Having watched yet another CNN display of breathless reporting of Hillary Clinton’s health episode, I am constrained to note the existence of another double standard at work in the 2016 presidential election. Wolf Blitzer spent many minutes haranguing New York Mayor Bill di Blasio about whether the illness should not have been publicly disclosed two days ago when first diagnosed and whether she must now make more detailed disclosures about her health. CNN played the video of Clinton stumbling into the SUV that was to take her away from the 9/11 memorial ceremony when she fell ill. And played it. And played it. Over and over again.
Yes, there was mention of the fact, yes fact, that the only health information disclosed by Donald Trump was a ludicrous letter from his gastroenterologist declaring Trump to be the most fit candidate in history. But the “story” was Clinton’s health and the implication was that she had withheld vital information from the public and might be suffering a devastating disability. CNN’s video feed to Yahoo.com earlier in the day included the SUV stumble video under a heading similar to “See Clinton Falter.” Today’s early feed runs an opinion/reporting (it’s hard to tell) piece entitled “The no-transparency election” which appears to equate the disclosure positions of the two candidates.
The Clinton story on live CNN television was embellished by yet another “panel of political experts,” all familiar CNN faces, whose main interest seemed to be that Trump’s vice presidential partner, Mike Pence, had stated that all presidential candidates should disclose their tax returns and health records and therefore isn’t Mike Pence just the best supporter of his candidate Trump? That Mike Pence, boy, he’s better at supporting Trump than Trump is. What a guy!
Wow and Wow. To be clear, I believe it was a mistake for Clinton to fail to disclose the pneumonia diagnosis when it was made. Blame her staff for that one. Or blame her if you like. It was also a mistake to place her in a position where her medical condition could be photographed in such an awkward way. That one belongs to her staff.
But on the merits, the double standard at work here is that Hillary Clinton has already released a large trove of medical records and many years’ worth of tax returns, while her opponent has relied on an intestinal specialist to address his health in a useless and summary way and has used trivial and nonsensical excuses for refusing to disclose his tax returns. If there is real “news” in this, it should be about what Trump is hiding. CNN should be running a countdown clock or something similar, showing the number of days that Trump has refused to provide meaningful information about either subject. Why is CNN not reporting this important issue every day?
The CNN treatment of Ms. Clinton effectively punishes her for providing more disclosure than her opponent, whose intransigence is remarked upon mostly in passing. Future candidates may take note of this and follow Trump’s lead by refusing full disclosure. The longer he gets away with this outrage, the greater the precedent for future candidates who, like Trump, have something to hide. This issue goes beyond Trump’s likely false claims about his massive personal charitable giving, which is important as regards his credibility. Trump’s worldwide business holdings raise a unique question of how he would separate himself from those interests if he were elected President of the United States. With less than two months left before the election, is it not time that the press, in addition to fulminating over Ms. Clinton’s temperature, began seriously demanding answers to that critical question? Will the media pursue this in the upcoming debates or continue to badger Clinton about the emails and Benghazi, about which she has endured endless examination in Congress and elsewhere?
Is the explanation for this obsession with Ms. Clinton’s health, while effectively giving Trump a pass on the issue, a product of the old saw that a woman is a more delicate creature than a man and thus any show of weakness is a possible sign of more serious inadequacies? Trump has been making such claims for some time, without any factual basis. Catching a cold, or a lung infection, is a factual basis for saying that Ms. Clinton, like most humans, is susceptible to occasional illness. But she is not the first to stumble. There was George W. Bush in Japan at a state dinner. And, of course, Gerald Ford was a habitual stumblebum but never disqualified, for that reason, from being president. There are others.
And, yes, I am aware of the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle and the problems it presents, but CNN is at least somewhat self-aware and therefore has the capacity to resist the temptations it creates. The managers at CNN should take a serious look at the manner in which the network covers this election. Having provided Donald Trump with a daily platform for every fabrication and insult that he has uttered since entering the primaries, CNN should look inward and be sure it is not implicitly buying into the Trump song and dance. And, oh yes, North Korea has a deliverable nuke program in the works. CNN??