When Hillary Clinton got whisked away from the 9/11 memorial service Sunday and diverted from the ER, most assumed that her personal physician or another private doctor checked her out there. Not so, said Robby Mook yesterday in this interview with Jake Tapper, but Tapper had to drag it out of him. Mook first tried to shift the topic to transparency — Donald Trump’s lack thereof. Tapper seemed stunned at the pot-kettle dynamics of this spin. “Your campaign did not disclose what happened on Friday,” Tapper parried in referencing Hillary Clinton’s withheld diagnosis of pneumonia, and then recounted the collapse at the 9/11 memorial. “People are wondering how much you’re willing to disclose — unless you’re forced to?”
And interestingly enough, Tapper found out that the answer is nothing:
Mook threw Hillary’s staff under the bus, but then admitted that there was no doctor at Chelsea’s apartment to evaluate Hillary:
Robby Mook told CNN’s Jake Tapper it was the fault of Clinton’s staff that the press wasn’t told for 90 minutes where the former secretary of state had gone when she left a 9/11 commemoration ceremony early after “overheating” and having to be helped into a van after faltering Sunday.
“I wish we’d done that in a shorter amount of time. That’s on us — that’s on the staff,” Mook told Tapper on “The Lead.” “We were trying to make sure she could see her doctor, getting her to Chelsea’s apartment, making sure she was OK.”
For some reason, the CNN story doesn’t mention this exchange:
TAPPER: Was the doctor at Chelsea Clinton’s apartment?
MOOK: No, she saw the doctor in Chappaqua.
This sequence of events raises even more questions about the decision to divert away from a hospital. That’s dangerous enough for a pneumonia patient who has collapsed, but that decision meant that Hillary didn’t get any professional medical attention for hours. In the meantime, the campaign made the announcement of “dehydration” as though it was a medical diagnosis — which appears to be a lie. Who made that call, and what evidence did they have to support it?
There’s also a basic humanitarian question to be answered here. Who would delay medical care that long to a 69-year-old woman with a serious respiratory illness, regardless of her desire for “privacy”? It’s difficult to believe that the campaign took that risk just to hide a diagnosis of pneumonia.
The entire episode demonstrates why voters can’t trust Hillary Clinton. There is already a surfeit of evidence for that, but as I write in my column for The Week, those often involve esoteric issues of law. Health crises are likely to hit much closer to home with voters, and lying about this will have serious consequences for the campaign:
The real danger of this fainting spell and the shifting explanations is that it will remind voters of all the serial misrepresentations and flat-out lies told by the Clintons during their quarter century on the national stage. The issues surrounding those dishonesties held varying significance for voters; Whitewater bored them, and the Lewinsky saga mainly titillated them. The email scandal turned into a much bigger problem for Clinton precisely because she stonewalled, then later got caught telling lies about it — and then got caught lying about the FBI’s conclusions that exposed those claims of innocence as false.
However, the email scandal and its relation to the Federal Records Act, Freedom of Information Act, and 18 USC 793 probably seemed more esoteric than essential to most voters. Lying on these issues might demonstrate an integrity gap, but it doesn’t have real consequences for the lives of most voters.
Presidential health, on the other hand, will hit voters much more directly. They understand the need to minimize the risk of an unforeseen White House transition in times of crisis, and that makes the health of the candidates much more relevant — and much more relatable. The Clintons and her campaign covered up a pneumonia diagnosis while scoffing at perfectly valid questions about her health. This reinforces what NBC News calls Clinton’s “core vulnerability” — her perceived lack of honesty and trustworthiness.
This might be the moment in which Hillary Clinton’s serial prevarications actually begin to matter to most voters. It’s not the cough. It’s the cover-up.
And the cover-up is still ongoing.