Clin­ton’s un­forced er­ror

Our view: The nom­i­nee’s guard­ed­ness serves nei­ther her nor the pub­lic well

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

Hil­lary Clin­ton al­ready had a trans­parency prob­lem when she abruptly left a Sept. 11 memo­rial cer­e­mony in New York on Sun­day, then ap­peared to stum­ble as she was be­ing helped into a van a few min­utes later. But what ap­pears to have been a mi­nor episode that eas­ily could have been ex­plained at the time only made her cred­i­bil­ity prob­lem worse when she seemed to deny any­thing at all con­cern­ing had hap­pened — de­spite mil­lions of peo­ple hav­ing seen video of the in­ci­dent online. It was the kind of un­forced er­ror the Clin­ton cam­paign re­peat­edly has fallen vic­tim to this election sea­son, and as the race heats up ahead of Novem­ber’s election, it’s pre­cisely the sort of mis­take the can­di­date can’t af­ford to keep mak­ing.

Ms. Clin­ton’s spokesman ini­tially told re­porters the can­di­date be­came over­heated af­ter stand­ing an hour and a half on a hot, hu­mid day and that she had been driven to her daugh­ter Chelsea’s apart­ment nearby to re­cover. A cou­ple of hours later, Ms. Clin­ton came out of her daugh­ter’s build­ing where re­porters had gath­ered, but when asked how she was feel­ing, she re­sponded only with vague plat­i­tudes about New York’s lovely weather. Not un­til an­other hour had passed did the can­di­date’s physi­cian re­veal that Ms. Clin­ton had been suf­fer­ing from de­hy­dra­tion and var­i­ous al­ler­gies and that she also had been di­ag­nosed with pneu­mo­nia the pre­vi­ous Fri­day.

Polls show that many vot­ers re­main deeply skep­ti­cal of Ms. Clin­ton’s hon­esty and will­ing­ness to level with the Amer­i­can peo­ple. The can­di­date’s be­hav­ior over the week­end feeds into that nar­ra­tive and only adds to her cred­i­bil­ity prob­lem at a time when the Repub­li­can op­po­nent, Don­ald Trump, has ze­roed in on mak­ing Ms. Clin­ton’s health a cam­paign is­sue by re­peat­edly ques­tion­ing whether she has the strength or en­durance to serve. Nei­ther can­di­date had re­leased much about their med­i­cal his­to­ries other than to­ken let­ters from their per­sonal physi­cians at­test­ing to their good health, though both have now promised to.

We un­der­stand that Ms. Clin­ton is wary af­ter decades of of­ten un­fair scru­tiny, but now, with the fate of the election hang­ing in the bal­ance, is not the time to ar­gue whether the pub­lic’s im­pres­sion that she is eva­sive and un­trust­wor­thy is war­ranted. It is a time to com­bat it with trans­parency — just as she high­lighted Mr. Trump’s re­fusal to re­lease his tax re­turns by re­leas­ing hers. Hil­lary Clin­ton stands with New York of­fi­cials dur­ing a memo­rial ser­vice at the Na­tional 9/11 Memo­rial on Sun­day.

Con­tract­ing pneu­mo­nia isn’t a sign that Ms. Clin­ton is weak or un­fit for of­fice. Though pneu­mo­nia can lead to se­ri­ous prob­lems if left un­treated, it is a fairly com­mon in­fec­tious dis­ease that re­sponds well to an­tibi­otics and of­ten does not re­quire hos­pi­tal­iza­tion. It is not a dis­abling ill­ness, and there’s no rea­son to sup­pose Ms. Clin­ton couldn’t serve as pres­i­dent be­cause of a tem­po­rary and treat­able ail­ment. Had she dis­closed the ill­ness — ap­par­ently even many staffers on her cam­paign were un­aware of it — her sud­den de­par­ture from the 9/11 cer­e­mony likely would have ap­peared less wor­ri­some.

Ms. Clin­ton’s ha­bit­ual guard­ed­ness is not serv­ing her or the pub­lic well. In­ci­dents like the one on Sun­day in­evitably make her come across as a per­son with some­thing to hide, and in this case it was to­tally un­nec­es­sary. If this cam­paign is waged on ideas, ex­pe­ri­ence and tem­per­a­ment, Ms. Clin­ton wins. She can’t af­ford to al­low it to be about any­thing else. It’s telling that polls show the num­ber of vot­ers who say they are still un­de­cided is near record highs for this stage in a race, which re­flects the pub­lic’s gen­eral un­easi­ness with both Ms. Clin­ton and Mr. Trump. Ms. Clin­ton clearly can’t af­ford to give her op­po­nent any more am­mu­ni­tion to use against her or let the sub­stan­tive is­sues that di­vide her from Mr. Trump get lost in the me­dia storm over her stum­bles.


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