The ship was going down no matter what decision was made.
We’ve now had roughly 24 hours to process the news frenzy that surrounded Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s early departure from the 9/11 memorial in New York City, video of her nearly collapsing and the statement that Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia two days prior. And the thing that most stands out to me is I cannot think of any scenario where the mainstream media, pundits and her political opponents wouldn’t have lambasted Hillary. Not. A. One.
Now, if you listen to the talking heads today, you’ll get a lot of clucking about the lack of transparency from Clinton’s team and the secretive nature that allowed them to try to keep Hillary’s recent diagnosis a secret. It fed into the greater narrative that Clinton cannot be trusted, she is contemptuous of the free press and that if she’s willing to deceive the media on her health, what else will she do if in office? In the end, they wonder, why not just be forthright and honest over the pneumonia right away?
To this, I’d say, “You’re kidding, right?” Let’s just go with the MSM’s scenario that Clinton’s team immediately releases a press statement on Friday advising that Clinton’s doctor has diagnosed her with pneumonia and recommended she rest for a few days. She doesn’t attend Sunday’s memorial paying tribute to the victims of 9/11, noting that she is under the weather and unable to make it. Case closed, right?
WRONG. This would be an even bigger story than it currently is in this situation. Coming off of months of Donald Trump publicly questioning her “stamina,” and right-wing media pushing conspiracy theories straight out of the page of the National Enquirer, there was NO WAY this wouldn’t have been front page news. We would have been inundated with Republicans claiming Clinton is both unpatriotic and on her death bed, all while Trump grinned like a Cheshire cat.
Meanwhile, cable news would have run endless panels throughout the day Sunday and Monday regarding the validity of the health rumors. Trump surrogates, Alt-Righters and conservative talk radio hosts would have filled up the rest of the time gloating during interview segments that they were right ALL ALONG. It would have been, well, pretty much like today…except on steroids. And Trump likely wouldn’t have taken the tactic of just wishing Clinton a speedy recovery in the hopes of not overplaying his hand.
Now, let’s take the other scenario that the media would have liked to see. Clinton’s campaign releases a statement over the weekend saying Hillary is not feeling well but she will try to attend the ceremony. She goes but has to leave early due to being overheated and dehydrated. Would it have just been left there, with no one reporting on it? No. It would have been treated just like today regarding the health rumors, except without the press navel-gazing about its role in being left out of the loop. (See, press pool reporters were super-pissed about being in the dark for 90 minutes Sunday.)
While the mainstream press may not have hammered away at Clinton like they have these past 24 hours, feeling like they were informed ahead of time, the Conservative Entertainment Complex and the Trump team would have been firing on all cylinders, pulling the rest of the media along with them. It would have been a feeding frenzy, just a slightly different version. But the narrative would have been centered on #HillarysHealth.
So, we get what happened yesterday, which was the gamble Clinton’s team attempted. They figured they’d keep the pneumonia diagnosis mum, keep a busy weekend schedule and push through the 9/11 ceremony. With no campaign events scheduled the rest of the day, Hillary just needed to get through the morning and she could rest the remainder of the day before flying out to California.
Now, of course, this does validate the media’s complaint that Hillary Clinton is secretive and unwilling to be forthcoming with the press, and thus, the American public. However, considering the current environment she had found herself in, what choice did she have?
Throughout much of the month of August, she reduced her campaigning to focus on fundraisers and debate prep. Normally, this would just be a standard approach a campaign takes with its schedule. Following a successful convention and a big bump in the polls, why not use a couple of weeks to fill the campaign coffers and study up for the next big milestone — the first debate. Again, a perfectly acceptable and normal strategy — if this were a normal year.
Instead, Trump’s camp and the tin-foil hat crew residing in conservative media began pushing rumors that Clinton was taking time off of the road because she was deathly ill. We heard that Clinton had a rare brain disorder from Trump’s spokesperson, Sean Hannity devoted entire broadcasts to diagnosing her and claiming she was suffering from seizures and Rudy Giuliani used his interviews to keep conspiracies flowing. All the while, Trump winked at his supporters, constantly bringing up her “strength and stamina” at rallies.
This, of course, began leaking into the mainstream. How could it not? So, even though it’s perfectly understandable to get sick now and then in the course of a neverending election season, Clinton’s pneumonia couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was going to feed directly into the narrative that had been built up.
Clinton was presented with a Kobayashi Maru this weekend. Like in Star Trek, it wasn’t about winning, it was about making the best decision possible when given a no-win scenario. Was going with a gamble that you might be able to tough it out for a couple of hours while keeping the press and public in the dark about a doctor’s diagnosis the best choice? Perhaps, seeing it from her angle.