Candidates and illness are nothing new
By: Alan Steinberg – Columnist News Talk Florida
The social media is replete today with ghoulish delight expressed by supporters of Donald Trump about the pneumonia of Hillary Clinton. While their joy is offensive, I understand their political motivation.
Donald Trump concluded an horrific political week on Saturday, September 10. He had blundered monumentally during the Commander-in-Chief forum on Wednesday, September 7, revealing aspects of his top secret national intelligence briefing, shamelessly defaming distinguished military generals, and effusively praising Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, whose autocratic style Trump appears to intend to emulate.
The ABC-Washington Post poll released this past Sunday reflected Trump’s disasters of the past week. In a one-on-one matchup among likely voters, Hillary leads the Donald by eight points and ten among registered voters. It was understandable that Trump supporters should feel that only a health crisis could derail Hillary’s inexorable journey to the White House. When Hillary had to leave the 9-11 ceremonies in Manhattan early on Sunday, Trump acolytes felt that Divine Providence had intervened.
History has usually provided a useful guide to the outcome of current political trends. If Trump zealots study the campaign of the last major party candidate to be afflicted with major health problems, to wit, Dwight Eisenhower in his reelection campaign of 1956, they will learn that their rejoicing is most premature.
I remember when Dwight Eisenhower suffered his first heart attack on September 24, 1955. It was four days before the start of my first World Series, September 28, 1855, the only World Series won by my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. And, coincidentally, Hillary Clinton is the first major party nominee to locate her campaign office in the Borough of Brooklyn!
At the time of Ike’s heart attack and during the month that followed, few observers thought that he would run for reelection. On February 29, 1956, however, to the surprise and astonishment of most observers, he announced his reelection candidacy.
Soon after, however, in June, 1956, Ike suffered a serious health reverse: an attack of ileitis that required major life-threatening surgery. Ike survived it well, but Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson though that Ike’s health now gave him a victorious issue. He slammed Ike as a “part-time president”and asserted that he would never finish his reelection term, resulting in the ascension to the presidency of Richard Nixon, whom Stevenson loathed.
The result: Eisenhower won reelection by a larger margin than in his original election in in 1952, carrying 41 states and 457 electoral votes. Despite a stroke he suffered in November, 1957, Ike had a highly successful second term, distinguished by the enactment of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 and his successful intervention to integrate the schools of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.
And irony of ironies, Eisenhower outlived Adlai Stevenson by four years, Adlai passing away in 1965 and Ike in 1969.
The Eisenhower reelection story teaches us that in the words of Mark Twain, reports of Hillary’s political demise due to her current pneumonia are greatly exaggerated. A return of a healthy, vibrant Hillary to the campaign trail will make her current illness a distant campaign memory. I expect to see exactly that.
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Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of f ormer President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.