Hillary’s real illness: Lack of transparency

Political campaigns go through cycles. One candidate mucks up, the other gains. The other mucks up, etc. Polls swing and ebb, and flow. Some people react to each movement up, or down, and can drive themselves crazy with the now-almost-daily counting of what voters would have done yesterday, not what they will do tomorrow.

This presidential cycle, as has been noted numerous times, is maybe the most horrible we’ve ever witnessed and certainly is the one with what many consider the worst choice we’ve ever had to make — which nominee is less worse to vote for seems to be the standard for deciding.

On that standard, this was not a good weekend for Hillary Clinton.

She started with the very un-Hillary-like slip of the tongue saying half of Donald Trump’s supporters fit in the “deplorables basket,” people who she meant support racism, sexism, and all the other bad “isms.” For a woman known as maybe the most careful presidential candidate ever, a very strange slip.

Then came her near fainting spell Sunday. Turns out, she has pneumonia, an illness that can affect an older person in strange ways — physically and mentally.

Could the pneumonia have caused her Friday tongue slip? I make no excuses for her, let’s call it, slip of the tongue but it could have been a symptom of the pneumonia.

Whichever, it was stupid. If she was that sick, she shouldn’t have attended the fund raiser in the first place. And then maybe she would have been more rested for the more publicly important anniversary of 9/11.

What is stupider, though, is her lack of transparency, her seeming belief that she has the right, as a potential president of the United States, to keep things from the voting public. In this case, the truth about her health.

Donald Trump has made all kinds of unsubstantiated statements about her health, about her fitness to be president. We all toss them off as the serial ravings of a walking, talking lunatic. But, a broken clock is right twice a day and he has fallen upon a raving that isn’t such a rave.

But Clinton’s mistake is not that she is in chronic bad health. Her mistake is not being transparent.

Imagine for a minute that her campaign, when it knew she was diagnosed with pneumonia last week, immediately told the public she had pneumonia, and might even miss a few valuable days of campaigning.

Her weakness Sunday would have been viewed in a completely different way. We all can get pneumonia, logical thinking people would have thought, and here is a woman who has been campaigning 24/7 for a very long time, who is 68 years old and who has a history of blood clots. None of that is disqualifying but it would be a way of putting context into her episode of the weekend — before it occurred.

The bigger picture (reasons to vote for someone): I was talking to a fellow the other day who isn’t as addicted to politics as others of us. Thus, he is more a typical voter. He is a “normal” American, struggling to make a living, frustrated by the direction of the country and even more frustrated, I assume, about his inability to get ahead as he approaches retirement age. He knows my political background and asked me my view of the presidential campaign. I gave it. Simply put: After much struggle, I decided Hillary Clinton is a less-worse choice than Donald Trump.

He grimaced saying, yeah, that may be right but I just don’t trust her, all politicians lie. Maybe we should let him shake up DC. I saw him against this morning and, with a bit of a smile, said, “see, she’s sick and lied about it.” And that, my friends, I think sums up what undecided voters are going through.

They are not always looking, in this election, for the reason to vote FOR someone, but another reason to vote AGAINST someone.

So Clinton’s weekend: Not disclosing her pneumonia, having a physical episode at a very public event and her campaign not explaining why, when they knew, plays into her perception (and reality) of a lack of transparency. Any move like that on her part will cost her votes because it reinforces the perception of dishonesty that surrounds her. It’s another (or reinforced) reason to vote against her. Beneficiary: Donald Trump.

So far, but the day is early, Trump is playing this one smart: He isn’t commenting yet on her health.

If he can maintain that — and that is a yuuge if — that will benefit Donald Trump and those who support him can say, “see, he was right about her fitness.”

What can be done? Transparency.

Mrs. Clinton should immediately disclose her full health history. Today. As most candidates do. Then, demand that Trump do the same. She has disclosed her taxes; he has not. She has disclosed more medical history than he has. But he has scheduled an appearance on Dr. Oz (of course it would be on a niche TV show) this week when he supposedly will disclose more details of his health — of course without a full press corps to question him. Get ahead of him. Set the standard he should meet on his TV appearance before he does.

And demand he release his taxes, too, as you did. That will be the most informative thing we can learn about Trump. Plus, learn that if you become President, transparency works better than hiding.

Let both of them put it all out there so we can see what we’re buying. And so we can cast a more reasoned vote.


Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: bjaycooper.com.

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