Bill and Hillary have attracted more than their share of kooky conspiracy theories, but they have also vindicated some of the darkest suspicions of their most passionate detractors.
Only a hater would have believed that Bill Clinton, embroiled in a sexual-harassment case, would have an affair with a White House intern. Only a hardened cynic would think that Hillary, serving as secretary of state and assured to make a front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, with every incentive to keep her nose clean, would mingle private and public business to aid her family’s already incredibly well-funded foundation. Only a kook would wonder about her occasional coughing fits.
And we know how all of that turned out. It is a cliché in the press to say that Hillary hurts herself by not being more transparent. But cover-ups have their advantages. If things had bounced differently, Bill might have been able to get away with denying his affair with Monica Lewinsky; we might never have learned of Hillary’s private server; and Hillary’s pneumonia diagnosis might have been kept under wraps, too.
Surely, the public had a right to know. Millions of people get pneumonia every year, and often it’s easily treatable, yet the condition is serious enough that Hillary’s doctor told her to scale back her campaign schedule. The public interest in disclosure took a back seat to Hillary’s interest in not giving any more fodder to critics questioning her vigor.
Clinton has now been caught being dishonest about an area where public skepticism is most justified. Politicians lying about or concealing health problems is a common feature of every political system the world over, democratic or totalitarian, East or West. Hillary would do well to adopt an uncharacteristic policy of complete transparency about her health records and perform the rest of the way without a disruption more serious than a stray sneeze.
Even if she does, the handling of her pneumonia is a preview of how a second Clinton White House would operate. If she’s elected president, inevitably, some outlandish allegation will arise. The Clintons and their defenders will dismiss it as a hateful fantasy, before — when all other options are exhausted — admitting it’s actually true.
This is the Clinton pattern over a couple of decades of stoking, and validating, their critics’ distrust.