According to the Clinton campaign, Hillary is currently ill with pneumonia. That much we finally learned on Sunday, hours after she suddenly left the 9⁄11 memorial ceremony she was attending at Ground Zero. She had to be escorted away to her daughter Chelsea’s Manhattan apartment to recover from what her campaign spokesperson first described as an “overheated” condition. At the time of the incident, the temperature outside was approximately 80 degrees, with relatively low humidity.
The press traveling with Hillary was first kept in the dark. Had not a video captured her nearly stumbling and being held up to prevent her from falling as she was helped into a van, Hillary’s campaign might not have admitted that anything was wrong at all. Only towards the end of the day did her doctor disclose that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia last Friday.
Health is normally a private matter. If Bill or Chelsea Clinton had taken ill, for example, it would be none of our business what was wrong. But Hillary Clinton is running to become the next president and commander-in-chief of the United States. Physical and mental fitness for performance of the duties of the highest and most demanding job in the land is a legitimate public concern. When one runs for the presidency of the United States, the public has a right to know, before they vote, whether the candidates asking for their votes are likely to be capable of performing under intense stress for at least the next four years.
Doubts about Hillary Clinton’s health were already making the rounds on the Internet and cable TV before this latest episode. Such doubts have been fueled by her prolonged coughing fits, stumbles, fainting spells, a concussion and self-proclaimed memory lapses regarding briefings on the handling of classified information while she was Secretary of State. The Clinton campaign and her supporters have tried to label those who have raised legitimate questions regarding Hillary’s health as conspiracists. Clinton aides had gone so far as to belittle a reporter for saying that Hillary looked “low energy” and sounded “absolutely exhausted” at her press conference last Friday and even issued a veiled threat that the reporter’s job was in jeopardy. The reporter had the temerity to tweet: “I half expect her to slump over and collapse any second now.” Nick Merrill, Clinton’s traveling press secretary, tweeted the reporter the message: “delete your account.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign, following the lead of the candidate herself, is showing utter contempt for the public’s right to know. They are following the same playbook as they have used when addressing questions regarding Hillary’s private e-mail system and the pay-for-play Clinton Foundation scandal. First comes outright denial that anything is wrong. Then, after inconvenient truths begin to dribble out through sources the Clinton campaign cannot control, comes narrative after narrative constructed to reveal the minimum the campaign believes it can get away with. Rationalizations are offered, including the “everyone does it” or “that’s old news” defenses. Trying to shame or marginalize that portion of the press which is not already in Hillary’s corner is also par for the course.
A presidential candidate’s health should not be a partisan issue. While Donald Trump has criticized Hillary for showing lack of stamina and raised the health issue during some campaign events, he took the high road in response to the latest news on Hillary’s medical condition. He said: “I hope she gets well, gets back on the trail & we’ll see her at the debate.”
No reasonable American wants to see any of the current candidates for president become so ill or incapacitated as to render him or her unqualified to assume office if elected. However, Hillary Clinton will be 69 years old on October 26, 2016. Donald Trump turned 70 on June 14, 2016. Each of their medical histories is important for the public to know in order to assess the risk of a chronic condition taking a dangerous turn during one or the other’s presidential term.
Consider the health crisis that befell the presidency of Woodrow Wilson when he suffered a severe stroke in 1919 that left him incapacitated until the end of his presidency in 1921. This was not a sudden, unforeseen condition. Wilson had a long history of cerebrovascular disorders, which stretched back to ar1896, according to the historian Edwin A. Weinstein. In 1913, the year after Wilson was first elected president, he suffered a serious stroke, which he downplayed. He became ill again in 1915, but continued to be in denial. Wilson was re-elected in 1916. It is highly doubtful whether the public had been fully informed of Wilson’s prior medical history when it came time to vote. Three years later, he was incapacitated by the debilitating stroke. Wilson’s second wife Edith and his doctor, Dr. Grayson, did all they could to keep the extent of Wilson’s illness out of the public eye. The official explanation was that Wilson was suffering from “nervous exhaustion.“
In a letter Dr. Grayson sent from Europe to a friend on April 14, 1919, the doctor acknowledged the true seriousness of Wilson’s illness and its complications: “The president was suddenly taken violently sick with the influenza at a time when the whole of civilization seemed to be in the balance.” In today’s far more perilous world, we simply cannot afford to take that chance.
It is time for Hillary Clinton and her campaign to be entirely transparent regarding her state of health. The nation’s welfare is far more important than her own political future. Indeed, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump owe it to the voters to make their detailed medical records public as soon as possible, considering that early voting has already commenced.