Hillary Clinton's campaign team is in all-out crisis mode in the wake of her appearing to faint Sunday at a memorial service for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Top surrogates flooded the television airwaves Monday explaining, repeatedly, that Clinton had hoped to "power through" a pneumonia diagnosis before she fell ill in public over the weekend. Clinton herself even got into the act, calling into Anderson Cooper's CNN show Monday night to insist that all really was well.
But, in that interview, Clinton made plain that she has not really learned any lessons about transparency and why her team's handling of her health scare is drawing widespread criticism. Here's the exchange:
COOPER: So, let me ask you about that because David Axelrod was very critical of the way that you and your campaign handled sharing your diagnosis with the public. He tweeted: "Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What's the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?"
Why not just say on Friday as you said apparently to Senator [Chuck] Schumer on Sunday, you know, "I have pneumonia, folks, I’m going to power through it"? Why keep it a secret?
CLINTON: Well, I just didn't think it was going to be that big a deal. You know, I know Chuck said today he didn't tell anybody. It's just the kind of thing that if it happens to you and you're a busy, active person, you keep moving forward.
And, you know, I think it's fair to say, Anderson, that people know more about me than almost anyone in public life. They've got 40 years of my tax returns, tens of thousands of emails, a detailed medical letter report, all kinds of personal details.
And, you know, it's just so — it's so strange that with all of that information out there, and as soon it became clear I couldn't power through, we, you know, we said what was going on.
Clinton's explanation for why she did not tell the public — and shared with only a few top staffers — that she had pneumonia is that she "just didn't think it was going to be that big a deal." That's very hard to believe for two reasons:
1. Clinton knows that conservative circles have been burning up of late with conversation and speculation about her health and whether she is being totally forthright about it. Her coughing fit at a Labor Day rally in Cleveland, which occasioned Clinton to consult with her doctor over whether her seasonal allergies were worsening, turned it into a sort-of mainstream news story. (I wrote at the time that talk of Clinton being seriously ill was ridiculous. That was before what happened Sunday.) That Clinton believed the idea that one of the most famous women in the world — and the front-runner to be the next president — could be diagnosed with pneumonia and no one would care strains credulity.
2. The reason Clinton kept only a small circle informed of the pneumonia diagnosis and didn't reveal it publicly until forced to on Sunday is precisely because she knew it would be a big deal. Clinton is well versed in how the political game works. She knew that announcing that she had pneumonia would fuel talk about her health as a campaign issue. It's hard to imagine that if Clinton hadn't almost fallen in public on Sunday we would have ever heard that she had pneumonia in the course of this campaign.
Then there's Clinton's pivot to her long-held position that she is the most "known" politician in modern history. "They've got 40 years of my tax returns, tens of thousands of emails, a detailed medical letter report, all kinds of personal details," Clinton told Cooper.
She's absolutely right that she has been more transparent about her life and past than Donald Trump. The Republican nominee has not released his tax returns, and the only evidence we have of his medical records is a letter that reads like it was written by Dr. Nick.
That said, almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn't all that honorable.
The simple fact is that Clinton's reflex reaction to unplanned events that might be viewed negatively by the public is to hunker down and provide as little information as possible. Even her supporters acknowledge her tendency toward secrecy and privacy while insisting it's entirely justified because of the way in which she has been treated over the past several decades by the media and the GOP.
Whatever the genesis of Clinton's approach to negative news, it's repeatedly made things worse, not better, for her. And judging from her interview with Cooper on Monday night, she still doesn't grasp that.