News & Politics

WaPo's Cillizza Doesn't Think Clinton's Health Should be an Issue

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Voters make their choice for president based on a number of factors. There are single-issue voters, party animals, values voters, wonks, and those who ask the proverbial “Would I sit at a bar and have a drink with this person?” — a veritable hodgepodge of criteria used to determine one’s choice for president.

But there is one thing that just about everybody agrees with: a candidate’s health is vital. In an age when crisis can erupt anywhere at any time, the United States needs a president at the top of his or her game not just mentally, but physically as well. And the two are interconnected as we all know.

I don’t know if anything is seriously wrong healthwise with Hillary Clinton. But I definitely think it’s a fit subject for discussion in a presidential campaign. And it does a disservice to our democracy when Hillary partisans dismiss notions that she is ill as “conspiracy theories.”

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post doesn’t think the issue of Clinton’s health merits any discussion at all.

Here’s the thing: This is a totally ridiculous issue — for lots of reasons — and one that if Trump or his Republican surrogates continue to focus on is a surefire loser in the fall.

Let’s start here: Clinton has released a detailed letter from her personal physicianattesting to her overall good health — and making specific reference to her 2012 fall.

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So, to believe that something is seriously wrong with Clinton, you have to a) assume her doctor lied and b) that her coughing, which often happens when someone catches a cold or spends a lot of time speaking publicly, is a symptom of her deeper, hidden illness.

That seems, um, unlikely to me? Beyond the Clinton conspiracy theorists who believe she had something to do with Vince Foster’s death and that she was secretly responsible for everything from Y2K to the SpaceX explosion last week, it’s hard to plausibly insist, based on the available data, that Clinton is ill. There’s the doctor’s note, plus she keeps a very rigorous schedule for a 68-year-old — traveling all over the country to raise money and campaign. (For the past month, she’s done a lot more raising money than campaigning.)

You don’t have to assume the doctor lied. He can certify that Clinton is healthy while not mentioning a specific condition or medication that would cause the cough. And note how Cillizza tries to connect debate about the health issue with the right-wing crazies who think that Clinton had Foster killed or created Y2K. Nice try, Chris, but no dice. This is a legitimate question and telling people to “move along…nothing to see here” shortchanges the voter.

The simple fact is that there is zero evidence that anything is seriously wrong with Clinton.  If suffering an occasional coughing fit is evidence of a major health problem, then 75 percent of the country must have that mystery illness. And I am one of them.

What Trump cannot — or, at least, should not — do is continue to engage with these wacky theories that emerge out of the fever swamps on the very fringe of the conservative movement. Every single person who believes in the Clinton health conspiracy is already for Trump. What he needs to do is find ways to reach voters who have doubts about him but may carry even graver doubts about Clinton’s ability to do the job in an honest and transparent way.

An “occasional” coughing fit? Seven times since January, Hillary Clinton has had to stop herself mid-speech as her body was wracked with coughs. That’s seven more times than Donald Trump. And it’s not just clearing the throat or a couple of hacks. The episodes last for minutes at a time. The latest explanation from the Clinton camp is “seasonal allergies” — which, I suppose, means allergies during every season given the January to September timeline.

You don’t have to be a conspiracist to understand that coughing is a symptom and that there may be be a condition that causes it. Clinton is not a smoker and probably doesn’t have lung cancer. And the coughing really isn’t that debilitating — a nuisance and inconvenience more than anything.

Unless there is an underlying disease we’re not being told about.

I understand Cillizza is a Clinton partisan, but he’s very well informed and has a sharp intellect that makes him enjoyable to read. But Cillizza urging the voter to ignore one of the most important issues in the campaign while Clinton surrogates smear questioners as crazies does a disservice to voters who have a perfect right to question a candidate’s health when serious, prolonged fits of coughing in public go unexplained by the campaign.