GOP strategist Karl Rove is getting lots of grief today for a comment he made at a conference last week during which he allegedly suggested that Hillary Clinton may have suffered “brain damage” back in 2012 when a blood clot sidelined her for a month as Secretary of State.
Comments like these frequently are blown way out of proportion. Did Karl actually say she suffered “brain damage” or simply suggest that her health is a possible subject of concern if she runs for president in 2016? If he made the latter observation, certainly he’s right.
Questions about Hillary’s health are common cocktail conversation on Capitol Hill these days. It’s widely speculated that if she doesn’t make a run for the White House, concerns about her health will largely be the reason.
Besides this is not some unchartered territory no matter who is running. The public has a right to know the health of the person they propose to elect to the most powerful position in the world. The older the candidate, the more they investigate and speculate how the candidate will fare if they ever take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
History strongly suggests such investigation is warranted.
In 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared to everyone who saw him in the flesh to be incredibly ill. At a lunch arranged for him to get to know the man he would choose to be his Vice Presidential nominee and who would later succeed him, Harry S Truman, Roosevelt’s extremely poor appearance shocked Truman. Historians later reviewing Roosevelt’s health records concluded that all the warning signs were there for events that would transpire later. For instance, records of his blood pressure through one month show Roosevelt suffering from extremely high blood pressure. His personal physician recommended bed rest and up to ten hours of sleep per night. While that may have possibly improved his health and prolonged his life, it’s not necessarily the best schedule for a sitting U.S. president.
Shortly after his election to a fourth term, Roosevelt suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died. Truman, a former Missouri senator with dubious ties to a political machine and someone the public barely knew, succeeded Roosevelt who holds the distinction as America’s longest serving president.
Had the public been truly informed that they were voting for a “dying man” as one historian observed, Roosevelt might not have been nominated to serve a fourth term and if he had been nominated anyway, Truman likely would not have been his Vice President.
The health of other presidents has also proved relevant during their terms in office. Woodrow Wilson suffered a massive stroke while president that partially paralyzed him. Warren Harding died in office from what most believe was congestive heart failure (although Mrs. Harding’s failure to allow an autopsy has made her suspect in some circles of poisoning him as retaliation for his womanizing). John F. Kennedy’s lifelong struggle with Addison’s disease and back problems were carefully hidden from the public when he ran in 1960. Whether knowing the truth would have affected the outcome of that election is anyone’s guess, but it’s generally conceded that the public at least had a right to know.
So while Karl Rove will take the slings and arrows of Democrat operatives and Hillary fans this week for suggesting that her health will be a campaign issue, history will ultimately vindicate his speculation.
Hillary’s health will be an issue. You can pretty much take that to the bank.