Littwin on Loogie-gate: Clinton’s pneumonia and Trump’s own strain of phlegm

So, like, what were the chances?

Donald Trump and his team – old Rudy at the barking front of the pack – kept insisting, with absolutely no evidence, that Hillary Clinton was facing disqualifying health issues. That she was frail (read: old), lacking in stamina (read: female) and was hiding something (read: Clinton) terrible about her health. Parkinson’s. A stroke. MS. Dysphasia. Aphasia. Southeast Asia.

And then comes the video – the Zapruder film of the 2016 campaign – of Clinton leaving the 9/11 memorial early, stumbling as aides assisted her into a waiting van, and it was as if Trump knew more about Clinton’s health than the doctors, just as he knows more about ISIS than the generals.

I mean, what were the chances?

But here it was. A piece of terrible luck. And how did the Clinton people respond? Well, we can add another piece of conventional wisdom to the ever-growing pile: The cover-up is always worse than the cold.

Or the pneumonia. Or whatever it is.

After hours of silence from the campaign – which said nothing more than she was “overheated” and was now feeling fine – we are told, six hours into the story, that Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia the previous Friday and had ignored her doctor’s advice to rest for five days.

Instead, plowing through, she gave her “basket of deplorables” speech Friday night and raised new issues about her health and her transparency Sunday. And so, if it’s true that Trump couldn’t possibly be elected in November barring some dramatic shift in fortunes, we are left to wonder whether this may have been it.

Certainly, it was yet another example of the debilitating Clinton transparency issue that fit neatly, say, with the private-server email issue or a hundred other issues made far worse by Clinton’s insistence on privacy above all while running for the least-private job in the world.

David Axelrod’s critique cut the hardest, as he tweeted: “Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

They call this an unforced error. But what do you call it when you make the same error over and over again?

This should have been an easy one. As Clinton left the event early, reporters should have been told that Clinton had gone to the doctors two days before for her cough and learned that she had “walking pneumonia” and that, though she should have listened to the doctor’s advice to rest, she really felt she needed to be there for the 9/11 memorial. With a bit of truth serum, the story all but goes away. The doctor releases her diagnosis. The Clinton campaign releases a full medical history. The story goes back to Trump’s ludicrous “letter” of health and how, while Clinton ignored her press pool, Trump won’t even allow a press pool and then it’s on to unreleased Trump’s taxes, unreleased secret plans, unconfirmed charitable gifts et al.

How hard would that have been? Instead, the Clinton campaign said nothing for hours, allowing the overheated rumors to come to full boil, and leaving the Clintons with nothing more to say in the end than that their candidate is being held to a double standard – and what about Trump?

Oh, and there is Bill Clinton telling Charlie Rose in the ultimate Clintonism: “She hasn’t been not forthcoming” about her health.

And, of course, Trump is being held to a different standard. There is the regular-candidate standard – that’s the one for Clinton – and there’s the candidate-without-precedent standard that goes to Trump. The fact that he’s entirely unfit for the job is baked into the Trump standard. It’s not just Trump being Trump. It’s clearly unfit Trump being clearly unfit Trump. But the problem, as Matt Lauer sadly showed, is that it takes real effort – and some real journalism – to show Trump for what he is.

And though the media will clearly be the big loser in this campaign, my guess is still that it will be a bigger problem for Trump than it is for Clinton. There’s a reason he’s losing in the polls. There’s a reason in a season that historically should be good for Republicans that this weekend probably won’t rescue him, unless, of course, the pneumonia is more than pneumonia or unless the pneumonia is exactly that, but Clinton’s recovery takes longer than expected. Then, who knows?

Trump wanted to move past Clinton’s stumble and onto what he hopes is a full-blown Clinton pratfall. He argued that it was disqualifying – that again – for Clinton to have called his supporters deplorable and demanded an apology. Clinton said she shouldn’t have said “half,” but otherwise left it to her supporters to point out all the polls showing just how many of Trump supporters casually admit to bigotry and sexism. It was only Sunday that Trump was again calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” and claiming the Fed was corrupt and that the debates would be rigged.

