Commentary: The stupidity over 'concussiongate'

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramJanuary 7, 2013 

CAMPBELL LINDA FT

Linda Campbell is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

ROSS HAILEY — MCT/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

If only the people intent on dissecting Hillary Clinton's blood clot would channel that energy in more productive ways.

There's been quite a bit of sniping since it was announced in mid-December that a concussion would prevent Secretary of State Clinton from testifying as scheduled before congressional committees examining security failures that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.

Official word initially was that Clinton had a stomach ailment, then that she had fainted at home from dehydration and hit her head, which resulted in a concussion. Then on Sunday she was admitted to the hospital and being treated for a blood clot in her head.

Before Clinton's doctors found the clot, some of her detractors were using their utter lack of medical expertise to diagnose "Benghazi flu," "diplomatic illness," "acute Benghazi allergy" and other supposedly fake maladies that showed "impeccable timing" designed to extricate her from having to publicly take responsibility for a fiasco that she had already publicly taken responsibility for.

The bald meanness touched off back-and-forth about who was nastier or more off-base, the doubters or those who jumped on them for their rush to skepticism.

Those on the political left and right accused each other of politicizing the poor woman's illness.

Some political conservatives went at each other: At washingtonpost.com, Kathleen Parker called attacks on Clinton's character "cruel and unfair." (wapo.st/Z9gg38) Mona Charen shot back on the nationalreview.com blog "The Corner" that it was all because of "Clinton's flamboyant history of lying." (bit.ly/U9LG8d)

"Concussiongate" became a Twitter hashtag.

But this really isn't like past scandal-gates with which Clinton's been associated. A traumatic head injury isn't a policy position.

When I heard about Clinton's concussion, it seemed perfectly plausible that a 65-year-old woman who'd been vomiting because of a stomach virus could get dizzy, pass out and hurt her herself, even without immediately recognizing the severity of the damage.

The federal Centers for Disease Control reports that falls cause half the traumatic brain injuries among children aged 0 to 14 and 61 percent of those injuries in adults 65 and older. (1.usa.gov/hwa306)

When I heard she had a blood clot, too, I immediately recalled December 1993. That's when my father, then 62, fell in the bathroom at home and hit his head. He didn't feel well after that and went to his regular physician, who diagnosed a sinus infection.

No one who saw my father daily (I was living in Washington, D.C., at the time) recognized that changes in his personality signaled something more serious. When my younger sister came from Houston for Christmas and realized that he wasn't making sense, she insisted he go to the hospital. Surgery for a subdural hematoma, a collection of blood on the brain surface, almost certainly saved his life that Christmas. It was a frightening time, but we were blessed. He celebrated his 81st birthday in November.

Clinton was diagnosed with a less-common condition, a transverse sinus thrombosis, which is a clot behind the ear in a major vein that drains blood from the brain. She hasn't needed surgery but instead was put on anti-coagulants to help dissolve the clot, according to news reports.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported Clinton's medical team as saying that she was "making excellent progress" and that they were "confident she will make a full recovery." (nyti.ms/S5sk3z)

Reports haven't indicated what kind of rehabilitation she'll need or how long it will take. It's also not clear whether the concussion caused the blood clot or the blood clot caused some of her earlier symptoms. That might be impossible to know, and maybe that part is only for her and her family to know.

What the public is entitled to is her answers to lawmakers' questions about decisions that contributed to the disaster in Benghazi. But you needn't be a Clinton sympathizer to believe that, given a choice, she would rather have gone before Congress already than to have gone through a health scare that threatened her greatest asset.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service