Ailing Clinton needs to cure her penchant for secrecy

Hillary Clinton in New York on Sunday after leaving a 9/11 ceremony.
Hillary Clinton in New York on Sunday after leaving a 9/11 ceremony. The Associated Press

The Twittersphere is blowing up with conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton. Again.

And once more, Clinton has no one but herself to blame.

People get sick. It is part of the human condition. On Sunday, Clinton apparently became overheated and dehydrated at a 9/11 commemoration in New York. Her knees appeared to buckle and Secret Service agents had to help her into a waiting SUV, and she was whisked off to Chelsea Clinton’s apartment.

We know this not because her campaign aides put out a press release. That would have been too transparent for Clinton. Instead, an onlooker happened to have recorded the episode on his phone and released the video.

A few hours later, Clinton emerged from the apartment, declared that it was a beautiful day in New York, chatted with a cute little girl, and drove off. But what if it wasn’t Clinton after all? Or so the latest conspiracy chatter goes.

Fanned by talk radio and cable news, this week’s wild speculation is that it wasn’t Clinton who left Chelsea’s Manhattan apartment. The claim, right out of some Hollywood thriller, is that a body double stood in for the ailing Clinton.

No matter that the supposed sleight of hand occurred with numerous reporters, professional news photographers and camera operators as direct eyewitnesses. The internet played some mind-bending tricks with photos and the theories took off, as internet theories tend to do.

All this might have been avoided were it not for a lie of omission by Clinton and her campaign. Evidently, Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday and urged to rest.

Her campaign aides, however, failed to disclose that fact publicly. The candidate thought she could soldier on by attending the 9/11 ceremony. Voters would be none the wiser, and Donald Trump and his surrogate Rudy Giuliani would have no more fodder for their claim that she is not up to the task of being president. Clearly, Clinton’s tactic didn’t work out so well.

So here we are, eight weeks until the Nov. 8 election, and Clinton’s campaign, promising at last to release detailed medical records, is grappling not only with a sick candidate but with another flare-up of doubt from voters who don’t, or at least feel they shouldn’t, trust her.

Meanwhile, Clinton and her aides are not talking about her vision for the next four years, or Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, or the recent report that he used other people’s money to make charitable contributions in his name, or that he made highly questionable campaign donations to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, or that Trump has an unnatural affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As anyone who flies knows, travel is hazardous to one’s health. It’s worse on the campaign trail. Presidential candidates spend days and weeks at a time on the road, breathing recycled air on jets, shaking hands with strangers, and sleeping in unfamiliar beds.

Voters understand that people get sick. It’s actually a wonder more national candidates don’t end up with pneumonia. But as with her email debacle, when she failed to take responsibility quickly, Clinton’s first impulse was to stonewall.

Clinton’s overweening penchant for secrecy might not be a fatal flaw, but it’s a real liability in the internet era – and an affliction that she must remedy before it cripples her.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee