Hillary Clinton has seen better weekends. Friday there was the “basket of deplorables” remark at the LGBT/Barbra Streisand fundraiser in NYC (can’t get more liberal elite than that), and then it was her whatever-it-was getting into the van yesterday. A couple of friends e-mailed me separately to say how freaky and/or amusing it is to watch liberals on TV and on social media deny that what anybody can plainly see happened, happened. That is, we all saw that Hillary Clinton had a strange, scary health episode in which she could not stand, and went stiff before collapsing forward into her van. It went from “no big deal” to “you are sexist for saying it’s a big deal” to “she’s got pneumonia, let’s move on.”
That woman might have pneumonia, but there is something much more serious wrong with her. Who ya gonna believe, spinning liberals, or your lyin’ eyes?
David P. Goldman, in a column addressing her obnoxious “deplorables” comment, writes:
Americans are by and large forgiving people. They’ll forgive Bill for cavorting with Monica “I did not have sex with that woman” Lewinsky in the Oval Office and imposing himself on any number of unwilling females. They might even forgive Hillary for losing tens of thousands of compromising emails on an illegal private server and then repeatedly lying about it in a way that insults the deplorable intelligence of the average voter. But the one thing you can’t do is spit on them and tell them it’s raining. They’ll never forgive you for that. They’re hurting, and they rankle at candidates who rub their faces in it.
Mitt Romney’s campaign was unsalvageable after the famous 2012 “47% remark,” by which he simply meant that the 47% of American workers whose income falls below the threshold for federal taxes would be indifferent to his tax cut proposals. The trouble is that these workers pay a great deal of taxes–to Social Security, Medicare, and in most cases to local governments through sales taxes and assessments. After a covert video of his remarks at a private fundraiser made the rounds, Romney spent the rest of the campaign with the equivalent of an advertising blimp over his head emblazoned with the words: “I represent the economic elite.” Clinton has done the same thing with the cultural elite.
There are racists and homophobes in the Trump camp, to be sure. Everybody’s got to be somewhere. Trump is no Puritan, however, and really couldn’t care less what sort of sex people have, or who uses what bathroom (as he made clear), or who marries whom. He built a new country club in Palm Beach two decades ago because the old ones excluded blacks and Jews. He’s no racist. He’s an obnoxious, vulgar, salesman who plays politics like a reality show. I’ve made clear that I will vote for him, not because he was my choice in the Republican field (that was Sen. Cruz), but because I believe that rule of law is a precondition for a free society. If the Clintons get a free pass for influence-peddling on the multi-hundred-million-dollar scale and for covering up illegal use of private communications for government documents, the rule of law is a joke in the United States. Even if Trump were a worse president than Clinton–which is probably not the case–I would vote for him, on this ground alone.
She really has done that with the cultural elite. The media should question her closely about what, exactly, qualifies someone for membership in her litany of Deplorables (racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, etc.). Where does she draw the line between decent people who hold opinions she considers wrong on issues related to these groups, and bigots? The truth, I believe, is that there is no line for her, as there is no line for many on the cultural left. The trend in leftist cultural politics is to demonize and no-platform anyone on the cultural right. You will have noticed in Hillary’s remarks, the Trump supporters she gave a pass to are those who don’t share his cultural views, but those who plan to vote for him because they are economically depressed. Me, I have been appalled by some of the things Donald Trump has said about members of these groups Hillary has singled out (e.g., I thought his attack on Khizr Khan was offensive), and heaven knows there are some genuinely nasty people in Trump’s camp. But I am certain that Hillary Clinton cannot distinguish between ordinary cultural conservatives and raging bigots.
Those “basket of deplorables” remarks struck a resonant chord within social and cultural conservatives, precisely because it confirms the evidence we have been seeing with our own eyes for a long time: that liberal elites see no enemies to the cultural left, and nothing but enemies to the cultural right. If Hillary is elected president, she will use the powers of the state to go after us and our institutions hammer and tongs.
