The Morning Jolt

Just What Did We See Sunday Morning?

The discussion of Hillary Clinton’s health became a lot more important Sunday morning.

Nearly instantaneously, Hillary’s fans on Twitter insisted the concerns about her incident at the 9/11 ceremony were overhyped. Watch the video for yourself.

I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. With that in mind, what struck me about the video is how stiff Hillary seemed. Does that happen with heat exhaustion or dehydration? While leaning against the post, she seems to lean a bit to one side. She clearly needs the help from the woman beside her, and when it comes time to help her into the van, Hillary is held by a woman on her left, the man on her right, and another woman behind her. And yet somehow, just the process of stepping off the curb seems to be too much for her, she suddenly sinks to the pavement. It’s like her legs don’t work or won’t bend; one of her feet drags along the ground as they’re helping her into the van. That’s how she lost the shoe.

Was the morning warm in New York City? Sure, upper 70s, low 80s, some humidity — warm but not the sort of weather one would expect to cause fainting.

She fell around 9:30 a.m.; it wasn’t until after 5 p.m. the campaign told the press that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia Friday.

I realize we’re supposed to say, “oh, it’s just pneumonia,” but let’s take a quick look at WebMD . . .

Older adults may have different, fewer, or milder symptoms. They may not have a fever. Or they may have a cough but not bring up mucus. The main sign of pneumonia in older adults may be a change in how well they think. Confusion or delirium is common. Or, if they already have a lung disease, that disease may get worse.

What was it that had her coughing for two minutes straight at the rally in Cleveland on Labor Day? Was the intense coughing a sign she’s had pneumonia for more than a week?

I’m pretty sure the New York Times’ Nick Confessore is being sarcastic when he writes, “It is definitely a helluva turn of bad luck to come down with pneumonia when a bunch of people are making up conspiracies about your health.”

Look, either her health is pretty good and she’s simply beset by the normal germs and exhaustion of a busy campaign schedule, or her health isn’t. She certainly seemed fine when she emerged from Chelsea’s apartment building a few hours later. In fact, the seemingly cheery demeanor doesn’t quite fit with what would we would expect if she had just had pneumonia so bad that she fainted. Wouldn’t you want her on bed rest? Perhaps even a hospital visit, run some tests as a precaution?

Everyone who’s paying attention to this is wondering the same thing. If Hillary Clinton had something more seriously wrong with her, a health issue that most voters would deem serious enough to make her incapable of handling the duties of the president, would she disclose it? Or would she and everyone around her close ranks and do their best to hide it?

Why Won’t Hillary Meet Bill’s Standard for Health Disclosures?

In 2015, Hillary Clinton’s campaign produced a two-page letter from her doctor, Lisa Bardack, declaring “she is in excellent physical condition” and suffers from “hypothyroidism, seasonal allergies and takes blood thinners as a precaution against clots.”

Let me take you back to October 15, 1992, when Bill Clinton’s campaign, after months of pressure, finally gave a detailed health history of the candidate. The history revealed a few embarrassing details here and there, but nothing indicating he couldn’t handle the physical pressures of the office:

Clinton’s medical history, as related in letters from four physicians in Little Rock, includes allergies, a left knee ligament strain in 1984, hemorrhoids that same year, and what was described as a “mild hearing loss.” A stress test a year ago showed no heart problems, according to Andrew G. Kumpuris, a cardiologist.

Though the reports did not mention the subject, Betsey Wright, a Clinton aide, said the candidate has no history of psychiatric or emotional illness.

Caffeine is partly responsible for producing gastric acid, similar to heartburn, which inflamed his larynx and harmed his vocal cords. He has been sleeping on a wedge to elevate his head during the night to prevent the gastric juices from rising and to keep his head less congested. His congestion is sometimes so severe, wrote Kelsy J. Caplinger of the Little Rock Allergy Clinic, that it sometimes prevents him from running because he can’t breathe.

“His hoarseness is related to a combination of nasal allergies, mild esophageal reflux (the gastric juices rising to the esophagus) and especially overuse of his voice,” wrote James Y. Suen, his otolaryngologist in Little Rock. “There has been no evidence of any tumors or malignancies.”

With a recommended low-fat diet and increase in exercise, Clinton also has lowered his cholesterol level to 184, down from 227 a year ago. Most doctors recommend that cholesterol levels stay below 200.

Clinton, who stands 6 feet 2 1/2 inches tall, weighed 226 pounds a year ago and bulked up to more than 240 during the high-stress primary season earlier this year. He is now down to 215.

Bill Clinton gave his doctors permission to discuss his health records with the media. Three of his four doctors agreed to interviews with the New York Times.

I’m sure Bill Clinton didn’t enjoy having his hemorrhoids and weight fluctuation discussed in the media, but it was one day of chuckling, and then it pretty much put the issue of his health to bed. It worked for him. Hillary Clinton’s campaign does not appear likely to give anything beyond the letter from Bardack.

Why is Hillary Clinton unwilling to meet the standard of disclosure that Bill Clinton set?

You may recall that one of Bill Clinton’s rivals in the primary that year was Senator Paul Tsongas. God rest his soul, but Tsongas and his doctors lied through their teeth:

When Tsongas ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination the 1992 presidential campaign, he made an issue of his survival from a form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But Tsongas and his doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Ronald W. Takvorian and George P. Canellos, repeatedly said he had been cancer-free when he had not. In so doing, they implied that the cancer was cured when indeed it was not curable.

Tsongas died in 1997. If he had been nominated and elected, he would not have completed his term. After 1993, he fought lymphoma again, spent much of the next four years in hospitals, eventually had an operation to deal with liver and heart problems that were complications of his cancer therapy. The surgery worked, but he passed away in the hospital . . . from pneumonia.

In 1996, after Bob Dole released all of his health records and challenged the president to do the same, the White House released 11 pages of letters from doctors summarizing laboratory tests. President Clinton sat down for a lengthy interview with Lawrence Altman of the New York Times, who was also a medical doctor.

Bill Clinton told Altman he didn’t think of the interview as an invasion of privacy. “The public has a right to know the condition of the president’s health.”

Let’s Hear From Veterans about Whether the VA Has Really Improved

Incumbent elected officials are going to tell us the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is either fixed or has made great strides. Perhaps it’s better to let the veterans tell us whether they’re seeing an improvement.

Concerned Veterans for America is launching a new website,, for veterans to share their experience with the Department of Veterans Affairs. CVA is encouraging veterans to submit stories to the website or on social media using #MyVAStory.

The website features an interactive map showing what people across the country are saying about the VA. Frank in California writes, “Have been trying to get physical therapy for 9 months. VA making a mockery of the Choice Program. Their indifference is appalling and self serving.”

Garry in Ohio writes, “I have been receiving treatment since Nov. 2015 at the VA hospital in Cleveland, Ohio after a diagnosis of colon cancer. The hospital is clean, modern and well equipped. The staff I’ve interacted with, without exception, have been helpful, friendly and professional. No complaints and I can say the same about the VA clinic in Canton.”

One of the things that jumps out as you go through the anecdotes is that Concerned Veterans of America isn’t spotlighting just the good testimonials or the bad ones; it sounds like there’s a real range of experiences. That’s better to hear than widespread tales of bad treatment, but still falls short of our national expectation that all of our veterans will get the medical care they need in a timely manner.

ADDENDA: In case you missed in Friday, from one point of view, FBI Director James Comey did Donald Trump a favor . . .

I’m scheduled to appear on CNN International’s State of the Race at 2:30 p.m. today.


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