Hillary Clinton’s Horribly Bad, No Good, Rotten Blood Clot

by Adison Marshall

As 2012 came to a close and most other Americans were anticipating the Mayan Apocalypse, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself hospitalized with a blood clot inside one of the two major veins that drain blood from her brain. Secretary Clinton has a history of blood clots — although before, they were in her leg, and not so dangerously close to her brain.

This was not the only medical issue Clinton has recently dealt with; in fact, doctors say that the clot was likely caused by the concussion she sustained when she fainted due to dehydration caused by a bout of the flu, which she had recently faced. She was treated and released within the week. The standard treatment for a clot like Secretary Clinton’s is just a regimen of blood thinners to prevent the existing clot from growing and to keep other clots from forming at all.

All the medical experts say that Secretary Clinton should be just fine and the blood thinner treatments, as well as the possibility of another clot, won’t affect her ability to work or function normally. The report is that with patients who have had clots located in the same vein, blood thinners sometimes become a long-term regimen. However, regularly taking anticoagulants would not be limiting or in any way impair Secretary Clinton’s ability to work as competently and tirelessly as she always has.

In light of the fact that this blood clot has no long-term medical effects that would keep Secretary Clinton from her active (or healthy) political career, the more relevant question becomes: How has her publicly-covered condition affected the public’s — and the Democratic Party’s — perception of Clinton as a possible nominee for the 2016 presidential race?

More than anything, it will affect her possible campaign now, while it is in its infancy. Her path to nomination will have to change much more than the campaign she will run during the general election. She’ll first feel the repercussions of health issues within her own party. Challenges implying Secretary Clinton’s weakness will first be leveled by Democratic competitors for the nomination, before she makes her official announcement.

Now, while her campaign is unofficial, the way she is perceived is especially important, because it is now when she needs to start working toward endorsements and support from party elites. Will her chances for support be diminished if she appears to be weak or sickly?

There are a few ways in which her health issues could make Secretary Clinton look like a less desirable candidate. As a female in a male-dominated field, she’s built a career on an image of hard work, toughness, intelligence, and personal strength. Physical weakness undermines her a little bit, by making her look shaky or feeble, when she has always appeared the opposite.

Additionally, much of President Barack Obama’s support came from American college students. In order to appeal to that age bracket, Secretary Clinton can’t appear to be too old or out of touch. Popular images of Obama playing basketball stand in sharp juxtaposition to recent images of Secretary Clinton leaving the hospital. She’s got to work now to make sure she doesn’t seem weak, worn down, or somehow not up to task because of her age. She can’t afford to be viewed as a character from a Depends commercial.

But perhaps the most negative misperception for her campaign will be the public believing that it was the stress of Secretary of State work that caused her poor health. She has worked tirelessly as Secretary of State for the past four years. In fact, Secretary Clinton is currently the most traveled Secretary of State in the history of the position. She has logged more than a million miles en route to 112 countries across the globe. That’s more than half of the countries in the world.

She has undoubtedly done a truly exceptional job, but if her health appears to be suffering as a result of her work, will the public question her ability to handle the pressures of presidency? If the general public thinks overwork as Secretary of State led to her health problems, that perception could be horribly dangerous to her image during a time when she needs to appear unbreakable and strong.

If these misperceptions rule the day and the Secretary faces attacks from within her own party, then she’ll likely continue to face problems throughout the primaries — a potentially threatening clot of another kind. She’ll be forced to spend a fair amount of time during the primaries addressing, acknowledging and dismantling the implication that she’s no longer as robust as she once was.

Assuming she survives the primaries, it would probably be the general election before she faced explicit charges that she wasn’t healthy enough for the presidency. But by that time, she would be the nominee and at least theoretically have the support of most of the Democratic Party. And by the time the general election rolls around, the accusations would likely not stick. They would be yesterday’s news, spread only by desperate right wing pundits.

Because it is so early for her campaign, and her health issues have been made so public, and been covered so thoroughly and extensively, barring some other medical shock for Secretary Clinton, rumors that she is medically unfit will probably be quickly dismissed in the general election of 2016. However, she’s up against a new set of misperceptions to fight during her journey to the nomination. Regardless of how this clot may affect her image, Secretary Clinton is one tough lady and one brilliant politician — she’s proven that time and again. I’m guessing she will walk away from this potential political threat as confidently as she walked out of New York Presbyterian Hospital. I look forward to watching her political career advance in 2016.


photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund: http://www.flickr.com/photos/americanprogressaction/3618817123/