Her fainting on Sunday also strikes a resonant chord, for reasons David Goldman cites in his first paragraph. The Clintons lie. That’s what they do. Their pattern is:
1. It didn’t happen.
2. OK, it happened, but it wasn’t a big deal, and we’ve got to get back to work doing the business of the American people.
3. Only haters say it’s a big deal.
We saw the same pattern emerge from the Clinton camp over the course of Sunday afternoon, regarding Hillary’s serious health episode. Presumably we are now not supposed to be concerned about whether or not she is leveling with the American people about her health situation because if you start asking those questions, Trump will win. Therefore, we must not ask those questions, and demonize anyone who does. You see the same thing in institutions with serious wrongdoing to hide, for example:
1. Priests did not molest those children.
2. OK, priests did molest those children, but it was only a few, and it shouldn’t distract from all the good work of the Church going on right now.
3. Only anti-Catholic bigots say it’s a big deal.
Apply this pattern to any similar situation involving a public figure or an institution, and you’ll see the same thing.
Regarding Hillary, it’s worth revisiting the late Christopher Hitchens’s 2008 case against Hillary, in her contest with Barack Obama. Excerpt:
Seeing the name Hillary in a headline last week—a headline about a life that had involved real achievement—I felt a mouse stirring in the attic of my memory. Eventually, I was able to recall how the two Hillarys had once been mentionable in the same breath. On a first-lady goodwill tour of Asia in April 1995—the kind of banal trip that she now claims as part of her foreign-policy “experience”—Mrs. Clinton had been in Nepal and been briefly introduced to the late Sir Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Mount Everest. Ever ready to milk the moment, she announced that her mother had actually named her for this famous and intrepid explorer. The claim “worked” well enough to be repeated at other stops and even showed up in Bill Clinton’s memoirs almost a decade later, as one more instance of the gutsy tradition that undergirds the junior senator from New York.
Sen. Clinton was born in 1947, and Sir Edmund Hillary and his partner Tenzing Norgay did not ascend Mount Everest until 1953, so the story was self-evidently untrue and eventually yielded to fact-checking. Indeed, a spokeswoman for Sen. Clinton named Jennifer Hanley phrased it like this in a statement in October 2006, conceding that the tale was untrue but nonetheless charming: “It was a sweet family story her mother shared to inspire greatness in her daughter, to great results I might add.”
Perfect. It worked, in other words, having been coined long after Sir Edmund became a bankable celebrity, but now its usefulness is exhausted and its untruth can safely be blamed on Mummy. Yet isn’t it all—all of it, every single episode and detail of the Clinton saga—exactly like that? And isn’t some of it a little bit more serious? For Sen. Clinton, something is true if it validates the myth of her striving and her “greatness” (her overweening ambition in other words) and only ceases to be true when it no longer serves that limitless purpose. And we are all supposed to applaud the skill and the bare-faced bravado with which this is done. In the New Hampshire primary in 1992, she knowingly lied about her husband’s uncontainable sex life and put him eternally in her debt. This is now thought of, and referred to in print, purely as a smart move on her part. In the Iowa caucuses of 2008, he returns the favor by telling a huge lie about his own record on the war in Iraq, falsely asserting that he was opposed to the intervention from the very start. This is thought of, and referred to in print, as purely a tactical mistake on his part: trying too hard to help the spouse. The happy couple has now united on an equally mendacious account of what they thought about Iraq and when they thought it. What would it take to break this cheap little spell and make us wake up and inquire what on earth we are doing when we make the Clinton family drama—yet again—a central part of our own politics?
What do you have to forget or overlook in order to desire that this dysfunctional clan once more occupies the White House and is again in a position to rent the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors and to employ the Oval Office as a massage parlor? You have to be able to forget, first, what happened to those who complained, or who told the truth, last time.
