Hillary Clinton must reassure an uncertain nation that she is in good medical shape after 9/11 memorial scare

The mess over the private email server she used while Secretary of State wouldn’t be the number one preoccupation of her political enemies if only she hadn’t been so reluctant to admit her errors at the outset

David Usborne
New York
Sunday 11 September 2016 17:58 BST
Clinton faints as she leaves 9-11 memorial

Memo to Hillary Clinton: if there is anything we don’t know about your state of health, including what happened exactly on Sunday morning, do not obfuscate or dissemble. Get it all out now.

We know where slipping and sliding and pretending nothing is awry gets you. The mess over the private email server you used while Secretary of State wouldn’t still be the number one preoccupation of your political enemies if only you hadn’t been so reluctant to admit your errors at the outset.

It seemed awfully like you might be doing something similar when you emerged from your daughter’s apartment building at noon on Sunday and declared breezily that it was a “beautiful day in New York”. Trying to distract the media from the issue at hand with comments about the weather won’t work.

We don’t need any October surprises in this already abnormal US presidential election (or a September one), and hopefully Ms Clinton really is as right as rain. Her schedule has of course been relentless and anyone might come over wobbly after standing in that heat and sun at the 9/11 remembrance service.

Clinton can’t afford another bout of protracted speculation about her medical well-being. The video already up on social media that seems to show her sagging into the arms of secret service agents as she tried to board a van to leave the 9/11 event will be played over and over and over.

It was her misfortune that it happened at an event the whole country was tuned into. Which of course, immediately makes you wonder. How many other episodes of this kind might she have suffered away from the eyes of the public?

And the Republicans will not hesitate one second to take advantage and encourage a new whispering campaign on whether or not she is up to the job of running the nation. Even before Sunday Donald Trump had been deliberately posing questions about his rival’s health and stamina, most recently when she was seen having a coughing fit while trying to talk to reporters on her plane.

“Mainstream media never covered Hillary’s massive ‘hacking’ or coughing attack, yet it is #1 trending,” Mr Trump tweeted Tuesday. “What’s up?”

The email affair is serious, of course, because it is about whether Clinton, who is 68, might have given the country’s enemies easy access to classified information, possibly jeopardising national security. But questions about a presidential candidate’s health are too.

It was problems with mental health that forced Thomas Eagleton to abandon his quest for the White House more than four decades ago. Paul Tsongas, a former US Senator, insisted he was clear of cancer when he ran for the Democratic nomination in 1992. He didn’t win, but the disease was to claim his life in January 1997.

By some accounts, Ronald Reagan, who was 70 at his inauguration, was afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease long before he ended his second term in office.

A recent Rasmussen Poll said that almost 60 per cent of American voters think that presidential candidates should release their most recent medical records before the country goes to the polls. That is a much higher proportion than even four years ago and may reflect the anxiety that Clinton’s health has been stirring for some time.

Clinton, we know, suffered a concussion after fainting at the end of 2012, an event that was included in medical records that were released by her physician, Dr. Lisa Bardack, at the beginning of the campaign in July 2015. She said the former Secretary of State is “in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as President of the United States”.

Trump has hardly been a model of transparency when it comes to his medical fitness, so far releasing nothing more than a brief letter from his doctor saying he is in fine health all round. If he is going to continue to make an issue of Clinton’s physical fitness, he should be obliged to be more forthcoming too. (We will leave his refusal to release his tax returns for another day.)

But Clinton: if it really was merely the heat and fatigue getting to you on Sunday morning, then make sure you give us all the details you can before the conspiracy theorists get busy and convince the nation that you are in fact suffering from something much worse.

Of course, if the opposite is the case and you are suffering from a thus-far undisclosed condition, then the country is in for another election-race upheaval with consequences that for now we can’t predict. But good for the Democrats that clearly would not be.

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