Hillary Clinton’s health seems to have become a far more central issue in the presidential race. I note, with special interest, that Washington Post columnist, Chris Cillizza, a man who has been defending Hillary against Republican charges that she is in ill health, just changed his mind. And admitted that he had underestimated the extent of the problem.
When the Washington Post, a paper that has largely been supportive of Hillary Clinton, starts asking these questions, her campaign is in trouble.
Cillizza just wrote this:
Hillary Clinton falling ill at a memorial service on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Sunday morning will catapult questions about her health from the ranks of conservative conspiracy theory to perhaps the central debate in the presidential race over the coming days.
The campaign has brushed it off in a statement, but, Cillizza noted, they should not be too quick to do so:
What that statement leaves out is that a) it came 90 minutes after Clinton left the ceremony b) reporters -- or even a reporter -- were not allowed to follow her and c) the temperature in New York City at the time of Clinton's overheating was in the low 80s. (A heat wave over the eastern United States broke last night/this morning.)
And the journalist noted clearly that he himself had been defending Hillary against Republican charges that she was in poor health and lacked the stamina for the job. Obviously, many of Hillary’s supporters denounced the criticism as sexist:
That talk was largely confined to Republicans convinced that Clinton has long been hiding some sort of serious illness. I wrote dismissively of that conspiracy theory in this space last week, noting that Clinton had been given an entirely clean bill of health by her doctors after an episode in which she fainted, suffered a concussion and then a blood clot in late 2012 and early 2013.
Coughing, I wrote, is simply not evidence enough of any sort of major illness to assume Clinton is ill and hiding it. Neither, of course, is feeling "overheated." But those two things happening within six days of one another to a candidate who is 68 years old makes talk of Clinton's health no longer just the stuff of conspiracy theorists.
Whereas Clinton and her campaign could laugh off questions about her health prior to today, the "overheating" episode makes it almost impossible for them to do so. Not only has it come at a time when there was growing chatter -- with very little evidence -- that her health was a problem but it also happened at a 9/11 memorial event -- an incredibly high profile moment with lots and lots of cameras and reporters around.
Worse yet, the campaign tried to cover it all up. Wherever did they learn how to do that.
But, the issue is that Clinton kept reporters totally in the dark for 90 minutes following her abrupt departure from the 9/11 memorial service for a health-related matter. No reporter was allowed to follow her. (Clinton has resisted a protective pool for coverage because Donald Trump refuses to participate in one.) This is, yet again, the Clinton campaign asking everyone to just trust them. She got overheated! But she's fine now!
Clinton may well be totally fine -- and I certainly hope she is. But we are 58 days away from choosing the person to lead the country for the next four years and she is one of the two candidates with a real chance at winning. Taking the Clinton team's word for it on her health -- in light of the episode on Sunday morning -- is no longer enough. Reasonable people can -- and will-- have real questions about her health.
[Addendum: Last Thursday Kevin Williamson offered these prescient remarks:
Mrs. Clinton of course inspires the conspiracy kooks, an effect that is very much amplified by the fact that her opponent in 2016 is a big-league conspiracy kook leading a team of minor-league conspiracy kooks. Louis Brandeis was absolutely correct about sunlight’s being the best disinfectant, but Mrs. Clinton is a creature of the shade. Given her history of rampant, craven, deep, broad, sustained, overarching, continuous, relentless dishonesty about practically every aspect of her personal and public lives, is it really so implausible that she’d lie about her health? No. She’d lie about her health even if there were nothing to lie about, just to keep in practice.]