September 13, 2016

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Last night on the  PBS News Hour, Gwen Ifill spoke with Tamara Keith of NPR and Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, about Hillary Clinton's pneumonia, the "basket of deplorables" comment Clinton made at a fundraiser, and about two related Trump scandals: his $25,000 bribe of the Florida Attorney General to encourage her to not join an action against Trump University, and about his propensity to donate other people's money and take credit for it.

Discussion on the health issue were standard issue -- why didn't she come clean last week when she was diagnosed, why won't she tell us everything under the sun that we need to do, and, oh yeah, there was that little mention of Donald Trump and Clinton's health.  Here's Tamara Keith (emphasis added):
There was already a lot circulating about her health that was completely unsubstantiated, a lot of rumors, conspiracy theories, and Donald Trump talking about her stamina. So this was floating in the ether, when yesterday at the 9/11 commemoration she faltered as she  was leaving...
Note the emphasis: completely unsubstantiated, rumors, conspiracy theories and Donald Trump, who merely had to raise the question in a speech for it to become an issue, that he wondered whether Clinton had the stamina to be president. As if she herself would be charging into battle to fight the issues facing our country. Trump drove the point home in mid-August, at his 'major foreign policy address' when he read this off the teleprompter:
Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face, not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn our great country around. 
So now it's September, and she's had some allergy-related coughs, laughingly telling people she was allergic to Donald Trump.  And then the 9/11 commemoration happened, and all media hell broke loose. For several hours, the press knew not where Clinton was, why she had left the remembrance ceremony, or what was wrong.  Later, (again, NPR's Tamara Keith):
It was the end of the day (after 5:30 PM) when the doctor, her doctor, released a statement saying she was overheated, dehydrated, and oh, by the way, on Friday, three days earlier, was diagnosed with pneumonia and they hadn't told anyone about that before. 
Gwen Ifill tries to get some discussion going on what we, and by "we" I mean the media and the talking heads, are really concerned about.
Ifill: Well, that's the point Susan. Was this really about -  is our concern really about her health or is it about the fact of the failure to disclose in a timely fashion?
Page: I think both things are issues. I think she will now need to come out and show that she's healthy and vigorous and has stamina.  She has -- the fact that she was diagnosed with pneumonia, and we didn't know about it, and had this incident caught on a video has legitimized some of the critiques that Trump and Rudy Giuliani in particular have been making that she's -- that there's some question about her health.  
Ifill: Donald Trump, who has not released his...
 Page: His own health records.. That's right.
Ifill: OK, just to make that point.
Page: Yes, absolutely.  But I think her failure to disclose it is also an issue. And it goes to a different vulnerability she has, which is, is she straightforward with the Americans whose votes she wants to get?
Ifill:  And they say there is a higher standard for the woman candidate. That's what the Clinton people say.
Keith: Yes. They do. They do say that. And they say they are going to meet that higher standard.... But there was a tweet today from David Axelrod, the adviser to President Obama back when he was running for President, that really sums up what Susan is talking about. He says "Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What's the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?"
A bug planted about Clinton's stamina, which Trump had been pushing since June, similar to his 'low energy' attack on Jeb! Bush. A higher standard for the female candidate, which the reporters talk about as if it doesn't exist. Completely unsubstantiated rumors and conspiracy theories, promoted by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, being 'legitimized' because Hillary Clinton didn't tell anyone that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia.

The bottom line is that there surely is a higher standard for the woman candidate - and that's magnified because it's Hillary Clinton. She must be smart but not too smart. Kind but not too kind or she'll appear fake. Empathetic, but not too empathetic or she'll be seen as using people to get votes. She must be personable, and bake cookies. She must be energetic and fiery but not sound harsh and or shrill or show emotion. She must be strong, but she can't be too strong.

She must never make a misstep, whether that's an actual misstep, or a fashion faux pas or a verbal scuff in a speech or, heaven forbid, have to pee - because those make the woman look unpresidential.

I agree with Axelrod that Clinton and/or her team of advisers repeatedly create unnecessary problems - I think that's been proven any number of times. But on this issue, she had two choices: tell, take time off, and be seen as weak, knowing that the media will mention over and over and over that "Trump said" she's not healthy enough to serve. Or, don't tell, and get through it as best you can, as long as nothing goes wrong. And know that something will go wrong.

Between a rock and a hard place, that's where she was. 

What would you have recommended she do about the pneumonia diagnosis? What would you have done in her shoes?