DES MOINES, Iowa, Jan. 26, 2015 — In an attempt to woo Jewish voters before the Iowa caucus, Hillary Clinton spoke to the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. The event will be remembered as much for what she tried to say as what she did say. She wanted this to be about policy, but at this point it is reasonable to question her physical health.
Fewer than 200 people showed up to this event, which was by invite only. Clinton is a cautious candidate who likes tightly scripted events in front of supporters. One 11-year old Clinton volunteer named George and his mom were invited backstage before the event. He was the preplanted last question.
This was a mostly elderly white crowd. The event was supposed to start at 11 a.m., but began 35 minutes late. There were no explanation and no warmup speaker. These were Hillary devotees, so nothing she did could have offended them.
Upon taking the podium, Hillary declared she was the only candidate with experience and judgment. She spoke briefly of clean energy before shifting to Israel. She then committed a gaffe that most in the room did not notice: “I voted against every sanction against Iran while in the Senate.”
She meant to say that she voted for sanctions, not against them. She still supports the Iran deal. “No agreement is perfect,” she said, but insisted without evidence that this deal “significantly delayed” Iran’s “breakout time.”
Ten minutes into her remarks, she went into a violent coughing fit that lasted almost two minutes. It was frightening. After drinking water, she still coughed. She joked about needing a lozenge or something to that effect, but the crowd was concerned.
She suffered a similar coughing fit during her most recent Benghazi testimony in front of Congress a few weeks ago. She attributed the coughing fit to the stress of the campaign.
Clinton presents herself as a pillar of strength, but at some point she may have to release her medical records. Former presidential candidates Bob Dole and John McCain both did this, Bernie Sanders plans to release his, and in 2012, President Obama said that it is “normal” for candidates to do so, though he never released his.
Clinton is obsessed with her privacy and has followed Obama’s lead. She has, however, shared a glowing note from her doctor
When finally able to speak, she noted in a harsh and raspy voice that Wednesday is Holocaust Remembrance Day and claimed that Israel was created in response to evil. That was stunningly incorrect. Israel was created over 3,000 years ago.
The U.N. recognized the State of Israel in 1948; The notion that Israel was created because of the Holocaust is totally false.
She launched into platitudes about how we “need more love and kindness” in America, without a hint of self-awareness. This was after bashing Republicans a few times and even taking three shots at George W. Bush.
Her speech lasted just 18 minutes before she took questions from her supporters.
Asked about the “crushing” cost of childcare, she talked about child early development from ages zero through five. She wants universal pre-kindergarten for free but did not say how she would pay for it. She was asked about Palestinian President Abu Mazen’s (Mahmoud Abbas) age. What do we do?
She praised Yassir Arafat as “an advocate of the two-state solution.” She praised the Israeli settlement freeze. She said that Abbas never stopped coordinating with Israel on security, another falsehood. He has repeatedly coordinated with Hamas. She then said Israel must help Palestinians access water they need. This is the same Hillary Clinton who kissed Suha Arafat after she accused Jews of poisoning that water.
When asked how we “break the culture of intolerance,” she replied, “Elect me as president.” She is against “hateful rhetoric” and “easy scapegoating.” Internet bullying is bad.
She opined, ”I worry we’re getting more and more divided,” again, without the slightest hint of self-awareness.
Asked about student debt, she was surprisingly candid: Free college for everyone is not the right thing to do. Subsidizing education leads to higher prices. On women’s rights, she wants to raise the minimum wage and enforce equal pay laws.
A family asked her about their $7,000 out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. Hillary then said something stunning: She wants to ”fix Obamacare,” but she also wants to “fix the private insurance system.” She did not say how, but the threat to that market is frightening.
She added that prescription drug costs are skyrocketing and that there is “not enough competition.” This is the Hillary Clinton paradox. She wants to “fix” the private insurance system yet wants more competition.
She had more platitudes on the topic of Syrian refugees. “I think we should help in a smart way.” She blamed Syrian strongman Bashar Assad, saying she wants to set up safe havens in Syria. She wants a careful screening and vetting program, but would not say what would happen if the vetting failed.
The event was one hour in total: an 18-minute speech followed by 42 minutes of answering questions. She wrapped up the event with the preplanted softball from 11-year-old George.
“Madame Secretary, I have friends who disagree with you. Please don’t hate them. They’re good people.” She replied, “I don’t hate anybody!” She may believe that, but it does not square with how she speaks about Republicans, the NRA or anyone else who disagrees with her.
There was no mention of radical Islam or the violence German women face from Islamists.
She is a policy wonk to the core, with healthcare being her passion. Yet while she can wade deep into the minutiae of other people’s health problems, she has never been one to publicly address her own health issues.
She may not be able to maintain that privacy much longer. The campaign is only going to get more stressful, and the weather colder. Is she physically up to the rigors of the campaign?
The cough will tell.