If there is an air of feeling unwell in the Clinton camp over the last few days, it probably has more to do with the campaign’s handling of the whole pneumonia debacle than with Secretary Clinton’s actual illness.
My social media feeds of late have been positively flooded with comments on the most recent presidential campaign headline: “Clinton Leaves Early from 9/11 Event, Collapses, Is Later Revealed to Have Pneumonia That Was Actually Diagnosed Days Ago, Also Did She Use a Body Double That Day and Could She Possibly Be a Robot?” Or some similar (set of) variation(s).
Many of the headlines try to put on a positive spin. “Clinton Powers Through Illness Because That’s What Women Do,” etc. But I think that these tend to miss the bigger point in all of this, which is that her campaign made a pretty major mess out of what should have been a minor issue. And extending from this, they blew a HUGE opportunity for sympathy attention in the process. More on that in a moment.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument (and lack of credible evidence to the contrary (… yet?)) that the events of last weekend occurred exactly as the campaign depicted them. This means that Hillary received her diagnosis on Friday, did not disclose it to the public at that time, proceeded to attend various weekend events that culminated in the ‘overheating’ episode Sunday morning, and then finally explained the illness. We’re taking all of this at face value. Even in this case, the campaign’s decision not to disclose her pneumonia diagnosis right away is baffling.
Clinton stated, by way of explanation, that she”didn’t think it would be that big of a deal.” In an electoral contest where literally everything is a big deal — from offhand comments to facial expressions — this is is not a wise defense. It certainly gives the appearance of a cover-up, whether there actually is one or not.
So if these events as stated are accurate — that’s pretty bad.
If they are not accurate — that’s even worse.
Another fairly shocking failure is in the whole sympathy contingent. Pneumonia is a treatable illness that many people can relate to. Had they revealed it on Friday, the arguments blowing up from her supporters (‘we should be applauding her,’ ‘people get sick, let’s move on’) would have been deserved and probably well received. Now, in the face of apparent deception (no matter how trivial), these arguments seem strained.
Her illness is not the issue – and could probably have been a boon to the campaign if properly handled. The sour taste left in the collective mouth of public opinion (um what? shhh it works as a metaphor) is now what she and her tarnished campaign must work overtime to clear up.
For the record, and since we’re speaking of full disclosure, I’ll note here that I am a Hillary supporter. But I don’t jive with the idea that all supporters should follow their candidates blindly and without question. This is against the principles of informed reflection. My honest critique of a candidate I like is that here, in this case, she goofed. Let’s hope she can turn it around soon.