Has the American media lost its collective mind? I’m a member of the Fourth Estate and frankly, when I watch coverage of the unending presidential campaign, I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief at the insipid, moronic soundbites spewing forth from TV anchors, commentators and those so-called pundits. Are they on the Trump payroll or are they just being badgered by ratings-obsessed producers to turn insignificant kernels of information into momentously alarmist news coverage?
The latest example was the saga of Hillary Clinton’s health. To quote my late grandmother, oy vey.
Let’s take a look back — all two weeks ago — to recap. Hillary Clinton had a coughing fit while out on the campaign trail. She apologized to the crowd, telling them jokingly that talking about Trump always made her allergic. OK: she didn’t feel well. No big deal. All of us, no matter how seemingly invincible we are (and that includes Donald Trump) are prone to being “under the weather,” particularly when you work as tirelessly as she has since her campaign began, with probably very little sleep, traipsing from one state to another. I’m not 68 years old like Clinton and, honestly, I don’t know how she or others in similar situations, whether younger or older then she is, can do what she has been doing for the last year and some. It’s a heroic testament of endurance, determination and grit.
After the coughing fit, several days passed and Clinton attended the 9/11 memorial ceremony at what was Ground Zero. It’s the 15th anniversary of the attacks, and particularly since she was a New York senator then, she clearly felt a deep and visceral affinity that other publicly elected officials from out of town wouldn’t necessarily feel. The City That Never Sleeps was part of her constituency.
Feeling dehydrated and weak, she left during the middle of the ceremony and took what on outlet called a “health-related stumble” before being helped into her car by a retinue of aides. It was filmed for all the world to see, and see it they did — repeatedly, on a 24/7 loop, for nearly a week. Soon a statement from the Clinton camp revealed that the Democratic presidential nominee had been diagnosed with walking pneumonia. She was off for the next few days, recovering and resting while taking antibiotics under her doctor’s care.
This was neither the Cuban Missile Crisis nor the Kennedy Assassination. But judging by the hysterical tenor of the news reports, you would think Clinton had inoperable Stage 4 cancer with hours left to live.
According to the daily blog Lifehacker, walking pneumonia
…may sound scary, but it just means a mild case of pneumonia — the patient is ‘walking’ around instead of lying in bed or in a hospital. Hillary Clinton is just one of an estimated 4 to 5 million people who pick up a similar lung infection each year.
Further, if you’re a healthy person — which Clinton reportedly is — then the virus or bacteria that infects you “isn’t a particularly dangerous one, you might not have any symptoms worse than a cough and a little fatigue. Symptoms may also include a fever and chills.”
Does that sound like Clinton was in the final throes of terminal illness? To my fellow reporters working in TV land: get a friggin’ grip!
Clinton did return to the campaign trail four days after her “collapse.” Maybe she could have rested a day or two more? Who knows? I’m not her doctor. You’re not her doctor. TV anchors, commentators and so-called pundits are not her doctor, either. If she did cut her recovery time prematurely short, who could blame her, considering how the broadcast outlets were pegging her for an impending obituary?
This beggars a question: Is there any precedent for a presidential candidate of a major party stepping down before an election due to illness? I ransacked Google for an answer and came up with this, courtesy of TeachingHistory.org, run by historian and Tibet expert John Buescher:
No presidential candidate of a major party has ever died or withdrawn before a presidential election and no President-elect has ever died or withdrawn after winning the general election, but before taking office. However, one vice-presidential candidate died after he was nominated, but before the general election, and another dropped off his party’s ticket.
In 1912, Vice President James Sherman was on the Republican ticket alongside President William Howard Taft, who was running for re-election. Days before the election, Sherman died of kidney disease. Yet, for the election, his name remained on the ballot. It didn’t matter in the end as Taft and Sherman (and former President Theodore Roosevelt and Hiram Johnson, running on the Bull Moose ticket) lost to Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Marshall.
Sixty years later, in 1972, Sen. Thomas Eagleton was chosen by Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern to be his running mate and everything was dandy for 18 days — until Eagleton confessed that he had been hospitalized for depression several times in the 1960s; he even admitted undergoing shock therapy. Sacre bleu! The “scandal” was too much for thin-skinned voters to bear in the Me Decade, so Eagleton was out and Sargent Shriver (husband of Kennedy sister Eunice, father of Maria) was in. Here, too, it didn’t matter, as the Democrats lost to then-incumbent President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew, Watergate shenanigans notwithstanding.
Nothing could be worse, though, than the fate that befell William Henry Harrison, the ninth elected US president. His stint as our nation’s leader lasted 30 days. Three weeks after his inauguration on March 4, 1841, Harrison, 68, came down with a cold that turned into pneumonia and pleurisy. He died on Apr. 4 — the first President to die in office.
One hopes that Harrison’s ill-fated tale of poorly timed bad health doesn’t await Clinton, who’ll need all the stamina she can muster to kick her opponent’s butt into oblivion for the next seven weeks until the day of reckoning — Nov., 8, 2016.
In the meantime, RIP James Sherman. And RIP William Henry Harrison. And RIP The Media.