Nancy Pelosi, trying to choke back panic as the presidential race tightens and concern grows over Hillary Clinton’s obviously fragile health, has appealed to Paul Ryan’s sense of gallantry. The little lady needs a little help. She begs him not to “let” his party use anything damaging to the Democrats that turns up in emails hacked from Democratic email servers. And no talk about Hillary’s health either.
“Defending our democracy,” she said in a letter to the speaker this week, “is more important than any advantage or disadvantage in this election.” The only thing more important than “the sanctity of our democratic process” are the election prospects of her party.
Mzz Pelosi waxes eloquent in her appeal to Mr. Ryan, who sounds unimpressed by an appeal to be nice to please the elites. “Democrats and Republicans,” she says, “must present a united front in the face of Russia’s attempts to tamper with the will of the American people.”
All good and true, of course, but Republicans faithful to their country can nevertheless deplore Vladimir Putin’s hackery — if, indeed, the man who calls himself Guccifer 2.0 is a guilty Russian hacker — while still measuring Democratic behavior by their words, stolen or not. It’s hard to argue with the logic of Mr. Putin, bad guy as he may be, when he tells Bloomberg News: “Listen, does it even matter who hacked this data?
“The important thing is the content that was given to the public.” The bigger question is how did we come to this pass, when an old KGB goon like Vladimir Putin can offer righteous commentary on an American election? Partisan memories are short on the Potomac. Neither Mzz Pelosi nor her colleagues sounded particularly outraged by the attempt by Democrats to use the Internal Revenue Service to intimidate conservatives trying to join the debate leading to American elections. With a telephone call to his attorney general, President Obama could have put the heat on the director of the IRS to find the guilty party and get him on his way to prison. Instead, the IRS gave the guilty party a bonus.
Speaker Ryan’s office referred Mzz Pelosi’s request to suspend the First Amendment in the name of compassion and partisan pity to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party’s campaign arm. “Neither [the congressional committee] chairman, Greg Walden, nor the speaker have control over what our independent expenditure unit does, which [Democratic counterparts] as well as Leader Pelosi are well aware of,” a Republican committee spokesman said.
It’s hardly coincidence that Mzz Pelosi’s plea for charity and mercy parallels the attempt by the Clinton campaign to stifle questions about Hillary’s health, and in particular her coughing episodes. One of the fits early this week lasted more than four minutes, interrupting a conversation with reporters on her campaign plane. When Andrew Raffery of NBC News reported that “the frog in [Mrs.] Clinton’s throat on Monday was one of the most aggressive she’s had during her 2016 run,” a Clinton spokesman, Nick Merrill, went semi-ballistic, and told him to “get a life.”
But the story, which will not go away short of a miraculous recovery from whatever ails the lady, continues to spread from what the Clinton campaign calls “the fringes” of the media to “the mainstream,” i.e., the big newspapers and the television networks eager to carry water for the Clintons.
The Clinton campaign, and particularly the afflicted candidate herself, is surely aware that their pain (in the throat as well as in the seat of a pantsuit) is similar to the pain of an earlier Clinton scandal and how it spread from the “fringes” to the “mainstream” and became the story of the year and finally to the impeachment of ol’ Bubba his own self. The vast, right-wing media conspiracy, indeed.
Interest in Hillary’s coughing fits has already spread to doctors who are better qualified than reporters and campaign flacks to know what to make of it. One prominent neurosurgeon in the nation’s capital, speaking with the usual anonymity accorded as professional privilege, writes to tell me that he is “pretty sure that she suffers from pseudo bulbar palsy. These symptoms are due to a lesion in the brain stem. Generically, the causes are multiple trauma, neoplasm, stroke, autoimmune issues, infection. In her case the cause is most likely a venous infarct (stroke) secondary to her transverse sinus occlusion. She now takes coumadin, an anti-coagulant. She also has labile affect, inappropriate head bobbing and double vision as other symptoms.”
That’s doctor talk above a pundit’s pay grade, but it’s hard to argue with the doctor when he says “we should demand an MRI, with and without contrast, and repeat this demand every day until this subject cannot be ignored.” And why not? The lady is only asking us to make her the president of the United States.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.