Take it from personal experience, pneumonia is no fun. It’s not to be wished on one’s worst enemy. But here’s the good news: America is not a developing nation, and if you have top notch health care here, it is eminently treatable.
I’m not sure the same can be said about whatever affliction causes one to be a crazed, authoritarian goon. That probably takes many years of therapeutic intervention. As you consider what currently ails our two presidential candidates, it might be worth keeping that in perspective!
Hillary Clinton, by the way, is the candidate with the lower respiratory ailment, the coverage of which you could not possibly avoid unless you’ve managed to find yourself comfortably off the grid. Right now, the cable news networks are examining Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia ― and the way it was suddenly revealed over the weekend after the Democratic nominee abruptly took leave of a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony ― with the sort of meticulous attention that Jim Garrison examined the Zapruder film.
That Clinton’s illness was revealed in such a fashion is silly on a number of levels, and her campaign certainly shares in the blame for how this story has ballooned in the past 48 hours. Clinton should not be attempting to keep up the manic pace of the campaign if she’s experiencing a serious illness. There’s a lot to be said about whether our presidential campaigns need to be two-year-long ordeals, but leaving that aside, it seems clear that Clinton and her campaign colleagues handled this poorly.
This is, perhaps, related to the bad relationship that Clinton has always had with the press. It’s also of a piece with the wild-eyed way the Trump campaign has been darkly promulgating paranoid rumors about her health. At some point, someone should have said, “Hey, you’re probably right that revealing your pneumonia will feed all this gross rumor-mongering, but on the other hand, let’s get rid of this pneumonia, man.”
Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum rightfully points out that while it might be OK for ordinary people to keep a tight lid on their health conditions, presidential candidates have to adhere to different rules and Clinton “should have disclosed the pneumonia diagnosis as soon as she got it.” But Drum’s no fool:
So why did Clinton’s people try to hide her condition? That’s pretty easy: After months of baseless health speculation by Donald Trump’s rumor machine, she figured the press would go full National Enquirer over this. She didn’t trust them to handle it in a normal, level-headed way.
If so, credit the Clinton camp for at least some prescience. But the problem, all the same, is that now Clinton is said to be “on the defensive” about her response to her current health condition. In in a perfect world, she should just be going on the defensive with her pneumonia with antibiotics, not trying to “power through” it.
On the other hand, saving the country from the possibility that Donald Trump might become president is the sort of thing I might try to “power through” pneumonia to do. It could really boil down to how far you’re willing to go to keep the White House from falling into the hands of a candidate allied with white nationalists, you know?
Meanwhile, faintly in the background of this weekend’s pneumonia clamor, we have some fresh reminders of the essential corruptness of Trump’s character. The New York Daily News added some fresh reporting to the story of how Donald Trump ended up receiving $150,000 worth of taxpayer-provided Sept. 11 relief funds ― funds that ostensibly were to be used to help small businesses recover from the attacks on New York City.
Trump has defended receiving the money because, according to his version of events, he let tenants stay in his building after the attacks. Patting himself on the back in the spring, Trump claimed, “I was happy to do it and to this day I am still being thanked for the many people I helped. The value of what I did was far greater than the money talked about.”
But as the Daily News’ Cameron Joseph reports: “Though the billionaire presidential candidate has repeatedly suggested he got that money for helping others out after the attacks, documents obtained by the Daily News show that Trump’s account was just a huge lie.” Those documents reveal that “Trump’s company asked for those funds for ‘rent loss,’ ‘cleanup,’ and ‘repair’ ― not to recuperate money lost in helping people.”
Joseph adds, “It’s unclear what, if any, help Trump provided to those affected by 9/11.” So how Trump used this taxpayer-funded windfall for charitable purposes remains a mystery.
And that’s an oddly consistent theme with Trump, one that the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold returned to over the weekend with a lengthy piece investigating the alleged charitable works of the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Now, this Foundation does like to throw its money around. As The Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie reported, in one notable instance it provided $25,000 to a PAC supporting the re-election bid of Florida Attorney General (and friend to Trump University) Pam Bondi. (This donation violated various tax laws, forcing Trump to pay a fine.)
What Fahrenthold discovered, however, is that the Trump Foundation “collects and spends money in a very unusual manner.”
For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.
Trump then takes that money and generally does with it as he pleases. In many cases, he passes it on to other charities, which often are under the impression that it is Trump’s own money.
In two cases, he has used money from his charity to buy himself a gift. In one of those cases — not previously reported — Trump spent $20,000 of money earmarked for charitable purposes to buy a 6-foot-tall painting of himself.
Fahrenthold is looking for that portrait, by the way.
He’s also on the hunt for that Tim Tebow helmet that Trump is said to have bought himself with foundation money. The Trump camp’s story is that this helmet was given “to a child.” Kid, if you’re out there, you can come forward and perhaps begin the process of rehabilitating Trump’s reputation.
Let’s face it, Clinton is still more likely to recover from her pneumonia faster. Hers is a disease of the lungs, not the core. Trump’s corruption is who he is. As The Huffington Post’s S.V. Date has reported at length, Trump is using the donor money his campaign is receiving from the Republican National Committee’s donor connection in the same manner he used other people’s charity ― to enrich himself.
Beyond all that, Trump is still the person most rational adults fear getting access to the nuclear codes. He’s still the guy who seems to want a cozier relationship with other autocratic regimes, who dreams about palling around with Vladimir Putin. He’s still the guy hiding his tax returns. Still the guy retweeting racist memes. Still the guy whose main focus, on Sept. 11, was how he now had the tallest building in downtown Manhattan. Had Hillary Clinton done any of those things ― forget pneumonia ― she’d have been felled long before she started running a fever.
To be honest, the Trump campaign’s obsessive fascination with Clinton’s health is a really good example of what kind of twisted and abnormal person their candidate is. A normal Republican opponent at this point in the campaign would be looking for opportunities to do some essential case-making. They’d be comparing and contrasting legislative agendas, introducing new ideas, selling an economic plan, laying out a vision for foreign policy and domestic priorities, and enjoining old and important American arguments about the size and role of government.
The Trump campaign doesn’t see any of this as pre-eminently important. By design, Trump’s policies are impossible to pin down ― even in the arena of immigration, he can veer wildly from day to day. His lack of interest in substance is plainly felt whenever he delivers an anesthetized, teleprompter-driven oration about policy. No, what this campaign is all about is waiting and hoping for Clinton to cough ― so he can reinvigorate the paranoia of the InfoWars set. That’s what represents a “political opportunity” for the Trump campaign.
Trump’s basic promise is to inflict America with his own affliction: to deform democratic norms, destroy at least a century of progress, and apply his own “to the victor goes the spoils” promise to a teeming mass of white nationalists playing a zero-sum game of identity politics. There is a constituency for this platform, and the good news for them is that they have a candidate to vote for in this election that can’t be cured of these predilections.
To anyone who doesn’t share that point of view, I don’t think anyone can improve upon the perspective of former Mitt Romney campaign manager Stuart Stevens:
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.