Hillary Clinton’s health has come under serious scrutiny in the past several days. Just a week ago, Clinton collapsed and had to be helped into a waiting vehicle while attending the 9/11 Memorial Service. She has had several coughing fits of late. Colin Powell said that he learned from a Democratic donor that Secretary Clinton could barely climb steps to a podium at an event in 2015.
Does Mrs. Clinton suffer from a chronic health condition? We know she was diagnosed with pneumonia a couple weeks ago and that she has suffered from blood clots on a couple occasions. There are rumors of more serious, chronic health problems, but I prefer not to deal with rumor and innuendo—especially in the midst of a heated presidential election.
What are we to make of Secretary Clinton’s health? Well, I must admit that as someone who has trouble climbing stairs (I was scheduled to lead opening prayer at worship last night, but because I was having a difficult walking day, I had to ask someone else to climb the steps into the pulpit and lead prayer) I took offense to the suggestion that Mrs. Clinton may be unfit to serve as President because she might have trouble climbing stairs. If my history is right, a President who was confined to a wheelchair led this nation to victory over Nazi Germany; would anyone suggest that FDR was unfit to serve as President because he could barely walk without assistance?
If Hillary Clinton is elected in November and if she has a health issue (I’m not persuaded that she really does), she would by no means be the first President to suffer from health difficulties. I’ve already mentioned Franklin Roosevelt’s polio. There are suggestions that Lincoln suffered from a genetic disorder or Marfan syndrome; while such diagnoses are conjecture, they are based on the apparent wasting away of the President visible in photographs taken before his assassination. John F. Kennedy suffered from Addison’s disease. Any poll of the American people would likely place FDR, Lincoln, and JFK as some of the best presidents in our history; their health issues did not prevent valuable service to the United States.
How much should a presidential candidate’s health be an issue in a campaign?
A presidential candidate’s health should matter IF:
That candidate has a terminal illness.
If a presidential candidate will be unable to fulfill a term in office, the American people have a right to know that.
That candidate has an illness which requires much time.
If a candidate has an illness which requires a great deal of medical attention, the public has a right to know that. Will there be many appointments with physicians? Will there be infusions or required hospitalizations? Such treatment might affect a President’s ability to serve.
That candidate cannot work for extended periods of time.
Personally, I have trouble sitting at a computer and doing meaningful work more than three hours or so a day. I could not sit through long meetings or handle national crises. A President cannot have an illness which would affect his (or her) ability to work long and difficult hours.
That candidate takes medications which sedate him or her.
Some of my medications have adverse side effects; when I get still and quiet, I’m apt to go to sleep—many Sundays I struggle to stay awake during Bible class or preaching. We certainly need a President who can work in the Oval Office, chair meetings, and make important decisions without being sedated by medication.
That candidate has an illness which can affect thinking.
Many illnesses impair judgment. The American people deserve a President who can make clear decisions in times of national emergency.
The health of a presidential candidate is a perennial issue. The American people have a right to ask hard questions and receive truthful answers to questions about a candidate’s health. Tomorrow, we’ll think about when a candidate’s health does not affect his or her ability to serve as Commander-in-Chief. Until then, God bless!