Friday, 12 August 2016

Is Hillary Clinton seriously ill? Could Tim Kaine end up as president? And would that be such a bad outcome?

I wouldn't normally pay attention to rumours about an American presidential candidate's health, especially when the candidate is a Democrat and the rumours are being circulated almost exclusively by right-wing and conservative news sites, blogs and Twitter feeds. Besides, Hillary Clinton is a 68-year old woman who's led a busy, high-profile, existence for decades while remaining married (in public, at least) to a sleazy sex-fiend: you'd expect there to be some wear and tear, especially with all the scandalous accusations she and hubs have had to face. But, given how young healthy people in their late 60s tend to look and sound these days, and how ill Mrs. Clinton sounds, how old she looks, how weird her behaviour has been of late, and how she's likely to be appointed to the most onerous political job in the world later this year - one which visibly ages appointees at a frightening rate - it seems reasonable to ask whether there's something physically wrong with her. Because, if there is, she's not going to have any time to recover.

Rather than lay out all the reasons for the speculation about Mrs. Clinton's health here, I'll just point you at a fairly typical example of the sort of rumours whizzing around the blogosphere, here. And YouTube is positively stuffed with videos questioning Hillary's fitness for the presidency. I don't for one moment condone the tone or the journalistic probity of these productions - but there are questions to answer. After all, she has been subject to prolonged coughing fits, outbursts of anger, mid-speech freezes, frequent falls, inappropriate laughing fits, one bizarrely long bathroom break during a live televised debate, and there's photographic evidence of aides having to help her to walk up steps and to stay upright while delivering speeches.

Politicians used to be able to get away with this.  Most Americans had no idea that FDR couldn't walk and was permanently confined to a wheelchair; the parlous state of JFK's health (which included Addison’s disease, crippling back pain, colitis, urinary-tract infections, allergies and severe mood changes) was kept from the public by journalists, as were Churchill's stroke, and - until his treatment for supraventricular tachycardia in 2004 - only a handful of people (including the Queen, Bill Clinton and David Blunkett) knew that Tony Blair had suffered from heart problems since his mid-thirties; Harold Macmillan and Anthony Eden both had to resign as prime minister due to health problems; and there's been a lot of speculation that Harold Wilson was already suffering from Alzheimer's when he unexpectedly resigned in 1976.

Nowadays, the news media are only too eager to raise health issues. Allegations that Gordon Brown was (or had been) hooked on painkillers surfaced during the 2010 election campaign (I seem to remember that Andrew Marr asked him about it during a live interview on the BBC), and America's liberal media repeatedly zeroed in on Republican presidential candidate John McCain's history of skin cancer when he stood against Obama in 2008 (which makes their current bleatings about the right-wing media's obsession with Hillary's health sound a trifle hypocritical). Theresa May wisely publicised her Type 1 diabetes well before standing for the leadership of her party, thereby neutralising the issue.

I only raise the subject of Hillary's health here in case some of you haven't heard anything about it: the British media seem determined to keep shtum, presumably so horrified by the thought of Trump becoming president that - like their liberal counterparts in the US - they're hoping that Hillary's handlers can keep her going until 20th January, when she takes the oath of office. If she falls to pieces after that, her vice-presidential running mate Tim Kaine can take her place in the Oval Office. I know very little about the man (apart from the fact that he speaks Spanish and opposes abortion), but could he really be a worse choice for the job than Hillary Clinton? Similarly, in the unlikely event that Donald Trump beats Hillary in November, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that his VP, Mike Pence, would make a better president than Clinton, Trump or Kaine - hell, unlike Trump, he's a genuine conservative: not only that, he's a Tea Party supporter!

As far as I know, Trump doesn't have any health issues (unless being an utter arsehole counts as a health issue) - but, given his career to date, I suppose there's always a chance he'll be carted off to jail before he can do too much damage. If I were an American, I'd be tempted to vote for Trump and pray I ended up with Pence.


  1. Excellent post. Thank you. The next time you return to American politics you might give us your view about why Condoleezza Rice [aged 62, past holder of two of the most important offices in the U.S. administration] did not throw her hat in in the ring?

    1. Thank you, SDG. Regarding Condoleezza Rice, she has always maintained that she had no interest in holding elected office. She was, in any case, not that popular within the Republican party, carried a lot of baggage from her time as Bush's Secretary as State (which was not exactly without controversy), she commanded no support from the black community, wasn't a social conservative, and faced a lot of sniping from former colleagues such as Donald Rumsfeld. Or it could just be that she was a serious academic and simply felt happier back in academe - she's a bigwig at Stanford these days.