by John Kass | September 15, 2016 12:03 am
What has damaged Hillary Clinton — besides her basket of deplorable lies — is that video showing her being helped into a van.
You’ve seen it: Her knees buckling, her ankle turning, a frail Mrs. Clinton all but collapsing. She would have fallen to the ground if she hadn’t been caught by her security detail. And if the episode hadn’t been recorded on video, her campaign would have most likely lied about her health too.
But it was captured on video, forcing her campaign to break its odd silence and offer a diagnosis: pneumonia.
As we all hope for her quick recovery, as Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans freak out, floating contingency-plan scenarios, I’ve got a question:
If Hillary Clinton was elected president only to later become incapacitated for health reasons, who would run the government during her recovery?
Bill Clinton, her First Laddie.
That’s not conspiracy talk, that’s American history. Presidents sometimes become ill. And though it’s not written into law, a willing and determined presidential spouse can and has had great impact during a health crisis.
Consider Edith Wilson, the wife of the liberal Democratic icon (and stone-cold racist) President Woodrow Wilson.
She was de facto president when Wilson became ill. Some historians say he had a stroke. Others say it was really a bout of Spanish flu in the pandemic that killed millions.
Either way, President Wilson was unable to function. And so, from the shadows of the Wilson White House, his wife quietly ran things.
You could make the argument that Edith Wilson was the first female chief executive of the United States. It wasn’t advertised, but it was known to the political class, to the Wilson Cabinet, to anyone who needed an answer from the president.
Edith Wilson was the boss.
And so it would be with Bill, even more so, because Edith Wilson was not a former president.
Bill, with his vast experience, Bill with his natural political cunning, Bill with the political magic that Hillary doesn’t have, Bill with the deft touch to make even his enemies smile.
Or course it would be Bill, who survived impeachment, scandals and intrigue and sleaze in his eight years in the White House.
It wouldn’t be Tim Kaine, her vice presidential pick and former Democratic governor of Virginia. Kaine is a Clinton family retainer and loyal to the Clinton Restoration. If Mrs. Clinton had to take a health leave, there would be only one boss.
Bill the Boss.
Because that’s how dynasties work. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how it would happen, Bill boxing the others out, coalescing power, interpreting the presidential directives with Hillary in a sick bed.
It wouldn’t be unnatural in the least. What would be unnatural is if he didn’t do it.
Now before you waste all your tinfoil at home making a size 3X tinfoil hat with my name on it, remember the Wilson White House. And remember Hillary Clinton’s credibility problem.
This is a problem of Clinton’s own making. Two-thirds of the American people, even those who say they’ll vote for her, say they can’t trust what she says.
The Clinton campaign’s immediate, odd silence about her near collapse Sunday, and the painfully late release of the pneumonia diagnosis, only feeds the perception. And now when there are serious questions about her health, and she answers them, many Americans think she’s holding something back.
Mrs. Clinton and her campaign brought this on themselves. She simply can’t tell the truth.
Republican Donald Trump isn’t a truth teller either. He insists he’ll release his tax returns, but not right now because he says he’s waiting for the completion of a “routine audit,” whatever the heck that means.
But Clinton has been honing her reputation as Pinocchio in a pantsuit for 30 years or more.
It dates to her earliest time of miracles, when she made a small fortune on a cattle futures investment. You could fill a book with her falsehoods.
And later, there was that whopper about how she had to run from sniper fire in Bosnia (there was no sniper fire), and all the recent, documented falsehoods about her private email server, including when she wondered, aloud, mockingly, if she could have wiped the server clean. “What? Like with a cloth or something?” she asked, then laughed.
The Clinton campaign encouraged pro-Hillary pundits to mock as fools anyone who dared question her health. But the question is out in the open now, and many of the water boys and girls have gone silent.
And because of her credibility problems, when she says she’s merely suffering from a bout of pneumonia, reasonable people are left to wonder: What if it’s worse than that?
Human beings become ill. Human beings either recover or they don’t.
So when she became faint over the weekend, the Clinton campaign could have told the truth, instead of insisting it was just “heat exhaustion.” But it didn’t. It went dark. Until that video came out.
“Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia,” tweeted President Barack Obama’s former political consultant, Democrat David Axelrod. “What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”
Sadly, Axelrod knows there is no cure for Clinton’s credibility problem. If there were, a committee of panicked Democrats would carry it to her sickbed and force her to take it.
There are no magic pills or potions, no bitter unguents to apply to the tongue and to compel it to speak the truth.
But at least there’s Bill, always waiting.
(John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His e-mail address is [email protected], and his Twitter handle is @john_kass.)
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