At some point, probably very soon, we are going to find out that Mrs. Clinton is much sicker than she has disclosed, and that she has known this for quite some time. We might get it from the Clinton camp, but we will probably get it from a Wikileaks document dump, the one Julian Assange claims is coming this fall. The stolen trove of State Department documents Wikileaks released earlier this year had within them a particular memo that Jake Sullivan, one of Hillary’s top advisers, sent to her as Secretary of State. It was only noted in late August by a few right-wing websites, most of them fringe-y, at the time, but it’s worth revisiting in light of Sunday’s events.
The State Department document (see the whole thing here) reports the results Clinton adviser Jacob Sullivan found from his research on the drug Provigil, a controlled drug used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s. Basically, it keeps you awake without being addictive.
Why would Mrs. Clinton have Jake Sullivan, her deputy chief of staff and a top foreign policy expert, research this drug? It is certainly possible that the Secretary of State was exhausted from her busy schedule, and needed a little help, especially when flying back and forth on overseas trips. But it is reasonable to ask if a Secretary of State who was so tired she needed a drug to keep going has the stamina to be president under any circumstances. More important, it is reasonable to ask, in light of Sunday’s health scare, if there is something more serious wrong with her. Does she have Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or some other condition like it?
No matter what the Clinton spin machine says, these questions won’t go away. And when they are finally answered, I believe we are going to be confronted by the same old thing about the Clintons: the lies. Damon Linker says the campaign’s lies about Hillary’s health are a serious self-inflicted wound. He says that if you take the current Clinton campaign narrative about her health — that she was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday, but continued on with her campaign schedule — that still makes the campaign deceptive:
So the campaign chose to lie. The potential reward was considerable: namely, an absence of politically damaging news stories about Clinton’s medical condition. But the risk was enormous — and it’s blown up in their faces. Because now the story isn’t just that Clinton is ill. It’s that, once again, she’s untrustworthy — and this time about her own health.
That’s why the announcement that she has pneumonia will only fuel more speculation about Clinton’s physical condition, with potentially no end in sight. The world saw her collapse, and 90 minutes later, the candidate looked America in the eye and proclaimed that she was feeling great. Except now we know that she wasn’t.
What if she doesn’t recover quickly?
If she appears weak and frail for more than a few days? Then, yes, she’ll face perfectly reasonable questions about whether she’s physically up to serving as president. But worse, she’ll confront lingering doubts about what, precisely, is ailing her. “It’s pneumonia,” the campaign will proclaim over and over again. To which a skeptical America will justifiably reply, “Yes, we can tell that you’d like us to think so. But we have no reason to trust that’s true.”
Political trust is a fragile thing. Once it’s gone, it’s exceedingly difficult to get back — and without it, there’s no basis on which to dismiss conspiracy theories that even normally level-headed observers will begin, for perfectly understandable reasons, to entertain.
Until this weekend, I thought Clinton health rumors were just right-wing conspiracy mongering. That confidence collapsed when Mrs. Clinton did, on the streets of New York. The story now has two narrative lines: 1) How sick is Hillary, really?, and 2) Why did she lie about it?
The Clintons lie to protect their power. Clinton partisans will tell themselves, and the rest of America, that whatever happened on Sunday, and whatever series of tales the Clinton campaign has been telling to manage the story, we have to push it all aside to keep Donald Trump from winning. Feminists did the same thing back in the 1990s with Bill Clinton’s abusive, exploitive relationships with women. But not everybody who dislikes Trump hates him so much that they are willing to overlook Clinton’s lies, especially if they are not about things that happened in the past, as with her husband’s lies in the 1990s, but about things that weigh on her ability to perform as president.
Plus, Bill Clinton had a lot of charisma with which he shielded himself. Hillary has none. People may admire her, but they do not love her. That matters.
Hillary’s lies about her health and her “deplorables” remarks do not make Trump a better person, or a better candidate. But they do make him a slightly more plausible one with some voters than he was going into the weekend. When an election is as close as this one, that kind of thing matters.
And, given the horrible-and-growing-more-by-the-day choice facing voters this fall, there’s this coulda, woulda, shoulda, in light of the elderly Democratic nominee collapsing on the street:
Imagine a 44 year-old GOP candidate today
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) September 12, 2016