The focus on Hillary Clinton’s health took a strange turn yesterday, when the State Department announced that the outgoing Secretary of State had become an inpatient at New York Presbyterian Hospital, after a routine follow-up to her concussion revealed that she had developed a blood clot. The news took everyone by surprise, leading to a burst of speculation about her health and her prognosis, both medically and politically:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was hospitalized Sunday after doctors discovered a blood clot during a follow-up exam related to a concussion she suffered this month, her spokesman said.
She is expected to remain at New York Presbyterian Hospital for the next 48 hours so doctors can monitor her condition and treat her with anti-coagulants, said Philippe Reines, deputy assistant secretary of state.
“Her doctors will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion,” Reines said. “They will determine if any further action is required.”
CNN seemed nonplussed by the news:
This started the usual speculation among skeptics on the Right about this being another Congressional-testimony avoidance tactic by Clinton, who has now put off an appearance before the committees investigating the “sloppiness” at State that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi. I’d be skeptical of that explanation, though. Hillary doesn’t need to use medical issues to avoid testifying at this point any longer; two of her deputies have already testified in her place, and she’ll be retired within a couple of weeks at the latest. Don’t expect the pressure for testimony to outweigh her exit.
The skepticism doesn’t appear limited to the Right, however. Kent Sepkowitz expresses a significant amount of skepticism over the vague announcement at the Daily Beast, speculating that it hides a more significant health issue than the Clintons want to admit:
Unlike the relatively bland “concussion after fainting” pronouncement from earlier this month, this terse press release from her spokesman smells a little fishy. First it is odd that we are not told where the clot is—usually the clot, referred to as thrombophlebitis, occurs in the leg, a condition suffered by former president Richard Nixon after leaving the White House. The clot can be uncomfortable but is only dangerous and even life-threatening if it breaks free and travels downstream into the lung—a pulmonary embolus, in medical parlance. This is a condition that former vice president Dan Quayle developed soon after his term ended and that almost killed Serena Williams last year. Given that Clinton already has had this condition and those who have had one episode have a predilection to recurrence, the lack of a reminder of the 1998 clot from her press people seems a strange oversight.
Another problem with the “concussion then clot” story is this—the concussion, if indeed it came after a faint, should not directly predispose Clinton to a clot. Trauma to the leg or to the hips and pelvis might cause a clot, but we were not told of any leg injury. If there is no predisposing trauma—well, that might mean real trouble. “Trousseau’s sign” refers to a clot that forms in persons with cancer due to a tendency seen in many common cancers to readily form clots.
Alternatively, is it possible that the clot in question is one in the lining of the brain that can form after head trauma. She did have a concussion after some sort of impact to her head. Here, again, there is a presidential precedent. Ronald Reagan, soon after the end of his time in the hot seat, developed the condition called “subdural hematoma” after a horseback-riding accident. But anticoagulation is never given to persons with clots around the brain. They are either watched without intervention or surgically evacuated. So this possible explanation is out.
We are left with a story that is not easy to connect up with sparse information from the inside crowd, who could easily deflate speculation with two or three more measly facts. The National Enquirer has already declared Clinton to be suffering from a brain tumor, linking her observed weight gain, possibly from treatment for the putative cancer, and not-exactly-explained need to leave Obama’s cabinet to the grim diagnosis. Such a story no longer seems to me as implausible as it did after the faint and concussion reports.
So the publication that was once Newsweek now reads tea leaves from … the National Enquirer? Strange days, indeed.
This shows why the idea that Hillary would create a medical diversion to keep from testifying doesn’t make a lot of sense. The diversion would be necessarily vague, which would lead to speculation like this — and the very last impression a future presidential candidate needs is that he or she is a couple steps away from death’s door.
For that reason, this seems on the level to me. Hopefully, Hillary Clinton recovers quickly from whatever ails her, and returns to Washington to inform Congress of the “systemic failures, and leadership and management deficiencies” that her stewardship at State created and led to the Benghazi debacle.