Whatever the truth of her health, Hillary Clinton’s first instinct is to lie

Matt Drudge has been hinting at problems with Hillary Clinton’s health for years.

It didn’t stick with the mainstream press, of course. As a general rule, Americans do not like questioning politicians about their health. The press is squeamish about — and rightly so — asking questions or investigating it, because health is one of the most deeply personal aspects of any person’s life.

And unless it is a visible, obvious illness that you can see, several real illnesses or medical issues can remain invisible to the public, known only to the person a few close confidants and personal doctors.

So the press ignored Clinton’s health. But Drudge’s health speculation did stick with her most vehement critics.

As the speculation began, it was viewed by most — including by me — as wishful thinking, and conspiracy-laden nonsense.

I despise most conspiracy theories, so I dismissed it because I saw so many of the same traps that typically ensnare those who believe fringe conspiracies.

There is a disturbing tendency in our culture to naturally believe any negative information about those we don’t like. We have this deep-seated impulse to believe basically anything our adversaries are accused of, based entirely on our dislike of them. If that person is so bad, obviously it must be true.

Thus, internet sleuths everywhere have been on the case and found “evidence” of Clinton’s health problems to fit the preconceived, hoped-for notion that she’s sick with a major illness. Thanks to the internet, they have shared it widely.

And so we saw people ask questions about her recovery after a major concussion. They analyzed her thick glasses. We saw pictures of her being helped up the stairs. We saw a bizarre video of her seizing and twitching, supposedly joking with reporters around her. And then there was the coughing. Oh, so much coughing.

All through the speculation about this, questions about her health were ignored by the press and routinely dismissed.

Sunday, however, that all changed, as Clinton’s knees buckled, she lost her balance and was dragged into a vehicle as she prematurely left a memorial event for the victims of the September 11 attacks.

Hillary Clinton attends a memorial service at the National 9/11 Memorial on Sunday in New York. Oakes De Mandeville | Sipa USA | TNS

Hillary Clinton attends a memorial service at the National 9/11 Memorial on Sunday in New York. Oakes De Mandeville | Sipa USA | TNS

After dismissively mocking those who questioned Clinton’s health, Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote a scathing article Sunday, arguing that yes, Clinton’s health is a legitimate concern after all.

I wrote last week on these pages that it was inappropriate to speculate about a diagnosis from afar, particularly by medical professionals. I continue to believe that. I’m not going to sit here and speculate as to what she has or does not have.

I happen to believe still that most, if not all of those speculative theories about her health are false, and it is entirely possible — though admittedly strange — that she is fine, and is just suffering a minor and temporary illness.

But while I won’t speculate or suggest something is wrong, Clinton has only herself to blame for the inevitable speculation.

Supposedly, Clinton was diagnosed with a case of pneumonia last Friday, which would explain her coughing fits from last week. Yet, the coughing incidents have been happening for at least the last year. More importantly, though, her campaign said nothing about that diagnosis last Friday. In fact, when questioned about the coughing last week, she claimed to be fine. Then she claimed to be dehydrated.

Then, when she collapsed on Sunday, her campaign claimed she had a bout of “heat exhaustion.” Then, after it was learned that there was video of her being propped up against a pole, losing her balance, and being dragged into a van, the campaign decided to say it was pneumonia.

Even if the latest story of the affliction as a simple case of pneumonia is true, the compound nature of the lies that preceded it have highlighted — like so many other examples this year — the Clinton penchant for lying about even insignificant things, in a paranoid attempt to protect herself from any criticism.

Like the boy who cried wolf, Clinton is learning that if you lie all the time, no one will believe you, even if you are telling the truth.

Is she telling the truth about her health? I have no idea, and neither do you. I inherently distrust everything she says at this point, as does most of America.

I do know that health concerns are easy to keep from the public, as demonstrated by Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that there is something else going on.

That said, as I said last week, I believe it is inappropriate to speculatively diagnose her. You won’t see me attempting to do that, and I continue to believe that the theories of her grave health are mostly white noise.

But I do know this: if any other presidential candidate had collapsed on video and been dragged into a van, cut off press access for 90 minutes, reemerged hours later claiming to be “feeling great,” and engineered five different stories about what problem she suffered from, it would make health a concern, and it would make inquiries into it entirely justified.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.