When Is A Politician’s Health “Fair Game”?

Karl Rove triggered a lot of comment recently when he raised questions about Hillary Clinton’s health and the concussion she suffered after a fall in 2012.  Many people criticized Rove’s statements, and Bill Clinton responded with an extended explanation of what happened in 2012 and how long it took for Hillary Clinton to recover from the incident.  Rove, of course, took Bill Clinton’s response as evidence that he was justified in raising the question of Hillary Clinton’s health in the first place.  In my view, he wasn’t.

Unfortunately, America is afflicted with a seemingly permanent group of “operatives,” of both parties, who served Presidents and other powerful figures in the past but have never fully gone away.  Now they make their livings by being provocative, getting attention from the media, raising money for “issue advocacy” groups and getting paid for speeches.  They’re part of the legions of tiresome talking heads who always get trotted out to address the ephemeral political issues of the day that most normal Americans couldn’t care less about.  Rove is one of them, and I’m sure he was quite satisfied with the largely critical reaction to his statements, because it kept his name in the press.

I’m of the old school that believes that a person’s health is their own business that they are entitled to keep private if they choose.  That changes when a person runs for President.  The physical and mental demands of the job are tremendous, and American voters are entitled to know whether a candidate’s health history raises issues about their ability to bear the strains.  But until someone declares that they are seeking the highest office in the land, their privacy should be respected and there should be no speculation about their health, whether the topic is Hillary Clinton’s concussion or Chris Christie’s weight.  Such an approach would restore some sense of decency and proportion to American politics — which is probably a futile exercise, but still one that should be attempted.

The pundits may view Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic frontrunner, but right now she isn’t serving in public office, nor has she officially declared that she is running for President.  Until she does so, public chatter about her health should be off limits.