As one of the top two candidates vying to become the 45th president of the United States, Hillary Clinton’s short term and long term health prognosis is not just a personal concern for her, it is a major concern for all of us.
Hillary Clinton is sixty-eight years old and it becomes more and more obvious with each passing day that she is not a healthy woman, unlikely to withstand the rigors of campaigning and unlikely to withstand the rigors of the presidency, should she be elected in November.
Clinton has a long history of falling. On June 18, 2009, it was announced that the then-secretary of state would require surgery to repair a fractured right elbow, suffered in a fall. In January 2011, while boarding her plane in Yemen, then-secretary Clinton waved to the crowd, turned, tripped over the main hatch sill, and fell to the floor. A flight attendant extinguished the cabin lights so that cameras could not record her being helped to her feet.
In December 2012, Mrs. Clinton fell and struck her head, causing a concussion. Some two weeks later, a statement from her doctors explained, “In the course of a routine follow-up MRI on Sunday, the scan revealed that a right transverse sinus venous thrombosis had formed. This is a clot in the vein that is situated in the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear.” Later, as Mrs. Clinton testified before the House Benghazi Committee, viewers noted that she was wearing eyeglasses with unusually thick lenses. Attached to each lens was a Fresnel prism designed to correct the double vision resulting from the concussion and blood clot.
In December 2015, during a Goffstown, New Hampshire debate with Senator Bernie Sanders and former governor Martin O’Malley, Mrs. Clinton was minutes late returning from a scheduled “potty break.” And while she explained that her delayed return was a function of the distance between the ladies restroom and the debate stage, it was later learned that a “flare up” involving fatigue, dizziness, and disorientation… all related to her December 2012 concussion… had required her to sit in a chair offstage for a period of time to recover.
On April 25, 2016, during a Cleveland, Ohio, rally, Mrs. Clinton’s speech was interrupted by a coughing spell that continued for several minutes. Later, she experienced a coughing episode during a radio interview on The Breakfast Club, on hip-hop station, WWPR, in New York City.
On August 4, 2016, during a Las Vegas rally with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Clinton completely “spaced out” in mid-sentence. Three Secret Service agents rushed to her side, and while Clinton stood mute, staring blankly into the distance, one agent could be heard over the open mic, saying, “It’s okay, we’re still here, Keep talking.” When Hillary regained her senses, she repeated, “It’s okay. Here we are. We’re not going anywhere. We’ll keep talking.”
Days later, in early August 2016, news photos showed Hillary requiring the assistance of aides and Secret Service agents as she climbed a short stairway to what appeared to be the porch of a residence. Then, on September 6, 2016, during a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, Clinton suffered a prolonged coughing episode that lasted for nearly five minutes. Attempting to put a good face on the matter, Clinton said, “Every time I think about Trump I get allergic.” Standing behind her, and offering no assistance, running mate Tim Kaine applauded while the audience laughed.
Finally, on September 11, 2016, Clinton left the ceremony commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack more than an hour early. Complaining of dizziness while the names of 9/11 victims were being read, Clinton stumbled and lost a shoe as she stepped off a curb. Secret Service agents held her upright, but just seconds later, as she approached the door of her van, she passed out and nearly fell to the ground. Again, Secret Service agents prevented a total collapse. They pushed her into the back seat of the van and the entourage drove at high speed to her daughter’s apartment some five blocks away.
Any one of those incidents, taken in isolation, would not be serious enough to create alarm. However, taken together, they have generated widespread speculation that Hillary Clinton is a very sick woman… so sick that she may be unable to continue her quest for the presidency.
One physician, Dr. Ted Noel, an Orlando, Florida, anesthesiologist with thirty-six years experience, has evaluated all of Hillary’s published symptoms and has concluded that she suffers from advanced Parkinson’s Disease. His opinion is bolstered by the fact that a purloined Hillary Clinton email, provided by Julian Assange of Wikileaks, instructs her staff to research new drugs to treat Parkinson’s Disease.
So what happens if Hillary is unable to continue, and what are the consequences if she drops out prior to November 8? What are the consequences if she drops out after November 8, but prior to the Electoral College vote on December 19, 2016? And what are the consequences if she drops out after the Electoral College meets, but prior to Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017?
The first question has an easy answer. Article 2, Section 7 of the Democratic Party bylaws states that “a special meeting to fill a vacancy on the National ticket shall be held on the call of the Chairperson.” A special session of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would meet to select a replacement. And while the manner of selection of the delegates would be left to the party central committees of each state, it is unlikely that the delegates to a special convention would convene with any degree of unanimity. Many states, hoping to exert influence beneficial to their own interests, could be expected to nominate a favorite son or a favorite daughter… some serious candidates, others mere bargaining chips.
What is most concerning is that, should another Democrat be selected just days or weeks prior to the election, that individual would likely benefit from an insurmountable “sympathy vote,” much as Vice President Lyndon Johnson did in 1964, following the Kennedy assassination. However, if Mrs. Clinton should be forced out of the race after winning a majority of the prospective electoral votes on November 8, the expectation is that the 12th Amendment to the Constitution would provide the solution. That amendment reads as follows:
“The Electors (members of the Electoral College) shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice President… (T)hey shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots, the person voted for as Vice President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President and of all persons voted for as Vice President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes for President shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest number not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the vote shall be taken by states, the representatives from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and the majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice…”
Under such a circumstance, it is likely that many Democrats would insist that Senator Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice President, should be elevated to the fill the Clinton vacancy. Historian John Buescher tells us that, “It gets a bit more messy if a nominee dies or steps down after Election Day but prior to the time the (Electoral College meets) to vote for President. In that unlikely event, then the process is the same… the Democratic Party bigwigs pick who the new nominee would be; this outcome might be more unpredictable, however, since it would involve the choice of someone who is not on the ballot.”
Dr. Buescher, a history professor at George Mason University, is mistaken. If Mrs. Clinton would, for reasons of ill health, take herself out of consideration after being declared the winner on Election Day, but prior to the Electoral College vote, it would be the members of the Electoral College, not “party bigwigs” who would decide who the party’s president-elect should be. “Party bigwigs” would have no say in the matter; they could only urge individual members of the Electoral College to support a specific candidate. That candidate could be Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Secretary of State John Kerry, or any other individual who might attract at least 270 votes in the Electoral College.
However, once the Electoral College has determined a President-elect and a Vice President-elect, and the President-elect either dies or is forced to withdraw prior to being sworn into office, the procedure outlined in Section 3 of the 20th Amendment becomes operative. That section reads as follows: “If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President-elect shall have died, the Vice President-elect shall become president…”
In other words, if Mrs. Clinton should decided to withdraw after winning the General Election on November 8, and after being approved by the Electoral College on December 19, but prior to certification by a joint session of Congress in early January and prior to being sworn into office on January 20, the 20th Amendment dictates that Senator Tim Kaine would become the President-elect. In the meantime, Mrs. Clinton’s health will be a matter of all-consuming interest until she either releases all of her medical records, proving that she is not seriously ill, or withdraws from contention.
Paul R. Hollrah is a retired government relations executive and a two-time member of the U.S. Electoral College. He currently lives and writes among the hills and lakes of northeast Oklahoma’s Green Country.