Opinion: Hillary Clinton’s worrisome wobble

Hillary Clinton arrives at a Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony in New York on Sunday.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

It’s no secret that I believe Hillary Clinton is the best choice for president. Throughout the months I’ve been writing about the election, I’ve been consistently attacked for being “in Clinton’s pocket” on my personal email account, on Facebook, on Twitter, even in Instagram messages. But there’s a difference between being in her pocket — in which case I’d approve of everything from the way she handled the State Department email controversy to her full campaign platform (I don’t) — and believing she is our only serious option.

Look: Donald Trump has made a persuasive case during this campaign that he’s a racist — he has myriad other failings that I could point to, but in a better world that one trait would be enough to disqualify him from our country’s highest office. Jill Stein is incapable of outlining how her policy positions might be implemented, and Gary Johnson is unable to compellingly apply libertarian principles to the interconnected world in which we live. Long shots, Johnson and Stein are interesting and animating people, but if interesting and animating were enough to qualify a person to be leader of the free world, I’d put forward a number of others.

If you want to talk about the world in which we actually live rather than a world in which you may wish we lived, your choices for president this November are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

So when I read that Clinton had fainted this morning, my heart sank. The lead she’d taken over Trump has been evaporating in national polls, although she has maintained her edge in several key battleground states. Her controversial statement that roughly half of Trump’s supporters fell into a “basket of deplorables,” the term she used to refer to the ones who were racist, sexist, homophobic or xenophobic, brought her margin down to about 2%. (Though I’m not quite sure I understand why; as many have pointed out, those who don’t perceive themselves as harboring deplorable beliefs should have nothing to be offended by.) The margin between Clinton and Trump is so close now that any slip on her part, of the tongue or of the body, could result in the election of a Putin-loving, immigrant-stigmatizing, flip-flopping, shallow and painfully unqualified former reality-television host slash ersatz self-made emperor as the United States’ 45th president.

Worse, Clinton’s shaky early departure from a Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony in New York reinforced ugly speculation by Trump’s team that she is suffering from some kind of debilitating illness, possibly linked to the concussion she suffered late in her tenure as secretary of State. The clean bill of health she’d received from her physician this year did nothing to quiet those rumors.


Clinton didn’t faint at Sunday morning’s event, exactly; the video I saw showed her wobbling into her van, shifting awkwardly from foot to foot. By any measure, she did not look well. Having experienced fainting spells for the last year that have turned out to be neither meaningful, preventable nor attributable to any particular cause, I’ve learned how confusing such spells can be. “You might drink more water,” doctors have yawned in my direction. Still, I’m not running for president.

This afternoon, Clinton’s physician, Dr. Lisa Bardack, released the following statement: “Secretary Clinton has been experiencing a cough related to allergies. On Friday, during follow-up evaluation of her prolonged cough, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was put on antibiotics, and advised to rest and modify her schedule. While at this morning’s event, she became overheated and dehydrated. I have just examined her and she is now re-hydrated and recovering nicely.”

Remember when Trump’s physician, Dr. Harold Bornstein, wrote: “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual elected to the presidency”? Democrats scoffed at Bornstein’s hyperbolic language, and continued their persistent questioning of Trump’s mental health. Bardack’s pneumonia diagnosis is just as unlikely to quiet Republicans.

For those who believe, as I do, that Trump’s candidacy is an insult to the safety and intelligence of our country’s electorate, Clinton’s poor health is cause for concern only to the extent that it has the potential to improve her opponent’s chances. Granted, neither the 68-year-old Clinton nor the 70-year-old Trump is a spring chicken. But consider who might take over for them if they suffered an incapacitating medical emergency: Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, may be a snooze, but he’s far more qualified to lead than Trump or the Republican nominee for veep, Mike Pence. Pence is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an aw-shucks-dad type who has been a consistent opponent of reproductive rights and equality under the law for LGBT Americans. Pence once described himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” He’s the kind of evangelical who apparently thinks, “I’ll throw in with a twice-divorced former abortion rights advocate who vilifies a good chunk of God’s people. He could really get me somewhere.” Like Trump, he represents a platform that is deeply hateful.

For those of us who believe the integrity of our country’s future is predicated on a Clinton presidency, any wobble is cause for concern.


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