan gracefully swept aside concerns about his age and mental faculties with the famous debate joke at Walter Mondale’s expense.

Hillary Clinton could try the same: defuse the situation with a little comedy.

But here’s the problem: she’s not, by nature, funny.

Proving to Jimmy Kimmel that she’s not dying by opening a pickle jar? Lame.

Venturing to the rear of her new campaign plane to tell the press (tongue-in-cheek) how happy she was to see them at long last? Crickets.

Mrs. Clinton can’t laugh this one off, because of a third problem…

3. Sour Press Relations. In March 2015, Mrs. Clinton told a roomful of Washington reporters that things were going to change. “A new grandchild. A new hairstyle. A new email account. A new relationship with the press. No more secrecy, no more zone of privacy . . . After all, what good did that do for me?”

Then the 2016 election: nine months without a formal press conference, spinning the email story, her minions complaining about unfair coverage.

The net result: no new relationship – and a press corps less willing to rush to her defense.

Consider the writings of The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. Five days ago, he called Mrs. Clinton’s health “a totally ridiculous issue”. Earlier today, he declared it “a real issue”. In other words: no more benefit of the doubt.

Yes, reporters are a fickle lot – even more so, when there’s no reservoir of good will.

4. Transparency. And why the distrust? Because of a pre-existing condition more chronic than any persistent cough: a lack of transparency.

Like the child who never gives you the complete truth on the first try, Mrs. Clinton historically has struggled to put controversies to bed by offering immediate and full disclosure.

With Sunday’s Medevac, the candidate’s health now risks falling into the same soup-to-nuts category as State Department emails and Rose Law firm billing records – stories that just wouldn’t go away because, no matter what the candidate says, one gets the sense it’s not quite the complete story.

Some will say she deserves the scrutiny. Others will contend it’s the stuff of overactive imaginations.

But this much seems certain: the more questions there are about Hillary Clinton’s health, the more likely her political condition deteriorates. 

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where he analyzes California and national politics. He also blogs daily on the 2016 election at www.adayattheracesblog.com. Follow him on Twitter @hooverwhalen.



comments powered by Disqus