That Kennedyesque Vigor

There’s something off about Hillary Clinton’s health. The Hillary health truthers may venture down the rabbit hole towards crackpot explanations involving elaborate conspiracies to hide her true state of health, but enough photos and footage are in circulation showing her looking sickly and exhausted at public appearances to make it perfectly reasonable for voters to assume, as a matter of caution if nothing else, that she is medically unfit for office. We should not feel ashamed to expect that our presidential candidates show signs of good health.

I don’t feel like indulging complaints from the credentialed about how only trained and licensed physicians are qualified to diagnose disease. No shit, Doc Martin. This isn’t the rogue practice of medicine that I’m encouraging; it’s the duly constituted practice of individual electoral oversight of candidates for elected office. If we, as individual electors, believe that a candidate is too sickly to function adequately upon election, we, as individual electors, have the absolute right to vote against her. We have the absolute right to vote against her because we find her an insufferable fucking bitch or a crook, too. We’re free to conclude, without evidence adequate for medical diagnosis or treatment, that she’s stroked out or jacked up on steroids and hence in a state of inadequate health to assume the highest office in the land. The threshold for concern is lower. The threshold is frankly whatever the fuck the individual voter thinks it is. By my own reckoning, Hillary is probably on the wrong side of that threshold, and this likelihood discomfits me.

If Bill Frist is free to discern signs of life in a tragically unfortunate vegetable like Terri Schiavo, in violation of medical ethical standards demanding a good-faith examination before diagnosis, the rest of us are free to discern signs of gathering death in Hillary Clinton. She often looks like shit in public. This is worrisome. She looks much worse than Donald Trump or Mike Pence. She looks much worse than her running mate, Tim Kaine. She looks much worse than Bernie Sanders, a man widely ridiculed as a gerontocrat. She looks much worse than Pope Francis, and, depending on the day and the lighting, better or worse than Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a man old enough to be her worldly father as well as our Holy Father, and one who was admittedly in a state of poor health towards the end of his papacy. Any number of people twenty or more years her senior consistently look healthier than she does.

The contrast with Bernie Sanders is worth looking at in a bit more depth. Sanders is only six years Clinton’s senior and exceptionally fit. Many elderly would love to be so vigorously ambulatory at his age. By comparison, Clinton looks fatigued, sluggish, unsteady on her feet, and pallid when she hasn’t been told to be on point. It is quite unlikely that Bernie is not the medically fitter of the two. Yet he, not she, was the one who was chronically smeared in the mainstream media as an old fart past his sell-by date. It’s hard to imagine that the commentariat was actually concerned about medical fitness for office.

We’ve seen this movie before. The press takes sides, although not always the sides one might expect, especially from the perspective of a beleaguered conservative. In 1984, when Ronald Reagan was the same age as Bernie Sanders is today, the mainstream media ignored the classic signs of senile dementia that he showed on stage during a debate with Walter Mondale. Reagan had a vacant, unfocused look in his eyes for much of the debate. At times he veered into befuddled, incoherent comments. One observer speculated that he probably would not have been able to correctly identify the city where the debate was being held if a moderator had asked him.

Anyone–steadfast supporter, staunch opponent, neutral observer, foreigner–might very reasonably have been alarmed by the thought of a man who made a public appearance in such a condition being the head of government and state of a major nuclear power. Reagan recovered his mental engagement, and his famous wit and eloquence, by the next debate, and he stayed relatively engaged in public for the remainder of his presidency, although his demented meltdown at the 1984 debate made his bizarre comments about the conflict between the facts and the feelings in his heart when Iran-Contra was exposed even more troubling in context than they would have been in isolation. It’s one thing to be governed by a SAG bullshit artist who approaches life as a feature-length movie, another to have a president genuinely losing his marbles with half a term, or even a full term plus a few months, yet to serve.

The press covered more thoroughly yet for JFK, the cockhound with Addison’s disease whom they made out to be a family man full of what Broad-Bangin’ Jack himself called great vigah. There was in fact a journalistic ethos of discretion about the sexuality of politicians in the midcentury that burned off like so much morning fog by the time Monica Lewinsky put on her blue dress, a discretion that inadvertently gave the fabulous creep J. Edgar Hoover even more leverage to blackmail the rest of Washington. After all, what would that closet case have had left to use on Came-a-Lot if Jack the Schtupper had already been tittered about in the press as a world-class tapper of twats? By some accounts, Kennedy wasn’t just a raging man-slut, but a dissolutely handsy dipshit who cornered random female staffers for impromptu sex in the hallways. These accounts suggest a moral unfitness for office far beyond what Bill Clinton showed in his extremely sublimated affair with Lewinsky (although not beyond the much more serious accusations of rape made against Clinton, most prominently by Juanita Broaddrick).

JFK’s spotty health, however, did not raise the specter of scandal. This was a weird endocrine abnormality, not a proclivity to impulsively screw the nearest piece of ass every hour or two. Americans had (and still have, although less so) some appallingly moralistic views on mental illness, even on depression, but only a frothing crank from the hardline opposition would have blamed an elected official for needing to take injected steroids for a serious endocrine condition, as if it was a great moral failing. No one would have regarded this as a karmic punishment for past misdeeds, as might happen in parts of Asia. The public reaction wouldn’t be any worse than, well, sounds like the poor bastard is in poor health. Kennedy would not have gotten the Eagleton treatment for being perceived as a crazy mental degenerate. Nonetheless, voters might have had reasonable concerns about his medical fitness for office and much more pointed questions about the coverup of a President’s medical condition in a time of sickness.

