FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

In Sickness and in Health: Illness in the White House

Exciting times, indeed. The latest bustling instalment in the Clinton-Trump saga of “produce your documents” now goes to the issue of health. The Democratic contender for the White House found herself feeling rather off, which made doctors order that Hillary Clinton take proper “rest”.

It then transpired, according to sources (who is to really know about the Clintons?) that she had been slow off the mark in revealing the diagnosis of pneumonia, a condition that nearly precipitated a fainting spell at a New York memorial ceremony for the September 11, 2001 attacks. On that occasion, Clinton excused herself for feeling “overheated and dehydrated” and required obvious assistance to her van.

“I’m feeling so much better,” she cheerily told CNN on Monday night, “and obviously I should have gotten some rest sooner.” Over the next few days, those medical directives from Dr. Lisa Bardack are set to kick in. Donald Trump, in the meantime, is bound to behave like a merry pig in electoral mud, though he is missing a sparring buddy. “I hope she gets well and gets back on the trail and we’ll be seeing her at the debate.”

The immediate sense about the Clinton campaign was that the veil of secrecy had again been given a few more layers. Rather than releasing material on the subject with speedy resolve, Team Clinton closed ranks, hoping that the press would not feast on an impeding medical bonanza.

Reuters noted that this “health scare revived concerns about a tendency toward secrecy that has dogged her campaign, and underscored the perennial worries about the medical fitness of candidates for one of the world’s most demanding jobs.”

Those running for the White House – and those in it – tend towards hiding the assortment of ailments that could, technically, make them either unelectable or deficient. What had sprung out, notably in this election, is some unwritten obligation to, as one NBC News report put it, “inform the public about her health.”

President Bill Clinton certainly thought so, telling the New York Times in a 1996 interview that the public was entitled “to know the condition of the president’s health.” That particular piece disclosed the president’s battle “with desensitization shots” taken weekly to combat Washington’s notorious tendency to tickle and tease allergies.

The interview may well have been precipitated by the fact that Bill, when a candidate in 1992, had troubles with his voice. Medical opinions started to swarm; speculation about fitness was duly triggered, and has become something of a greater curiosity in recent years. (Witness, for instance, discussion about John Kerry’s triumph against prostate cancer; or Dick Cheney’s heart problems, revealing that even such a dark force can have a troubling ticker.)

That same NBC report digs a bit deeper, asking questions about why hiding such a pneumonia diagnosis was necessary to begin with. Did Clinton, for instance, contract it in the past? The coughing attack last week at an appearance in Cleveland, for instance, was dismissed as a matter of “seasonal allergies”. Did the candidate “lose consciousness at all?”

In all seriousness, the maladies of the White House occupant have been many and fundamental. Healthy, sturdy figures seem oddities. Prior to the First World War, William Taft laboured under morbid obesity, a condition which made him nap during meetings. His successor, the supposedly high-minded visionary, Woodrow Wilson, suffered a series of strokes that left him blind in his left eye and wheelchair bound.

A suitably doped up President John F. Kennedy remained at death’s door for much of his time in office till assassination opened it; Franklin Delano Roosevelt sneakily crafted an image of good, mobile health in the face of polio; and Grover Cleveland took a good four days off to have a tumour removed on a yacht.

Secrecy has become a dull, continuous feature of this presidential battle. Neither candidate has been entirely open to continuous press scrutiny on the trail, or supplying the tips, and trimmings as the important dates are ticked off the calendar.

The idea of “protective pool” coverage is something both find troubling, with Clinton and Trump preferring greater management and staging, with protective guardians. Trump, for instance, has no reporters to accompany him on his plane; Clinton has tended towards a drier pool of correspondents.

Neither candidate seems particularly fit in several ways for the White House, though these have little to do with matters of physique and stamina. Boiling matters down to misogyny and greater scrutiny of Clinton for her supposedly vulnerable sex hardly gets away from the central matter at hand: her unquestionable sense of being unreliable. Only the Clintons could have converted something in the realm of health into a spectacle of secret ponderings and conspiratorial wonder. The crooked timber of humanity continues to creak.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Glenn Sacks
Teachers Strike Dispatch #8: New Independent Study Confirms LAUSD Has the Money to Meet UTLA’s Demands
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposable Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail