Here’s what’s troubling. It’s not Hillary’s health per se. No great surprise that she developed pneumonia. The extreme stress, the relentless fatigue, the constant shaking of countless hands – these alone might make any of us fall ill.
What’s troubling is that it took from Friday to Sunday for Clinton’s condition to be publicly disclosed. For 48 hours even the prying press remained in the dark, suspecting for at least part of that time something was wrong, but lacking confirmation from the candidate’s campaign.
Leaders are like you and me. They get hurt – to wit President Ronald Reagan. They get sick – to wit President Dwight Eisenhower. They get knocked out of the picture altogether – to wit President Woodrow Wilson. They get traumatized – to wit President Calvin Coolidge. They get afflicted by a chronic disease – to wit President John Kennedy.
But, leaders are not like you and me in that their well-being impacts ours. Especially at the presidential level, leaders are responsible for their followers’ health and welfare – which is why, in recent times, the norm has been full disclosure. Certainly in the 21st century, the assumption has been that presidents, and presidential candidates, owe it to the American people to level with them about their physical condition.
This year, alas, is, again, different. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton has seen fit to be fully forthcoming about the state of their health.
For Hillary this persistent passion for privacy is potentially seriously damaging. First, it feeds right into the already existing narrative about her, which is that she is obsessively secretive. Second, this latest act of concealment comes at a time when her campaign for the White House seems to be slowing. Her poll numbers are down; Trump’s are up.
If Clinton fails to break with her pattern of the past – if she fails to be even a smidgen more open – questions about her health will only get louder and last longer. Sad to say but behavior as rigid as hers has been up to now could end politically suicidal.