Fox News Halftime Report

It really is about her health

Strategy Room: Douglas Smith and Liz Peek discuss Hillary Clinton's health whether it is 'an issue', as Donald Trump is claiming


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On the roster: It really is about her health - Time out: ‘How do you do, fellow kids?’ - How deplorable was Hillary’s gaffe? - Polls show tight races in usually safe places - The name’s Angus MacGoldberg

What’s the worst thing that a politician with a reputation for dishonesty and a record of health problems could do? You got it: Lie about her health.

Democrats looking for gentler ways to criticize Hillary Clinton but still acknowledge the jarring image of a major party nominee collapsing at a public event are focused on Clinton’s lack of transparency.

David Axelrod tweeted, “Antibiotics can take care of pneumonia. What’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

There’s no doubt that Clinton’s secretive ways have gotten her in trouble now and before, but the larger question is whether she is physically able to execute the duties of the presidency.

Democrats may bemoan Clinton’s secrecy and the press may complain about how she, like Republican Donald Trump, refuses to allow the customary coverage agreement that gives the media a constant presence when she is on the move.

But what if the Clintons are secretive for a reason?

A popular trope about Clinton’s secret email server is that its use made Clinton “look” secretive, and that she only fed into her critics’ accusations -- an “unforced error.”

Since Clinton destroyed the email evidence that she said would exonerate her we have no way of knowing if the error was unforced or not. Perhaps Clinton actually needed to use a secret server because she was saying and doing things that would’ve been politically destructive or flat out illegal if they came to light.

That’s not an unforced error that’s a calculated risk.

We see from Axelrod and others a similar argument being made about Clinton’s health: She’s fine, but her bad political judgment makes the situation worse by lying to the press and being secretive.

But again, how would we know?

If Clinton really is in poor health, as the video capturing her collapse would indicate, then it would’ve been unwise for her to allow greater press access and thereby the revelation of her infirmities.

Remember how secretive Team Clinton was about her health prior to her testimony on the Benghazi attacks? It would be well after the testimony concluded that what had been described as a mild illness was really serious head trauma from a fall. It was so bad, Clinton said, that she couldn’t recall security protocols when asked by the FBI about the missing emails.

There was a time when politicians could conceal health problems from the press or the press would helpfully conceal disabilities like John Kennedy’s Addison’s disease, or Franklin Roosevelt’s paralysis. Times have changed, even since her husband disgorged his own medical records, hemorrhoids and all.

Those days are long gone and Clinton may not feel that she has any choice other than to evade and deceive.

And by focusing on the secrecy as the main offense, though, partisans and pressies, can let Clinton off the hook on the more serious question.

Clinton’s cleared her schedule for the beginning of the week, cancelling her fundraising trip to California, and so far Trump is playing it well, which means not seeming to be a ghoul. He told “FOX & Friends,” “I just hope she gets well and gets back on the trail and we’ll be seeing her at the debate.”

Trump is doubly advantaged in graciousness. Even a whiff of exploitation could turn the whole thing around to backfire on the Republican. And he’s not being forthright about his health history either. Trump’s going to release the findings of a physical examination Thursday with chat show host Mehmet Oz, but so far no health records.

If Clinton has more incidents or is not able to resume a full campaign schedule soon this could no doubt be the end of her second presidential run, or, conversely, if she bounces back but Trump and Co. overplay the issue it could actually be turned into a net positive for Clinton. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.

But either way, the coverage and criticism of Clinton’s secrecy rather than the actual issue of her illness, is a canard. The majority of America voters have already decided that Clinton is not honest. What remains to be seen is whether she is healthy enough to serve as president.

[Ed. note: As MANY readers pointed out, Friday’s Halftime Report wrongly described the location of Duke University. Duke is in Durham County, N.C. and we sincerely apologize for the error. It’s just that when we think about that school, sometimes we get distracted.]

“It is a general principle of human nature, that a man will be interested in whatever he possesses, in proportion to the firmness or precariousness of the tenure by which he holds it; will be less attached to what he holds by a momentary or uncertain title, than to what he enjoys by a durable or certain title; and, of course, will be willing to risk more for the sake of the one, than for the sake of the other.” – Alexander Hamilton, “Federalist No. 71

What’s the word for an old institution that seeks relevancy by overuse of youth slang? We don’t know, but maybe the Oxford English Dictionary will add that next year…Time: “The editors at the Oxford English Dictionary typically wait and watch for years before giving new words a chance to be included in their hallowed pages. So when those editors decide to add the likes of squee – Internet slang expressing delight or excitement – you know there is nothing willy-nilly (or shilly-shally) about it. That term, like hundreds of others going live on Monday, has been weighed, measured and determined to be a notable event in the history of the English language, silly as it may sound.” Also on the list: bracketology (n.), fuhgeddaboudit (int.), gender-fluid (adj.), ’Merica (n.), moobs (n.), non-apology (n.), swirlie (n.), uptalk (n.), Yoda (n.) and, of course, YOLO (int.)

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions

Average of national head-to-head presidential polls:
 Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +4.2 points
[Polls included: WaPo/ABC News, CNN, IBDFox News, and USA Today.]

Average of national four-way presidential polls: Clinton vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein: Clinton +1.6 points
[Polls included: WaPo/ABC News, CNN, Boston Herald, GWU, and IBD]

How serious of a gaffe was Hillary Clinton saying that half of Donald Trump’s supporters were a “basket of deplorables?”

One point in favor of it being a lasting error for Clinton is that the phrase is so memorable and visual. One can just picture an oversized picnic basket full of Klansmen, neo-Nazis and birthers. “Basket of deplorables” sounds like a Lemony Snicket book.

