Behold, a fairly rare and laudable show of restraint from Donald Trump in a Fox and Friends interview this morning -- during which he expressed understandable uncertainty about what's going on with Hillary Clinton's health, but expressed his hope that she recuperates and rejoins the campaign as soon as possible. Vintage Trump may have spiked the football with "told ya so's" and exploited the situation to press Clinton to release more extensive health records. Instead, here's the GOP weighing in with uncharacteristic -- and strategically smart -- circumspection:
If I had to guess, Trump's top circle of advisers determined that even though the candidate himself has been pushing a narrative about Clinton's stamina and well-being in recent weeks, directly attempting to exploit the upsetting video of her near collapse on Sunday would be a mistake. Better to take the higher road here, as Americans will see that clip with their own eyes and draw their own conclusions. Plus, demanding more transparency from Hillary would only spark counter-charges, since Trump has been less than forthcoming about his own medical history (he's older than Clinton, after all), and still has not released his tax returns (ahem) -- a step he's taken great pains to avoid doing over many years. In the end, Team Trump appears to have decided it's best to let surrogates and the media discuss Clinton's health in starker terms, and to leave criticisms of her reflexive secrecy to others. Like...David Axelrod?
Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What's the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 12, 2016
A top Hillary aide replied to this shade-filled tweet by acknowledging that the campaign "could have done better," but insisting that "the public knows more about HRC than any nominee in history." Even if that's an accurate statement, part of the problem is that much of what the public has been told about and by Mrs. Clinton hasn't been true. The reality is that if Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia last Friday, it would have been in the campaign's interests to get that fact out to the public, then significantly lighten Hillary's schedule. It would have explained the coughing fit, it would have given her the weekend to rest and recover, and it almost certainly would have avoided the caught-on-tape fainting episode in New York City on Sunday morning. Why didn't they do so? As I said last night, I suspect part of it is knee-jerk Clintonian obfuscation, quite possibly driven by the candidate. They may also have been hoping that they could keep the pneumonia diagnosis under wraps altogether because, let's face it, there's really no such thing as a non-serious 'touch of pneumonia' for people of a more advanced age. On that front, Jim Geraghty reviews how open Bill Clinton was about his health as a candidate 24 years ago, and quotes Clinton in 1996 averring that “the public has a right to know the condition of the president’s health.” Geraghty also cites WebMD's fact sheet spelling out the common effects of pneumonia on people Hillary's age:
Older adults may have different, fewer, or milder symptoms. They may not have a fever. Or they may have a cough but not bring up mucus. The main sign of pneumonia in older adults may be a change in how well they think. Confusion or delirium is common. Or, if they already have a lung disease, that disease may get worse.
Of course, every person and case is different, and it's unfair to attribute any of these symptoms or outcomes to Clinton. But there's just no getting around the fact that pneumonia is serious business that prompts serious questions. According to doctors, its bacterial and viral causes are contagious, which raises questions about why Clinton has been interfacing with voters and hugging children since her Friday diagnosis. And if you want to argue that her form of pneumonia isn't contagious, how does that square with reports that a respiratory illness has spread around the Clinton campaign in recent weeks? As others have noted, the stories and spin have shifted and evolved at an extraordinary clip over the last 24 hours:
Today went from "Fox News is full of it" to "she overheated" to "ok she has pneumonia" to "wow this was brave". Too much spin for 24 hours— Justin Green (@JGreenDC) September 12, 2016
We went from "it's ok, just a little walking pneumonia" to "OMFG, it's infecting half a dozen senior staffers!"— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) September 12, 2016
*hugs innocent little girl*
Discussing anyone's personal health travails feels unseemly, but Bill Clinton was right in 1996 when he said that people seeking the highest office in the land sacrifice a fair deal of privacy on such matters. David French writes that Hillary's contraction of pneumonia and disturbing collapse cannot simply be analyzed in isolation, given the serious health episodes and setbacks she faced during her time at the State Department -- including a blood clot, a concussion, and multiple falls. I'll leave you with reports of what strikes me as wildly premature hushed-tones discussions among anxious Democrats, via two center-left mainstream media figures. Hmmmmmmm:
Top dem: "we can make contingencies, argue, plead with @HillaryClinton, but DNC bylaws are clear her nominee status now totally up to her."— David Shuster (@DavidShuster) September 12, 2016
Hillary Clinton has envisioned herself as president for most of her adult life. The idea that she'd just step aside now that she's so close seems implausible in the extreme. She'd have to be much sicker than she is, and there's no credible reason to believe that to be the case. But since this scenario is allegedly being floated by members of her own party, and setting aside ballot access questions, Trump backers should keep something in mind. Based on polling throughout the Democratic primary (some of which tossed in Joe Biden early on), Trump's best chance of winning is against Hillary Clinton:
also, Trump supporters are cheering these rumors...but a Clinton withdrawal would hurt his chances, yes? https://t.co/yqDkZZczdw— Andrew Clark (@AndrewHClark) September 12, 2016
I'll leave you with our discussion of Clinton's politically-fraught weekend on Fox earlier this morning:
UPDATE - Trump says he will release more medical information, including the results of a recent physical. This is not the same thing as providing a detailed report of his medical history.