The Clinton campaign claims she was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday, meaning that the press and the public were notified two days later, and only after she semi-collapsed on camera. One explanation for the Clinton campaign’s silence is simply that it was in uncharted water: It is normal to release bills of health (both Clinton and Trump have given the public the bare minimum on this count), but there is no norm relating to the release of a pneumonia diagnosis.
Clinton did cop to having allergies a week ago (sort of), and no one took it seriously, because people don’t take allergies seriously. So it’s also possible that the Clinton campaign, obsessed with narrative at a granular level, worried about the backlash of disclosing a low-level health problem. No one would believe that allergies are the culprit and saying “I have a cold” would just invite Drudge to ask, with a siren, WHAT KIND OF PERSON GETS A COLD IN AUGUST?
But Clinton has also spent the last few weeks being extremely cavalier about the question of her health, treating the issue as stemming from a hare-brained corner of the vast right wing conspiracy, rather than the legitimate one it has now become. In late August, she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where Kimmel took her pulse and she opened a jar of pickles to prove her vitality. This was just two weeks before the pneumonia diagnosis.
It’s possible that this was just wishful thinking—that Clinton’s health would cease to be an issue, exposing the candidate’s enemies as the weirdos they are—but it also fits a troubling pattern of choosing opacity over openness and of making short-term decisions that backfire spectacularly. That, politically speaking at least, seems to be the biggest blunder here. Clinton’s pneumonia is now a political issue, because it fits snuggly within a narrative that has existed for two and a half decades that the Clintons, and Hillary in particular, are not honest with the public or the press except when it is absolutely necessary. The Clinton campaign only has itself to blame.