The healthy route for Hillary Clinton: Release your medical records
So Karl Rove has cast doubt on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s health. He may have been off when he claimed that the presumed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate spent 30 days in the hospital — she was only kept in for three — but he has clearly drawn political blood.
The Clintons went into full defense mode. Though every presidential candidate in modern times has provided a full account of their health, and if Hillary Clinton decides to run, she too will have to hand over her full medical file — including an explanation of the blood clot between her skull and her brain caused by a fall, a full account of why she fell, what treatment she received, how well she recovered and whether there are any lasting effects. It’s par for the course.
The Clintons being Clintons, however, are keeping mum about the substance of Rove’s accusation. As if it were somehow bad manners to raise health as an issue. Health is, should and will be an issue, just as the health of whoever emerges as the champion from the GOP presidential primaries will be pounced on, prodded and pored over.
Clinton’s age will also be an issue in the 2016 election, just as it was for Ronald Reagan — who was 69 years old when elected, compared to her 68, if she runs — and for Senator Bob Dole — who was 73 years old when he made his last White House bid in 1996.
Clinton’s strength in her party is such that until she makes up her mind whether she will run, no other Democrat can raise a cent to explore a campaign of their own. That is why, a full two and a half years away from November 2016, we are in the midst of a phony election.
There may be a number of good reasons that Rove and his fellow GOP strategists are gunning for Clinton this early. Perhaps they consider her such a strong candidate that they are trying to damage her below the waterline — even before she makes her decision about whether to run. Perhaps they feel her popularity in the country is so high — the latest polls show she would trounce anyone the Republicans can put up against her — it is going to take more than two years of sniping to defeat her.
But how should Clinton respond to questions about her health and other pertinent — and impertinent — topics? In this last month alone, she has been accused, when secretary of state, of not designating Boko Haram, the wicked kidnappers of 270 Nigerian girls, a terrorist group fast enough. She also had to dodge the fallout from the reentry into public view of her husband’s Oval Office squeeze, Monica Lewinsky, who reheated the sex scandal for Vanity Fair. In response to both of these drive-bys, she has remained above the fray, leaving surrogates, including her husband, to make her case.
Among the other issues Hillary Clinton must eventually face are decisions she made when first lady. She will be quizzed about her failed universal health care initiative, which has new relevance now that we have Obamacare; her involvement with the Whitewater real estate development; her part in the White House travel office firings; and her friendship with Vince Foster, the White House counsel who committed suicide in odd circumstances.
Above all, she will be scrutinized over her behavior during the Lewinsky affair. Should she have stood by her man, or should she have thrown President Bill Clinton out?
Then there is her time as secretary of state. Did she really do everything she should have done and could have done to minimize the danger to U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens and the three other Americans who died during a terrorist assault on a U.S. mission in Benghazi?
Republicans think they are onto a winner with Benghazi, and the polls agree, which is why, despite the lack of anything really new, they are pressing ahead with another congressional inquiry. Prepare to be bored — because it is going to be all Benghazi, all the time.
Rove may be onto something. It is not just the baggage Clinton carries around with her; it is the Clintons’ apparent gift for stonewalling that gives the impression they are hiding something.
This may be miserably unfair. There may well be nothing to hide. But the public perception is that the Clintons tend to get into the bunker and batten down the hatches whenever they are under scrutiny. Even when they are innocent.
That plays into a further problem with Clinton’s presidential run. There is a general sense that the Clintons make life more difficult for themselves because they are so brilliant at handling the messy side of politics.
When Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter was reported to be linked in a business deal to the ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian president, an old journalistic hand said to me, “It’s the Clintons.” Asked what he meant, he said, “The Clintons leaked it. It is just like them.”
I don’t believe for a minute the Clintons did any such thing. But the fact that it was plausible, that it was the sort of thing the Clintons do, is bad for them.
The thought of returning to a time when the Clintons lived in the White House, with all that that entails in terms of washing dirty linen in public, is troubling even to many Democrats.
We have not only seen this movie, we have lived through it. And believe me, it is not worth seeing twice.
So what is Clinton to do? In brief, she should come clean, starting with the blood clot. Issue the full medical records right now. Does that inhibit her from deciding whether to run for the presidency? Not at all. If she has a clean bill of health, it will show Rove as being a little too eager to find a dirty little secret. If her health remains an issue, she needs to get it out sooner rather than later.
If there are questions about what is kept under lock and key in the Clinton Library, release everything right now. If there are questions about how much she and her husband have earned over the years, open the books.
Don’t wait for a week or a month or call in the lawyers: publish and be damned.
If the latest Benghazi investigating committee asks her to appear before them, she should jump at the chance. As she showed during the Senate hearing when Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and other amateurs took potshots at her, she is more than capable of looking after herself.
Benghazi? Bring it on.
Nicholas Wapshott is the author of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage, and Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics. Read extracts here.
PHOTO (TOP): Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to members of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries during their annual convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
PHOTO (INSERT 1): Republican political consultant Karl Rove during the fifth annual Washington Ideas Forum at the Newseum in Washington, November 14, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
PHOTO (INSERT 2): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and her husband, former President Bill Clinton talk at a dinner in honor of Presidential Medal of Freedom awardees at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst