Can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton gam­bles and loses on se­crecy

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS -

The in­escapable con­clu­sion from Hil­lary Clin­ton’s health saga is not that she is, as Team Trump con­tin­u­ally sug­gests, too sick and weak to be pres­i­dent. It’s that she and her cam­paign were hop­ing to get away with never dis­clos­ing her pneu­mo­nia di­ag­no­sis.

At least now, both camps are pledg­ing to re­lease more med­i­cal de­tails about the nom­i­nees. But given Clin­ton’s his­tory of with­hold­ing and Don­ald Trump’s many bro­ken prom­ises re­gard­ing trans­parency, it is doubt­ful we’ll get enough in­for­ma­tion to put rea­son­able ques­tions to rest.

Clin­ton, 68, has had a few health in­ci­dents, but there is no ev­i­dence of any­thing chron­i­cally in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing. To the con­trary, she has shown en­durance be­yond many younger peo­ple — in her Au­gust fundrais­ing sched­ule as well as in her 11 hours of tes­ti­mony a year ago be­fore the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Beng­hazi.

What’s more, a woman of Clin­ton’s age can ex­pect to live 18 ad­di­tional years (four more than a man of Trump’s age, 70). How­ever, pneu­mo­nia and in­fluenza are the sixth lead­ing cause of death for white women ages 65 and over. Such a di­ag­no­sis should not be taken lightly, nor should a ma­jor party pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee hide it from the pub­lic.

That’s es­pe­cially true for a politi­cian who for decades has re­peat­edly lost bat­tles to pro­tect what she thinks ought to be zones of pri­vacy. Clin­ton has never been a be­liever in putting ev­ery­thing out there, cop­ing with the fall­out and mov­ing on as quickly as pos­si­ble. From the White­wa­ter real es­tate deal in Arkansas to her email server and now the pneu­mo­nia, it is al­ways drip-drip-drip.

Yet she is the only re­al­is­tic al­ter­na­tive to Trump, which makes it mad­den­ing that she fell right into Trump’s trap. He and his al­lies cooked up a con­spir­acy about her dire health, then waited. For the cough­ing fit. For the stum­ble. For — jack­pot — the pneu­mo­nia and what looks like a coverup.

As usual, keep­ing the pub­lic in the dark is not work­ing to Clin­ton’s ad­van­tage. What might have been a brief flurry about a mi­nor health is­sue has be­come a me­dia and po­lit­i­cal frenzy that con­firms the widely held and dam­ag­ing sense that she can’t be trusted.

The fact that Clin­ton and her ad­vis­ers haven’t fig­ured this out augers a White House ten­ure ham­pered by self-in­flicted drama.

In re­al­ity, Trump is hid­ing far more than Clin­ton. But Clin­ton her­self has done more to ob­scure that than any­one else, and in the process made this race closer than any­one thought it would be.

While she re­leased a two-page doc­tor’s let­ter last year, he has dis­closed lit­tle be­yond a six-para­graph doc­tor’s let­ter so Trumpian in its lan­guage, it would be funny if it were not the only word vot­ers have on his health.

Trump has re­leased no tax re­turns, even as his claims of wealth and char­i­ta­ble giv­ing are in ques­tion. And there has been no clar­ity on Me­la­nia Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus when she first came to the U.S., though Trump’s hard line on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is a pil­lar of his cam­paign.

Amer­ica needs to face facts. Both nom­i­nees are se­niors, and nei­ther is be­ing straight­for­ward on health. Clin­ton has the big­ger rep­u­ta­tion for se­crecy. But Trump is master of “do as I say, not as I do.” He has by far the most ques­tions to an­swer.

JUSTIN SUL­LI­VAN, GETTY IM­AGES

Hil­lary Clin­ton at the 9/11 cer­e­mony in New York City.

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