The Fog Of History: Health Care, Health Scare

Tricky Dick and Rocky at Walter Reed Hospital, 1960.

The murmurings about Hillary Clinton’s health have been bubbling amongst the Trumpers and alt-right white “nationalists” for months. There’s no truth to any of it, but the minute HRC shows that she’s human, the MSM goes, as our Britsh friends would say, around the twist. One of the few media types willing to call Trump a liar, Lawrence O’Donnell, was all over it like a cheap pantsuit:

…because the news media was clearly in the middle of a nervous breakdown on its way to a complete collapse which happened the very next day when Hillary Clinton felt a little sick and decided to go home. You’ve seen the video a few thousand times by now of Hillary Clinton being helped into a car as she was clearly feeling faint. Hours later, we got the word from her doctor that she’s been diagnosed with pneumonia, and she’s going to slow down for a few days. And today the news media lost its mind, lost all perspective on what matters in this presidential campaign. Lost all perspective on how voters should make their choice and Hillary Clinton’s health became the most important thing this the world.

Here’s the deal. I had a virulent case of viral pneumonia when I was a thirtysomething law student. It knocked me on my ass and I was woozy and dizzy as hell. I, for one, am impressed at how Hillary powered through her bout with pneumonia by attending the 9/11 ceremony. It means a lot to her: she was Senator from New York when the planes hit and was in the middle of efforts to aid the first responders. Btw, it was the first public 9/11 anniversary event Donald Trump ever attended. Guess he was too busy with the Trump Tower Mumbai. Hmm, will he use that as an example of his love of brown people? Nothing would surprise me at this point, y’all.

Athenae wrote a fine post about the health scare the other day as did Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams:

Can you blame the Clinton campaign, which has been under absurd scrutiny for every head turn, every cough, for initially keeping Hillary’s illness quiet? Could the Clinton team not know that if you’re looking for an argument that someone is unfit for a job, having a treatable and temporary illness sure seems more credible than ‘is actually an ignorant, incompetent bigot but at least has a penis,’ right?

Her opponent is actually a giant, walking, talking penis with cotton candy piss hair, but Embeedub’s point is well taken. Her Salon colleague, Digby, pointed out that GOPers get sick too and includes a list of manly men who have fainted in public:

General Petraeus faints at congressional hearing.

Major General James Martin fainting at a press conference in February.

Attorney General Michael Mukasy fainting in the middle of a speech in 2008.

GE CEO Jim Campbell collapsing at a Joe Biden speech in 2010.

Silvio Berlosconi, Italy’s prime minister at the time, collapsing in 2006.

Bill Daley passing out at his commerce secretary appointment ceremony in 1996.

It’s swell that Trump’s analog, my main man Silvio, made the list: nobody’s a bigger dick than Silvio. Bunga, bunga.

The best thing I’ve read or seen about the health scare was from the aforementioned Lawrence O’Donnell who focused on the history of Presidential health issues. I’ll give you a link to his piece since MSNBC makes it hard for mere mortals to embed its shows. They do, however, provide transcripts. It’s time for an extended excerpt of his remarks:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt indisputably one of our greatest presidents was dying in his final re-election campaign and he died less than 90 days after taking the oath of office for the final time.

The country did not feel deceived, the country felt sad, the country mourned, the country didn`t rail against Franklin Roosevelt`s lack of transparency about his health.

FDR was never transparent about his health, never. He tried to hide that he used a wheelchair for years and largely got away with it since there were no television cameras then to follow him around.

The more I thought about FDR and the fictional president that I was writing for Martin Sheen [in The West Wing] to play, the more I realized that I for one don’t really care about a president`s health.

And when I thought about Jack Kennedy, who had more serious health problems than he ever let the press know about, I realized that health might have nothing to do with how long a presidency lasts.

JFK got a thousand days, and he was more than healthy enough to do the job of president on November 22nd, 1963 when the presidential limousine turned into Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

No one knew that was going to be the last day of the Kennedy presidency. And the truth of the matter is none of us know when our last day is coming.


The news media has struggled to identify the voting issue in Hillary Clinton`s health and finally it landed on transparency.

That`s the problem here. Hillary Clinton hasn`t been transparent enough. She hasn`t been honest enough with the press.

Compared to what? Compared to whom? We have known absolutely nothing about the health of most presidential candidates and most of our presidents.

Most of our presidents were elected before medicine was anything resembling a science. Doctors had no idea how healthy Abraham Lincoln was or wasn`t.

And in the 20th century, the press didn`t even get curious about the president`s health, until after President Kennedy.

And there has been – there has never been any law or rule about what candidates must disclose about their health, and so it`s been a haphazard process. Some reveal more than others and absolutely none of them reveal everything. None of them.


The founding fathers believed that what voters needed to know was who would take over for the president in case the president drank out of the wrong cup of water one day and fell over and died, because that`s how easy it was to die back then.

Hillary Clinton`s supporters want her to be president as long as she thinks she`s healthy enough to be president. And Donald Trump`s supporters want him to be president as long as he thinks he`s healthy enough to be president.

That`s why my fictional president Jeb Bartlett, that`s exactly what he thought his voters wanted. And ultimately, it fell to me in season six to finally write what the drama had been demanding for five years.

To hit the president with an attack of M.S. so severe that he could not hide it. It happened on Air Force 1 on the way to a summit in China.

He knew exactly what he was going to do, go out there and tell the voters what he thought they needed to know. No more and no less.

I considered apologizing for that extended excerpt but I won’t because O’Donnell nailed it. People take ill and recover every day of the week. Pneumonia is not an exotic, always fatal disease. As you can see at the top of the post, Richard Nixon was hospitalized during the 1960 campaign and nearly won the election. I guess his frenemy, Nelson Rockefeller, didn’t slip any plutocratic plutonium or ice-nine into Tricky’s water…

In more recent times, the Reagan White House minimized the President’s gun shot wounds in 1981. We now know that he nearly died. Then there’s the matter of when his Alzheimer’s came on. Would all the Reagan idolators have demanded he resign as President because he was deceptive about his health? I doubt it.

The example of FDR is legendary. He was a very ill man when he ran in 1944 but we were fighting a war and needed him. He gave his life for the country he loved. Should we condemn him for that and the fibs about his paralysis? He was a great President even though he was confined to a wheelchair.

Jack Kennedy is another good example. He had Addison’s Disease, which was serious but not life threatening. Kennedy was also the President who stood almost alone against advisers who wanted to go to war with the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis. That ill President prevented a nuclear exchange. Should we condemn him for his lack of candor about his health?

In the end, the most important thing a President brings to the Oval Office is their experience and judgment. General/President Eisenhower had both in spades: he also had a heart attack in 1955 and his people initially shaded the truth about it. The real problem with Donald Trump is not the farce he’s been playing out about his medical records, it’s the fact that he thinks we should risk war with Iran over gestures made by Iranian sailors at US ships. Now that’s sick.

2 thoughts on “The Fog Of History: Health Care, Health Scare

  1. I give Hillary a helluva lot of respect for how she’s continued on despite her pneumonia. And of course, it is no joke–I was hit by a very nasty case back in 2015 and ended up in the hospital for nearly two weeks.

    The horrid fact is that Trump is keeping his medical records (like his taxes) under wraps–and the f**ktards in the media aren’t saying jack about it, but replaying Hillary collapsing over and over again.

    F**k the media. Sixteen years after they climbed into bed with Bush, it’s clear that they haven’t learned a goddamned lesson.

    1. And they don’t have the “he’s Poppy Bush’s son how bad can he be?” excuse this time. They should know how bad Trump is.

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