The story surrounding Hillary Clinton’s “walking pneumonia” effectively has two components. The first, as we discussed this morning, is the dubious campaign “narrative,” created by Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories, about the Democratic candidate allegedly having a secret health problem. Those theories have effectively been discredited – again.
In fact, there’s a fair case to be made that the latest revelations actually bolster beliefs that Clinton is one tough individual: despite a pneumonia diagnosis on Friday, the former Secretary of State plowed forward, working through the ailment, and even attending a 9/11 commemoration event for over an hour. She’s on antibiotics; she’s feeling better; and she’ll be back on the campaign trail in a few days.
By some measures, these details don’t raise new questions about Clinton’s “stamina” or toughness, so much as they answer those questions quite clearly.
But then there’s the second angle, which has nothing to do with an easily treatable illness and everything to do with transparency.
David Axelrod on Monday ripped Hillary Clinton for an “unhealthy penchant for privacy” after the former secretary of state did not disclose a pneumonia diagnosis before she stumbled at a public event over the weekend.Axelrod, the former chief strategist for President Obama’s campaigns, tweeted: “Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”
Soon after, Jennifer Palmieri, a Clinton spokesperson, responded to Axelrod, conceding the campaign “could have done better.” Palmieri added, however, that it’s nevertheless a fact that the public knows more about Clinton “than any nominee in history.”
The criticisms of the campaign’s handling of this matter have merit. Clinton and her team learned of the pneumonia diagnosis on Friday, and rather than sharing that information, they kept it under wraps. Had the Democratic candidate not been seen struggling in New York yesterday, it’s hard to say when, if ever, the campaign would have disclosed the infection.
But there’s still a context to this obvious misstep that matters in the context of the election.
Palmieri’s point, for example, is perfectly defensible: for all the chatter about Clinton’s penchant for secrecy, Americans really do know more about Clinton “than any nominee in history.”
And then there’s her rival. NBC News’ First Read team noted this morning:
While we are deservedly critical of Clinton and her campaign here, it’s worth remembering that Donald Trump hasn’t been so transparent, either. In fact, he’s the least transparent presidential nominee in modern times. Unlike every other modern-era nominee, he hasn’t disclosed his tax returns. His own letter from his doctor – remember him? – was more than lacking. And Trump’s campaign has gone of its way to skirt any kind of protective pool of the press.So as we demand important transparency from the Clinton campaign, we should demand just as much transparency from Team Trump. Don’t forget: If he wins, Trump would the oldest first-term president in U.S. history.
Indeed, keep in mind that Clinton travels with pool reporters who cover her every move in public. Journalists were understandably peeved yesterday when Clinton and her team left yesterday morning’s event yesterday, leaving these reporters behind without explanation.
Trump, however, is so secretive, he’s the first presidential nominee in recent memory not to travel with any pool reporters at all.
What we’re left with is a story in which Clinton and her campaign made a mistake by hiding relevant details from the public – which Trump and his campaign can’t justifiably exploit because the Republican ticket is so much worse.