Trump and his campaign have said that it is tantamount to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comments, in which the Republican 2012 nominee explained to donors that was the percentage of Americans who paid no taxes and were net-consumers of federal benefits and therefore would not vote for him.

Halftime Report holds that the consequences of Romney’s statement have been overblown. His stumbling response was bad, as he acted like he had been caught doing something quite nasty. But it seems unlikely that many persuadable voters changed their mind about Romney based on that.

What Romney’s remarks did do, was provide a rallying cry for President Obama and Democrats. The message was that this quarter-billionaire, Republican jerk doesn’t think you’re a whole person because you don’t make enough money to pay taxes.

It was effective in that way, which clearly Trump hopes to replicate. He and his campaign have released an ad and trying to force the conversation to the topic whenever possible. The message this time is Clinton thinks you are a disgusting racist just for supporting Trump and make her pay for her arrogance.

But the parallelism has its limits. Just as some of Obama’s supporters were the kinds of folks Romney was describing, some of Trump’s supporters match Clinton’s description.

While Trump is not responsible for the actions and beliefs of all his backers, guilt by association is a time-honored and effective political tool. Clinton was doing, until her campaign hit the skids with her Sunday collapse, what Romney should’ve done: Apologize for being overly broad, but reinforce the underlying accusation.

The Trump ad even repeats her charges: “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it.” Yes, it will intensify the hatred for Clinton among Trump’s supporters, which will help in this ugly election, but paying to allow Clinton to reiterate the accusations seems unwise.

Trump may juice his core supporters with Clinton’s attack, but he ought to be careful about overplaying his hand as his son did in sharing an icon popular in the white nationalist, “alt-right” in defending his father and his supporters as being part of that group.

Depending on the severity and duration of the Clinton health problems this may be a passing fancy in Trump land, but they ought to remember the differences between 2012 and now.

Polls of four battleground states show neither candidate leading by more than 3 points. The WSJ/NBC News/Marist poll says two of the states, New Hampshire and Nevada, which have gone blue the past few cycles, show Clinton with a slim 1-point lead in each. The other two states, Arizona and Georgia, are usually Republican strongholds but show Trump leading by 1 and 3 points, respectively.

“I think assassinations … they’re against international law to start with and to that effect, I think I would not have assassinated Osama bin Laden but would have captured him and brought him to trial.” -- Green Party Candidate Jill Stein said in an interview with the Des Moines Register before her first Iowa campaign appearance Sunday.

Clinton-era CIA Director James Woolsey joins Trump campaign - Trump announcement

CIA director refutes Trump’s claim that intel briefers signaled unhappiness with Obama - The Hill

Obama meets with Hill leaders over spending bill today - AP

Cruz wants to attach stopgap measure to prevent the Obama administration from relinquishing U.S. control over the internet - The Hill

What does history say about a president’s job approval rating and his successor? - Gallup

Gulf States condemn bill that would allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia - Reuters

“Chris - In, I believe the 2nd debate in 2012, Romney stated that Russia was the number one danger to the United States in the world.  President Obama famously replied, ‘Gov. Romney, the 80’s called and they want their foreign policy back!’  Seems like Romney wasn’t so wrong - but no one seems to want to acknowledge that.  This was all part of a foreign policy that Mrs. Clinton supported.  She owns this one.” -- Paul Londynsky, Alamo, Calif.

[Ed. note: Very close, Mr. Londynsky! It was the third debate, held Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Florida and moderated by Bob Scheiffer. Obama’s retort to Romney was: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” Cue the sad trombone noise. As you say, the passage of time has tended to vindicate Romney on the subject of Russian aggression. Fortunately for Clinton, though, Trump is unflinching in his admiration for Vladimir Putin and thereby deprives himself of what could have been a very effective charge against the current administration. The ‘reset button’ alone would have been an ad for a different Republican]

“[From Friday’s Halftime Report in response to a reader’s question on what happens to campaign funds after the election] ‘… but they are allowed to roll those contributions over to new campaigns, even for other offices.’ What happens when they retire? Are they ever allowed to take the left-over cash into their own bank account? I am still wondering how Dennis Hastert was able to accumulate enough on a HS coach’s and congress-person’s salary to pay $3.5 million in hush money. Keep up the great work!” – Jim Caraway, Dallas

[Ed. note: Don’t they wish! While campaigns can pay essentially unlimited staff salaries as long as the disbursements are reported, the candidates (or anyone) can never take the money outright. Some candidates have gotten in big trouble for even having campaigns cover lavish personal expenses.]

“As a fellow hillbilly (Parkersburg), I really appreciate your wit, style and humility in the way you present your thoughts!  Keep it coming!” – Roger Plauche, Marblehead Mass.

[Ed. note: You are deep in enemy territory, Brother Roger! Hold high the flag of the 35th state and watch out for Patriots fans!]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Ynet News: “The British press has been covering an unusual phenomenon in Scottish prisons, where more and more prisoners are changing their religion and becoming Jewish for the specific purpose of getting better quality, kosher food. The Scottish Prison System is not known for housing a large Jewish population. In fact, between 2013 – 2014, only nine Jewish inmates were found in the system. These days, however, more than 130 Scottish inmates have declared themselves to be of the Chosen People…Apparently, the large group of Newly Jewish Scottish inmates saw the light after watching an episode of the Netflix comedic drama ‘Orange is the New Black,’ where a character named ‘Black Cindy’ converted to Judaism to receive better meals.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.