Despite what you may have heard, Clinton “deplorables” riff was not a traditional gaffe. It may or may not prove to be a mistake, but it was clearly planned. Clinton wants this argument, even if not in quite the way she framed it. She should not have said that half of Trump’s supporters fit into the racist/bigot/sexist/homophobic/paranoid conspiracist basket. She should have said that Trump encourages a disturbingly significant subset of Americans looking for that kind of leader and then go on to make her point that most Trump supporters see a complicated world not of their making and are desperate to find a way forward.

On Monday night at a rally in Asheville, N.C., Trump showed that he wants to have this argument, too. He said, in Rovian style, that Clinton was running a “hate-filled” campaign that produced “no policy, no solutions and no new ideas.” It would have been laughable except for the thousands of cheering Trumpists who have cheered every anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant word Trump has said during this campaign.

Then there was this: As usual at a Trump rally, there were protesters. As usual, the Trump crowd grew angry. As usual, the protesters and fans exchanged words and, uh, hand signals while the protesters were being led from the arena. As sometimes happens, at least one Trump fan took it upon himself to be, well, deplorable. As ABC News caught on camera – because, as Clinton now knows, everything these days is on camera — a man pushed and shoved two male protesters and attempted to slap a female protester.

And so ended another day of the 2016 campaign, leaving tens of millions of Americans asking the same question: How many days until Nov. 8?

[Flickr photo by dustingrzesik]

3 COMMENTS

  1. Mike Littwin,
    That was excellent; the best thing I’ve read in a month. You should send it to the Clinton Campaign who seem to be desperately trying to lose the election.
    Keith Campbell, Denver

  2. Mike…You knocked it outta the ballpark. Yes, the Clinton campaign needs to read it. I was so amused to hear Mike Pence go before the news cameras today and state that he had ‘never heard someone campaigning for POTUS use ‘deplorable’ to describe their opponent’s supporters.” Seriously? How about listening to your boss, Mr. Pence. Trump has said worse things than deplorable to describe those who oppose him. I’m so ready for this circus to end… Please keep writing … we need your flavor of humor!

  3. “I’ve always had a pretty good handle on politics. For one thing, it’s not that complicated.” – Mike Littwin, January, 2016

    The arrogance behind that statement has suddenly evaporated without comment. Not only has Mr. Littwin lost his grip on the handle he no longer knows where the handle is—–perhaps the vandals stole it—- and judging by his total misread of Donald Trump’s voter appeal politics has become, as least for Mr. Littwin, very complicated indeed.

    He no longer makes predictions without first checking FiveThirtyEight.com and that doesn’t require a degree in journalism, only an internet connection. And when Nate Silver doesn’t deliver what Mr. Littwin wants to hear he simply finds another pollster and when describing events such as Mrs. Clinton’s highly offensive description of Mr. Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” he now uses carefully crafted purposely ambiguous cover-all-the-bases phrases like “It may or may not prove to be a mistake”. And phrases such as “my guess is” or “Then, who knows?” or “unless, of course” are being used by Mr. Littwin more and more frequently.

    But Mr. Littwin has shown indications that his arrogance has been replaced by a heretofore unseen level of candor and though it took a while, better late than never.

    Mr. Littwin has finally offered a glimpse into what he really feels about Hillary Clinton. To date he has been so consumed with demonizing Donald Trump that he has avoided any assessment of Mrs. Clinton other than, well, she’s not Donald Trump.

    Of course, many of Mrs. Clinton’s TV ads use the very same approach. None of those who express how unfit Mr. Trump is to be president end up endorsing Mrs. Clinton.

    Readers now know Mr. Littwin believes Mrs. Clinton attempted to “cover-up” her “pneumonia. Or whatever it is.” And to underline how potentially damning this incident could be Mr. Littwin says, “And so, if it’s true that Trump couldn’t possibly be elected in November barring some dramatic shift in fortunes, we are left to wonder whether this may have been it.”

    But he doesn’t stop there: “They call this an unforced error. But what do you call it when you make the same error over and over again?” Well, what you call that is yet another example of the Clinton’s penchant for lying as their default position.

