The Washington Post is, like many media outlets, a mixed bag. On one hand, they have some seriously great investigative journalists bringing important stories to light. Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman at The Plum Line are national treasures. The editorial page, on the other hand, is a different matter. But worst of all is Chris Cilizza of The Fix, who is the poster child for vapid, process-oriented, horse-race obsessed, campaign pseudo-journalism.
Case in point: today’s reaction to Clinton’s minor medical incident today in New York. It was a very hot day, Clinton was in neck-high shirt over the top of a bulletproof vest, and she had a spell of dizziness. As it turns out, she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday–an inconvenience for a presidential candidate to be sure, but not really a major story in and of itself.
Conservative media had been noticing that Clinton appeared under the weather recently, most notably due to mild coughing. Whether it’s a simple scratchy throat, or allergies, or a mild cold, or even pneumonia still isn’t very important, and it’s not an issue on which voters should be judging candidates. Health only becomes an issue if there’s a serious chronic condition that might endanger the president’s life or impact their ability to do their job. So far there has been no evidence that Clinton has such a condition. That hasn’t stopped conservative media organizations from speculating that Clinton might be too ill to be president, however. But then, these are the same people who speculate the Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and the mainstream press shouldn’t be feeding the conspiracy trolls.
Enter Chris Cilizza. Rather than reporting that Clinton has pneumonia and might need to change her campaign schedule to adjust and recover, Cilizza blares the headline: “Hillary Clinton’s health just became a real issue in the presidential campaign” and then insists that Clinton release a full medical history. Never mind that Donald Trump will never consent to the same demand, much less release his taxes. And never mind that there is no evidence that Clinton has a condition serious enough to question her ability to be president.
This is how right-wing conspiracies become normalized and rewarded.
That said, the Clinton campaign can be faulted for this: if they knew she had pneumonia on Friday, they should probably have admitted that and gotten in front of the story. There is no way for a 68-year-old human being with pneumonia to hide it and power through a packed campaign schedule. As usual with the Clinton camp, it’s not the substance of problems that hurt her, but rather the guarded secrecy with which she and her advisers handle them. It hurts her more than it helps her in the long run, and turns mole hills into mountains.