After insisting for weeks that concerns about the health of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are the work of alt-right conspirators and endemic sexism within the Republican Party, the Clinton campaign found itself in the merciless grip of reality after an unsettling “medical episode” at a 9/11 commemoration forced the campaign to disclose that Mrs. Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday.
On Sunday morning, Hillary Clinton attended an event in New York City marking the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, accompanying a raft of other dignitaries which included her Republican opponent, Donald Trump. According to The New York Times, she remained there for a little over an hour before she “suddenly…left her position” and departed the event in a black SUV. After over an hour of silence from the Clinton campaign, which did not permit any members of the press to follow the candidate as she departed, campaign spokesperson Nick Merrill indicated that Mrs. Clinton merely felt “overheated” and needed to take some time to recover at her daughter’s Manhattan apartment.
But as the media firestorm surrounding the strange incident reached a fever pitch, gaining traction well beyond the confines of the conservative blogosphere, the Clinton campaign released a statement from the candidate’s personal physician revealing that Mrs. Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia, a relatively common but occasionally deadly respiratory condition, on Friday.
The decision to reveal the ostensible reality of Mrs. Clinton’s condition comes at a high price. Not only will this admission tether concerns about the Democratic nominee’s health to the political mainstream, it will complicate Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to earn the trust of an electorate which has increasingly come to see her as deceitful and corrupt. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released early Sunday morning shows that only a third of Americans view Mrs. Clinton as “honest and trustworthy,” and this incident will only shrink this minority further. Indeed, Sunday’s events have highlighted once more the compulsion of Mrs. Clinton and her campaign to lie to the American people about matters of profound importance, especially when the truth could incur a political cost.
Most crucially, the episode throws into sharp relief the true magnitude of the dishonesty of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. As Mrs. Clinton gleefully took to the stage and the late night circuit to mock concerns about her health as “conspiracy theories” and the “paranoid fever dream” of her Republican opponent, she sought a secret rendezvous with her doctor in order to diagnose a condition serious enough to require “two Secret Service agents” to hold her up—her feet “dragging” on the ground, according to The New York Times—and “hoist” her into her getaway car.
After spending weeks condemning the “deranged conspiracy theories” of “the Republican nominee for president,” putting surrogate after surrogate on national television to assure the public that Mrs. Clinton is perfectly healthy and to declare that any suggestion to the contrary is sexist, the Clinton campaign had invested far too much into its web of deceits to stop. It took a shocking public demonstration of Mrs. Clinton’s frail condition—not the medical diagnosis which came two days earlier—for her campaign to admit the truth.
This is unacceptable conduct for a person seeking elected office, but for Hillary Clinton, it is just the cost of doing business. Sunday’s incident reinforces an unfortunate reality about Mrs. Clinton: that only under the force of law or the weight of unbearable political pressure will the woman seeking to become our nation’s next president dare to tell the truth.