America now knows Hillary Clinton has pneumonia only because a man named Zdenek Gazda happened to have his cell phone camera out at the right time.
Gazda shot the now-famous video of a wobbly Hillary Clinton collapsing as she tried to make her way into a van outside a 9/11 remembrance ceremony on Sunday.
An ill Clinton left the service abruptly, leaving the journalists who cover her penned in at the event, unaware of her location or condition. Her campaign said nothing for 90 minutes, then issued a statement saying she merely felt “overheated” (on a relatively mild New York morning). Rumors and speculation filled the void for most of the day before the campaign finally revealed late Sunday that there was more to the story – she had been diagnosed with pneumonia more than two days earlier.
The incident damages Clinton more than it might have because it feeds two preexisting suspicions about her: That she is in poor health and that she is obsessed with secrecy. We’re more concerned about the second.
It is unsettling, to be sure, to see a potential president crumple toward the ground. Even so, it’s not a shock that a person going at Clinton’s pace could contract pneumonia, and antibiotics could clear it up relatively quickly. If that was indeed the cause of Sunday’s spell, it’s a far cry from the brain afflictions such as dysphasia that Donald Trump backers have “diagnosed” for Clinton.
Clinton, though, has another ailment: We’ll call it publicophobia, a condition that leads one to mislead the public, avoid press conferences for 250 days, work off of secret e-mail servers and prevent pool reporters from following her even as she runs for the highest office in the land. This is the more off-putting malady and it damages her credibility time and again.
Of course, Trump is not the model of transparency either. He has not released his tax returns or his medical records. Neither he nor Clinton allows a so-called “protective pool” of reporters to follow them at all times, as is customary for presidential nominees.
Candidates do not have to release their tax returns by law. But the public has come to expect it from people seeking the nation’s highest office. Clinton has done so, Trump has not. Similarly, the public should demand the candidates release detailed medical records.
Both candidates said Monday they plan to do so in coming days. That’s especially important now with so many questions swirling around Clinton. The candidates should also allow pool reporters to shadow them.
Trump would be the oldest president ever at the time of his first election. Clinton would be eight months younger than Ronald Reagan was in 1980.
Clinton’s Sunday fainting spell, or whatever it precisely was, will fuel Republican allegations that her health makes her unfit to serve as president. That’s a big leap if she merely has pneumonia. It’s her other syndrome that sparks the most concern, and requires aggressive treatment.