    While not exactly earth shattering admissions Mr. Littwin’s comments (criticisms?) reflect a side of him far more cautious (scared?) than this July, 2015 quote “ The Donald, who (I’m reasonably sure) will never make it to the Iowa caucuses.”

    And as refreshingly candid as this column is there are still things about Mrs. Clinton that Mr. Littwin won’t discuss such as this 2008 quote in which she attempts to explain why she continued to campaign after Barack Obama had already clinched the Democrat presidential nomination: “My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California . . . ”

    That’s pretty dark!

    And while his evaluation of her “deplorables’ “ gaffe is text book wishy-washy others aren’t as generous. This from New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow:

    “Let’s get straight to it: Hillary Clinton’s comments Friday at a fund-raiser that half of Donald Trump’s supporters could be put in a “basket of deplorables” wasn’t a smart political play.

    Candidates do themselves a tremendous disservice when they attack voters rather than campaigns. Whatever advantage is procured through the rallying of one’s own base is outweighed by what will be read as divisiveness and disdain.”

    Or this from the New York Post:

    Clinton’s health is no longer a background issue in the presidential race.

    The footage of her entry to her ride out is especially troubling: She’s leaning oddly backward as she waits, and plainly almost collapses as she moves toward the vehicle; a mob of aides then conveys her inside.

    Also telling is that her staff avoided alerting the press that travels with her — and were left to catch up after noticing her missing. Clinton’s brief walkabout some 90 minutes later, after she’d rested in daughter Chelsea’s apartment, settles nothing. Nor does word late Sunday that she has pneumonia.

    We hadn’t made much of Clinton’s long coughing fit last week, but that now seems more disturbing, too. Maybe her repeated memory failures when the FBI interviewed her over her email abuses were actually real, rather than dodges of questions she didn’t dare answer truthfully. – NY Post

    Here’s hoping Mr. Littwin’s newly found candor survives.

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    “September continues to be a good month for Donald Trump when it comes to polling, as the billionaire businessman has significantly cut into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead in polling averages and predictions.
    At the start of August, FiveThirtyEight gave Trump only a 13.6 percent chance of taking the White House. One month later, Trump has significantly impacted the site’s election forecast, surging to 30 percent odds heading into the second full week in September.” – AOL.com

    “As Hillary Clinton’s health moves from the fringes to the center of the 2016 presidential campaign, there’s a lot we still don’t know about her scare this weekend.

    Here’s what we do know: Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. During a Sept. 11 memorial event on Sunday at Ground Zero, she was unsteady and clearly needed help getting into a van after becoming “overheated and dehydrated.” And Clinton canceled a planned to trip to California for Monday while she rests at home.” – NBC News

    “After a coughing fit…..(Hillary) Clinton chose to not tell the public that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday.
    Instead, the coughing had been attributed to seasonal allergies.
    Why not just admit the pneumonia? It’s not as if there’s a stigma to catching it. After all, Hillary Clinton’s full-time job right now is rushing from place to place on those tube-shaped petri dishes called airplanes, speaking for hours on end with little sleep, and then diving into crowds of often unwashed deplorables thrusting babies into her face.” NY Daily News

    Mother Nature once again graced the city with gorgeous weather for the 9/11 memorial ceremonies — yet Hillary Clinton was somehow overcome by the mild, low-80s temperatures, and left early in obvious distress.

    Clinton’s health is no longer a background issue in the presidential race.

    The footage of her entry to her ride out is especially troubling: She’s leaning oddly backward as she waits, and plainly almost collapses as she moves toward the vehicle; a mob of aides then conveys her inside.
    Also telling is that her staff avoided alerting the press that travels with her — and were left to catch up after noticing her missing. Clinton’s brief walkabout some 90 minutes later, after she’d rested in daughter Chelsea’s apartment, settles nothing. Nor does word late Sunday that she has pneumonia.

    We hadn’t made much of Clinton’s long coughing fit last week, but that now seems more disturbing, too. Maybe her repeated memory failures when the FBI interviewed her over her email abuses were actually real, rather than dodges of questions she didn’t dare answer truthfully. – NY Post

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Garysinisefoundation.org
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2016

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