An un­healthy lack of trust

Clin­ton’s team fails to re­as­sure Dem hope­ful’s skep­tics

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Mark Z. Barabak As­so­ci­ated Press con­trib­uted.

For Hil­lary Clin­ton, the most po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing as­pect of her re­cent health scare is not any new rev­e­la­tion but the re-emer­gence of an old pat­tern.

The image of her buck­ling at the knees Sun­day pushed doubts about her per­sonal well-be­ing from the crazy realm of con­spir­acy mon­ger­ing squarely into the main­stream of se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion.

Mak­ing things much worse, though, was her cam­paign’s han­dling of the episode — the de­lays, the half- ex­pla­na­tions, t he grudg­ing trickle of in­for­ma­tion — which played to deep con­cerns go­ing back to Clin­ton’s White House days and con­tro­ver­sies over open­ness and can­dor.

Far and away the big­gest impediment stand­ing be­tween Clin­ton and the White House is that a great many vot­ers, in­clud­ing some with ev­ery in­ten­tion of vot­ing for the for­mer first lady and sec­re­tary of state, sim­ply do not trust her.

The events Sun­day did noth­ing to re­as­sure them.

Rather, they brought a rush of mem­o­ries from the last two decades — of parsed words, of le­gal and eth­i­cal con­tro­ver­sies, of tip­toe­ing to the edge of ac­cepted rules — that are symp­to­matic of the po­lit­i­cal ail­ment known as Clin­ton fa­tigue.

Sun­day’s episode sug­gested that in­ter­net-fu­eled ru­mors about a phys­i­cal and men­tal break­down, though fanned by ri­val Don­ald Trump and his back­ers and seem­ingly far­fetched, need to at least be ad­dressed. Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign has an­nounced it would soon re­lease ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about her med­i­cal con­di­tion.

For Democrats, it was mad­den­ingly frus­trat­ing.

David Ax­el­rod, the im­pre­sario be­hind Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s election and hardly a fan of Trump, of­fered his as­trin­gent com­men­tary on Twit­ter.

“An­tibi­otics can take care of pneu­mo­nia,” he said, re­fer­ring to Clin­ton’s be­lat­edly an­nounced di­ag­no­sis. “What’s the cure for an un­healthy pen­chant for pri­vacy that re­peat­edly cre­ates un­nec­es­sary prob­lems?”

Her cam­paign an- nounced it would soon re­lease ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about the can­di­date’s med­i­cal con­di­tion, go­ing be­yond a two-page let­ter at­test­ing to her good health that her per­sonal physi­cian is­sued in July 2015. Aides in­sisted pneu­mo­nia was her only health is­sue.

For his part, Trump has is­sued a vague and hy­per­bolic four para­graphs from his doc­tor declar­ing the Man­hat­tan busi­ness­man, if elected, would “un­equiv­o­cally … be the health­i­est in­di­vid­ual ever elected to the pres­i­dency.” It turned out the doc­tor dashed off the let­ter in five min­utes.

On Mon­day, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee was un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally re­strained about Clin­ton’s mal­ady, say­ing he had re­cently un­der­gone a phys­i­cal and would an­nounce the re­sults on Thurs­day’s episode of the syn­di­cated show hosted by car­di­ol­o­gist Mehmet Oz.

Clin­ton took ill sud­denly while at­tend­ing a New York cer­e­mony mark­ing the 15th an­niver­sary of the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Re­porters al­lowed to fol­low the can­di­date no­ticed her abrupt de­par­ture, but the cam­paign re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about where she was go­ing or why; in a breach of pro­to­col, her mo­tor­cade left with­out them.

She emerged about 90 min­utes later from her daugh­ter Chelsea’s Man­hat­tan apart­ment, look­ing chip­per and say­ing she felt fine but re­fus­ing to of­fer any de­tails about her af­flic­tion.

Clin­ton said Mon­day that she was feel­ing bet­ter. She said she never lost con­scious­ness and didn’t think her pneu­mo­nia di­ag­no­sis was sig­nif­i­cant enough to dis­close be­fore­hand.

“I just didn’t think it was go­ing to be that big a deal,” she said. She told CNN’s “An­der­son Cooper 360” that de­spite a doc­tor’s or­ders to rest for five days she thought she could “just keep go­ing for­ward and power through it, and that didn’t work out so well.”

The cam­paign ini­tially told re­porters Clin­ton had suf­fered from heat ex­haus­tion. It was only af­ter video sur­faced of Clin­ton stag­ger­ing into her van, with Se­cret Ser­vice agents prop­ping her up, that the cam­paign re­leased a doc­tor’s note, ex­plain­ing she had been di­ag­nosed last week with pneu­mo­nia. (By Mon­day af­ter­noon, the scene had been viewed more than 2.5 mil­lion times on YouTube.)

“I think that in ret­ro­spect we could have han­dled it bet­ter, in terms of pro­vid­ing more in­for­ma­tion more quickly,” Brian Fal­lon, a Clin­ton spokesman, said on MSNBC.

Opin­ions of Trump and Clin­ton, two of the least­pop­u­lar can­di­dates in pres­i­den­tial cam­paign his­tory, are firmly held by most of the elec­torate.

So it is doubt­ful what hap­pened Sun­day will greatly shake up the race. But it does raise an­other hur­dle for the Demo­crat among un­de­cided vot­ers and el­e­vate the stakes for the first pres­i­den­tial de­bate in less than two weeks.

JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN/GETTY

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