WITH ANY LUCK, Hillary Clinton could have been diagnosed with pneumonia Friday, taken her antibiotics and gotten better without anyone beyond her campaign knowing, which is what happens with a lot of people who get this not-uncommon disease. In fact, she announced that she, like many people managing full schedules while not 100 percent, had tried to "power through" her pneumonia and keep moving.
Instead, when she became unsteady from dehydration at a Sept. 11 memorial Sunday, Clinton gave some powerful ammunition to the army of dirty tricksters who have been spreading false rumors that she is at death's door.
And now too many members of the mainstream media have declared Clinton's health a "real issue," far more serious than are unanswered questions about that of her opponent. So far, Donald Trump has offered only a laughable doctor's note headed "To Whom My Concern" that declared the 70-year-old would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" - presumably including the current athletic occupant of the office who is 15 years younger.
So many falsehoods and dog whistles about Hillary Clinton have been peddled for years by absolute masters of the genre (Roger Stone, Stephen Bannon, David Bossie). Each one is more crackpot than the next - Clinton's a murderer, she's a traitor - yet sometimes they make it into the mainstream because of the incessant drumbeat. Now here's one with what seems to have a tiny bit of truth that also feeds into the media's annoyance at Clinton's lack of accessibility.
Granted, Clinton and her campaign are much less transparent than nearly everyone in the press, including this newspaper, would like. Of course, her paranoia is due in part to having real enemies, but she overdoes it, and it often gets her in trouble.
Then again, just imagine if, on Friday, Clinton's doctor had announced to the world that the candidate had pneumonia, was on antibiotics and there was nothing to worry about. Multitudes would say, as they continued to insist Tuesday, that Clinton didn't have pneumonia at all, but a range of maladies making her unfit for office.
The conspiracies about Clinton's health have only lately focused on her "coughing fits." For years since she suffered a concussion and then a blood clot after fainting because of dehydration from the flu in 2012, her opponents have claimed that she has traumatic brain injury, seizures, dysphasia, early-onset dementia, Parkinson's. Trump himself has called her "weak," lacking in "stamina," as well as "unstable," "unbalanced" and "unhinged."
They might as well go ahead and say "hysteria" - a phony malady once thought to be caused by a woman's womb - and be done with it. Just like birtherism was designed to delegitimize the first African American president, the health conspiracy serves quite neatly as a way to reference longstanding fears about women's hormones. By the way, women's longer life expectancies (by around seven years) might suggest they have more stamina than men.
Both the Trump and Clinton campaigns have promised to release more detailed medical reports. We guess this is good, but how long will it take for armchair diagnosticians to either discount the information or use it to begin the whole ridiculous cycle yet again?
In the meantime, here's some unsolicited medical advice for Clinton: Drink more water.