May 19, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
When I ran for US Congress in 2010 I was asked all sorts of questions. A lot of them were actually pretty much on target. They gave me good insight into what was on the minds of the average voter. Jobs. The economy. Guns. The price of gas. Same-Sex marriage. And a few more on jobs. But about 1 out of every 4 questions gave me pause. At least the first few times I was hit up.
Where did your parents grow up? Do you keep a gun at your house? Where? Did you live with your wife before you got married? Did you ever date more than one woman at once? Have you ever spanked your kid? Do you work out? How often? Do you suffer from high blood pressure? How much do you weigh? What did I think of the fact that there was (gasp) a “colored family” now living in the White House?
One fella even asked me if I heard voices at night. Turns out he did. A lot. But he also told me he had been abducted by aliens at least three times. The good news was that he had, so he claimed, been offered a top secret job to spy on the aliens for the US. But I couldn’t tell anyone. Well, I am breaking my silence now. I hope his cover is intact.
But why do I share all this, other than the possible therapeutic value?
Well, recently, Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican Party National Committee was a guest on the long-running (if not highly rated) TV show “Meet the Press.” He was asked what he thought about another fellow GOP luminary, Karl Rove, who said he thought Hillary Clinton may have suffered brain damage from a blood clot she had back in 2010. He also implied that this “damage” plus her “advanced age” (she is 66) made her potentially “unfit” to ever be president.
Chairman Priebus responded by emphasizing that such issues as her health, possible damage from her blood clot treatment and age were all matters of public knowledge and that “we” had a right to know the “truth.” And that Mr. Rove did not have to apologize for indelicately trampling upon Madame Clinton’s state of health.
Which made think about what, if anything, is not fair game to discuss, debate, probe and have to respond to if you are a candidate for public office. The answer, at least according to Gallup polls taken yearly, are, not much.
Seems we want to know every juicy detail about candidates, even if the information borders on or is outright gossip. We treat our candidates about the same as our celebrities. Everyone is just one TMZ audio recording or video away from humiliation and downfall (Mr. Sterling are you listening?) Because we sure are.
It wasn’t always this way. For may years the press had some unspoken boundaries they seemed to recognize and avoid. FDR was not to be photographed with his crutches or leg braces if at all possible. JFK’s sexual dalliances (though widely known by the White House press corps) were seen as his private life and as such not a matter of public necessity. Even his medical condition (he suffered acute kidney failure periodically, residual jaundice symptoms and searing back pain) was mostly off-limits. LBJ’s own affair with his secretary was kept under wraps while most of the press went to great lengths not to make a big deal about Ronald Reagan’s “nap-time” and his early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
We’ve even had presidents like Eisenhower and Wilson suffer debilitating strokes while in office that were not fully described or reported by the press out of respect for the office and a concern that “we” the public would panic.
Bygone halcyon days of discretion to be sure.
In the 1980s when then Senator Hart (D-CO) and presidential candidate was suspected of having an extra-marital affair he threw down the gauntlet to the press (never smart). “Follow me if you want,” he said, “I have nothing to hide.”
Turns out he did. A lot. And her name was Donna Rice. Not his wife. The press has never looked back. It’s all fair game now. When President Bill Clinton was in the midst of a hurricane scandal named Monica Lewinsky (a young intern he had “intimacies” with but may or may not have had actual, you know, legal sex with) even the dress she wore to one of their “trysts” was fair game and whether it was, um, soiled or not (yuck, right?).
So, now in 2014, should we really expect or have a right to expect that anything about a candidate’s past or physical well-being not be ripe for public scrutiny?
George McGovern infamously dropped his announced VP running mate Senator Eagleton from the ticket because he (Eagleton) had once sought psychiatric counseling and Team McGovern feared the press would eat him alive.
Former President George W. Bush had to respond to questions that he was turned away at least once from entering a University of Texas football game because he was inebriated and/or high on cocaine. Bush simply responded by saying that he was young once and made “youthful mistakes.”
And really, haven’t we all?
But what about our intimate details of our physical condition?
Should Hillary Clinton, if she does run for President in 2016 make a full disclosure as to any and all damage she may have suffered due to her blood clot ailment?
Husband Bill Clinton says she’s “doing great” and there’s nothing to disclose but this is also coming from the former Commander-in-Chief who wagged his finger at a nationally televised press conference and famously claimed that “I did not have sex with…with…that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” Leaked comments by White House insiders seem to suggest that they all had a good laugh at that assertion and noted that they (Clinton and Lewinsky) had done just about everything else but maybe not “it.”
Which brings me back to my focus question, which was and remains, does any of this other stuff really matter?
If Hillary Clinton is healthy today and runs for and becomes president do we really need to know anything else of her medical condition?
And as to her age, well, we’ve had candidates in the past go to great lengths to demonstrate their vitality and fitness to be president. Sometimes quite dramatically. Senator Tsongas, a cancer survivor, swam a marathon. Ronald Reagan would ride horseback and cut down trees at his ranch and coordinate the press photo-ops to make sure we knew that a. He was older and b. It didn’t matter.
Maybe if Hillary were to run a marathon or swim the English Channel or take part in the Tour de France?
Then again maybe she shouldn’t have to.
And in case you missed it, the Campaign for the Presidency in 2016 is underway.