Hillary's Coughing and the Debates

Hillary's flacks maintain that she has no serious health problems, but there is an increasingly public amount of evidence that they are lying.  Her coughing fits, for example, have gone on for minutes during interviews and speeches and debates.  The leftist establishment media has totally ignored this running story, but there is one venue in which her uncontrollable coughing and hacking cannot be hidden from the American people: the presidential debates.

Because her health seems to getting worse all the time and because she has never appeared in a nationally televised presidential debate (indeed, even her few debates with Bernie Sanders were scheduled to avoid large audiences) the stress of standing before 100 million or so Americans watching her live should make the chances of her descending into minutes of coughing, gagging, and hacking while the world watches very real.

What happens then?  Well, consider if she keeps coughing for two or three minutes, as she has several times.  It will interrupt whatever point she has been trying to make and focus instead on her inability to speak.  A debater affects audiences as much by his demeanor and voice as by what he actually says.

Images matter, as the haggard-looking Nixon proved in the 1960 presidential debates.  He looked tired.  He looked old.  He had five o'clock shadow.  Those who heard Nixon and Kennedy on the radio actually thought Nixon won the debate, but those who watched them on television thought Kennedy won.

The sound and sight of an old, fat, sick coughing woman beside a healthy and vigorous man speaking confidently and clearly can only hurt Hillary and help Trump.  Whether this is "fair" or not we can leave to leftists obsessed with "fairness," but most Americans, who want a strong and robust leader, eschew these silly notions.

Hillary's uncontrolled coughing will be the story coming out of the debate, no matter what the candidates actually said, and that will make her health an issue that may not go away until Election Day.  If voters go into the ballot booth really wondering if she is healthy enough to be president, that negates all the arguments her campaign is making that Trump is temperamentally unsuited to be president. 

The greater danger for her is if the coughing jags show up in the first debate, then reappear in the second debate and the last debate.  If Hillary starts coughing in the first debate, then she will be quite conscious of that problem in the second debate, which will actually make it more likely that anxiety will bring on another attack.  If she has an uncontrollable coughing fit in the second or third debate, that may well be the biggest story of the campaign – except, of course, for another story.

If Hillary clearly appears to have serious health problems, then that means she and her staffers have been lying through their teeth to the American people.  That is not news, but this would be the sort of lie that everyone can see with his own eyes and can understand with no help.  Moreover, denying that she is really sick will compound the lying because ordinary Americans will think she is treating them like idiots.

So what could she do?  Hillary could say that she really is sick and was hiding the extent of her problems but is still fit to be president.  There are two problems with that.  First, Clintons thrive by lying with a straight face and never coming clean.  Admitting that she had been lying about that would grant new focus on all the other lies Hillary has told us.  Second, who will believe that she really is healthy enough to be president, no matter what she says? 

There is only one way this could fail to shift enough votes to win the White House for Trump.  If Hillary starts coughing and it is clear that this is going on for a few minutes, Donald Trump needs to say nothing at all in words or body language except, perhaps, to ask sympathetically if she needs help or would like a short break. 

Even the next day, the Trump campaign ought to say nothing more than "we hope Mrs. Clinton is doing better today, and we hope that she is able to well for the next debate."  Nothing snide, nothing editorial, and nothing more.  

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