One of the saddest spectacles we’ve been treated to this campaign is the extreme deterioration of Bill Clinton. Hillary never looked as good as he did when they were in their prime, but if anything, she looks better than he does now.

It’s a shockingly stark contrast between then and now for a man who was so youthfully handsome during his own presidency. Bill consistently looked great in the nineties. Even when he was under extreme congressional fire and Starr power he looked pretty damn good. Over the past few years, though, he’s come to look like shit. He looks gaunt, even cadaverous. When he was in office, he was constantly getting ribbed for stress-eating, especially for diverting his Secret Service detail to McDonald’s for weigh-me-down pick-me-ups during his morning runs.

Seeing someone with this history of joyful fooding become not just thin in early old age but frailly thin and pallid is disturbing. As President, the Big Dog ate his way towards a Dotsonian figure under public fat-shaming scrutiny, and he did so with an almost Dotsonian serenity of size. It’s easy to imagine Jon Belmar and Ron Johnson being embarrassed to chaperone either of them to Steak-n-Shake. In fairness, though, there were certain other porky precincts where the Capital Rotunder was easily serpassed.

I couldn’t help myself. It’s a mental condition, kind of like *PISS* coming out of my *ASS*, or JIMMEHJIMMEHJIMMEHJIMMEH! It’s an intellectual disability. Give me some Ritalin if you want the memes to stop. That was the result of mild sleep deprivation and a pint of coffee, so wheeeeeee.

What would be the result of a sickly president with an even sicklier spouse? We’d be well advised not to find out. With the Clintons, especially Hillary, we can expect a power vacuum to be filled by a rogue’s gallery of creepy spooks, psychosexually deranged armchair generals like Jen Psaki and Victoria Nuland, fellow-traveling neocon creeps who approach foreign and military policy like a game of Risk, dual Israeli-US nationals of questionable loyalty and honor, equally conniving money Jews who have not yet made aliyah on a walk-up ticket out of Dulles because shit’s going down, and officer-class shabbos goyim of the sword. Hillary is said to have pressured Barack Obama to throw caution to the wind prior to the deposition, anal rape, and regicide of Muammar Qaddafi, but it’s unlikely that she’ll surround herself with, let alone listen to, anyone equally critical who counsels peace instead of war. Hoping that US foreign policy accidentally goes sane again as a side effect of the Second President Clinton being too indisposed to carry out the duties of her office and leaving these duties to subordinates or dauphins who are not batshit insane is a fool’s errand.

Let’s not forget what happened to George W. Bush. He had a chip on his shoulder as a dry-drunk failson and legacy president whose brother was supposed to inherit the throne instead. As a result, he was intellectually timid enough to be buffaloed by starve-the-beast supply-side zealots in his cabinet, and he was chronically under suspicion for inappropriately allowing his ever-more Strangelovian veep to act as his de facto dauphin.

This is what happened to a president who was in perfectly adequate health throughout both of his terms in office. Hillary is running for office in a state of visibly ill health last seen in Ronald Reagan, who was six years older than she is now by the time he started showing signs of senility. Donald Trump, by comparison, appears healthy and high-energy. Elegant! Okay, he also promotes himself to an unseemly extent–narcissistic! Sad! Still, he doesn’t look like he’ll take office and then wander out to lunch for some unforeseeable balance of his presidency. Clinton looks like she might.

I don’t take any glee in expressing my concerns about the Clintons’ health. This is not the sort of old age that should be wished even on one’s enemies. It’s wise indeed to ask not for whom the bell tolls. In this case, it’s been tolling ominously for years. The Clintons deserve punishment for their corruption, but they don’t deserve to take ill in their mid-sixties with no prospect of recovery. It’s bad juju to even think that way. They’re both in ill enough health to argue for the mitigation of any prison sentences they might receive, even in the event of murder convictions. If I were as sickly as either of them look, I’d feel like my life had become its own punishment. Wealth and liberty are weak palliatives for people so unhealthy.

For that matter, we’re far too vicious and retributive as a society towards basically harmless convicts. What in hell do we accomplish by putting a diminished old bastard like Dennis Hastert in prison for decades-old sex crimes? Most of his victims are free men who still have some measure of their youth. Punishing frail, wheelchair-bound geezers because they abused their physical and institutional power back when they still had some is the hallmark of an evil society. The Clintons aren’t nearly so harmless, and there is a strong case to be made for segregating them from society until they can be neutralized or proven too impotent to continue their lives of crime, but punishing them in a spirit of righteous anger would be ugly. Fuck C. S. Lewis on that count, at least, although not on the moral busybody thing.

George. H. W. Bush was right. You get the flu and they make it into a federal case. Geez. But don’t cry for him, Argentina. He’s blessed with good health, strong health.

Hillary, though? Poppy Bush was right again. She’s not be well.

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