Politics

12.15.12

Hillary Clinton Faints: What Caused It?

The secretary of state passed out and banged her head. Was it a brain tumor? A bender? Or simply a stomach bug? Dr. Kent Sepkowitz says the simplest answer is probably right.

According to the Associated Press, Hillary Clinton fainted earlier this week and, in falling, banged her head sufficiently to cause a concussion. The root cause, we are told, was a stomach bug—maybe norovirus—that caused dehydration and wobbliness.

This medical dispatch came close on the heels of her cancellation of a very important-seeming trip to Morocco to discuss Syria. Here again, blame was hung on the same stomach bug. So the story is consistent and biologically plausible, the number of facts we have been supplied feels about right, and that should be that, right? Well, in a normal country and with a normal person, yes. We would say that two plus two equals four and that Secretary Clinton has what has been said: a bug that knocked her off her pins so that when she stood up a bit too fast—plop—she dropped to the ground and banged her head a good one. In modern, peri-NFL parlance, we call that a concussion.

But this is 21st century America we’re talking about here, and not just anyone but Hillary Clinton. Hillary, who in 1992 said on 60 Minutes that she wasn’t planning on “sitting here like some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette,” when she and her then-candidate-husband sat down to clear the air of rumors that Bill had a wandering eye for the ladies.

Hillary, the former president of the Wellesley Republicans who was enough of a Rockefeller fan to attend the 1968 Republican convention in Miami without fear or loathing. Hillary, who led the great health-care debacle of the early Clinton years. Hillary, who remained dignified, somehow, as the Lewinsky news dominated for more than a year. Hillary, who in her last days as first lady ran successfully for Senate and then ran for president, and would not give up despite all the evidence she had fallen short. Hillary, who next became the secretary of state for the person who had defeated her. Hillary Rodham Clinton—she’s been in the middle of the action for 20 years. And like Marilyn or Princess Diana, any Hillary news is news.

Plus, a fainting Clinton is news if only because of the suspicion it will generate. Are large facts being withheld? Is this a Benghazi misdirection from those masters of deception in the White House, a latter day Whitewater? Was Linda Tripp anywhere near the house when she “fainted?”

Nah. More than an addiction to politics, we seem to have an addiction to paranoia about political figures. It’s hard to blame us—after all, so many of us learned about politics during the endless Nixon years when no matter how paranoid your theory was, it always fell short of the facts. But Nixon aside, it seems like in modern politics, a cigar is sometimes just a cigar and a bruised forehead from choking on a pretzel is just a bruised forehead from choking on a pretzel.

I just don’t think there’s more here medically—that is, no hidden brain tumor, no bleeding ulcer, no electrode implanted by the North Koreans, no alcoholic bender or pill-popping frenzy. People get sick and they faint. Hillary has fainted at least once previously (that we know of) while preparing to give a speech on Social Security in Buffalo, N.Y. (Of course that topic and locale might be enough to tip anyone over). People who faint once have a habit of fainting again. It happens all the time. Emergency rooms are full of the faint, the fainting, and the faint-hearted. Once in a while they slip to the ground so suddenly that they hurt themselves. Still, routine business. So let’s drop this one and instead wish Hillary a healthy 2013. Besides, all this ginned up excitement is bad for our health.