You have no idea when it arrives, but that moment in a presidential campaign surely arrives when a side sadly feels the end has come even before the first vote has been cast. The heart becomes heavy-laden with premature grief as its rate lurches into overdrive. The mood, increasingly despondent and almost beyond the capability of Zoloft to leaven with sweetness, takes immediate control. Next come suppressed murmurs of discontent and blame. Panic soon sets in, and on its heels a tumult of outcry for immediate course correction that includes even the most outlandish of suggestions.
For John McCain’s supporters in 2008, that moment arrived with the economic crash of that year, less than two months before Election Day. In 2012, President Barack Obama’s supporters suffered a panic attack after his near-lethargic debate performance against Mitt Romney. And this year, less than two months to election, that moment came for Hillary Clinton backers last Sunday when the public was treated to a television footage of the candidate staggering from a pneumonia-induced dehydration as she approached a waiting van. Happening against the backdrop of ongoing Republican conspiracy theories about her health, the visuals looked truly bad for the Clinton campaign.
As you would expect, Republicans are in celebratory mood, a feeling of schadenfreude over Clinton’s temporary ill-health. Donald Trump, her Republican opponent, personally gloats it more than anyone on his side. In Trump’s thinking, Clinton has handed him a weapon to be used to disqualify her from the election. For months, she has sought to nullify his candidacy by the use of the potently effective phrase “Temperamentally unfit.” Trump probably now thinks he’s got a neutralizing countercharge: “Physically unfit.”
In a super-charged election season such as this, all that isn’t strange. What is strange is when Democrats, either out of panic mode, or sheer dislike of Clinton, now begin to pile on her that she is sickeningly secretive because she didn’t tell the media that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia less than 48 hours before. David Axelrod, the man who helped elect Obama twice, I’m sure, listened to his former candidate in Philadelphia say nothing but glowing things about Clinton. Obama spoke from the heart about the woman who once served him as secretary of state, and I’m sure a lot of folks who listened must have been moved close to tears. Yet, the same Axelrod has refused to stop being a thorn in Clinton’s side.
During the primaries, Axelrod seemed like someone attempting to put his thumb on the scale for Clinton’s opponent by making unhelpful assessments of her efforts and tweeting damning comments about her. Axelrod’s behavior infuriated Bill Clinton and many mainstream Democrats. Then he tamped it down when they voiced their displeasure at his behavior. But you could still tell from his thinly veiled comments that he wasn’t at all on the side of his former boss’ secretary of state. Yesterday, Axelrod ripped off his mask when he came devastatingly at the current Democratic nominee in a tweet. “Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?” Axelrod said.
While Clinton has been widely panned, and sometimes fairly, for being secretive, such a harsh comment by Axelrod — a man who no doubt wants Obama’s legacy preserved — is totally unhelpful to the victory chances of the candidate seeking to do just that, in addition to her own good plans for America. Not surprisingly, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, seized on Axelrod’s remark and used it against Clinton.
Two things need to be quickly said at this time. First, Clinton has a right to be just as secretive as everyone else, including Trump who is hyper-secretive about his own medical records and income tax returns, none of which the media seems even interested in. Two, if the media insists it wants to continue grading Trump on a curve while subjecting Clinton to a different set of rules, it loses its moral right to demand she produce all her medical records to the littlest detail. “Given what Hillary has gone through at the hands of the press, I wouldn’t tell them anything either,” Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, said on MSNBC last night in support of Clinton.
I spoke to two reputable medical experts yesterday, Dr. Phillip Atigre and Dr. Babatola Durojaiye, both of Kindred Hospital, Tampa. Would Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis adversely affect her campaign for the White House? Not a chance, they said, dismissing the case immediately. They said the disease is a common condition among people 65 years old and above which a regimen of antibiotics with adequate rest can correct shortly. “The prognosis is always great once you’ve met all the requirements. It’ll be pointless for her opponents to make an issue of it. Soon, she’ll be back on the campaign trail, I’m sure,” Atigre told me.
The Clinton campaign announced this afternoon she’d be back on the stump Thursday. Instead of hitting the panic button, why don’t Democrats start attacking the media by asking it to do its job fairly? Instead of asking for a replacement of their current nominee as some Democrats are reportedly suggesting, why don’t they show the kind of support Obama showed for her today in Philadelphia? Folks, when next you see Axelrod, please, tell him to just chill out.