December 2012 was not kind to Hillary Clinton. With her final days as secretary of state upon her, she suffered a series of well-documented medical misfortunes. It began with a trip to South Asia, where she contracted what her aides call a “very uncomfortable” stomach virus, which left her dehydrated, causing her to faint at her home in Washington. A week later, she was diagnosed with a concussion, and subsequently cancelled her trip to Morocco in order to recover. A follow-up examination revealed that the concussion had caused a blood clot near her brain; Clinton was hospitalized and placed on blood thinners. Although she is still hospitalized, her doctors report that the clot did not cause a stroke or other neurological damage, and predict a full recovery.
Her good health assured, our attention returns to the burning question: What is Hillary going to do next?
Although there are an immeasurable number of opportunities open to the former secretary, all eyes are on the Oval Office. Since her unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid, Hillary has seen the incredible transformation of her public image. The young, liberal firebrand, once dubbed “Lady Macbeth of Little Rock,” has made a graceful transition into one of the most prominent and popular American statesmen of the twenty-first century. A Washington Post/ ABC poll places her approval rate at 66%, with support for her presidential candidacy at 57%.
Hillary has far more than charm, though: Few would argue with her impressive track record of public service. Secretary Clinton has had a successful law career, characterized by advocacy for children’s rights, followed by a stint as a senator for New York, and concluding her career as the most-traveled secretary of State. If Hillary were to run, she would be one of the best qualified presidential candidates in American history.
Hillary’s concussion has only fed rabid speculation about her potential candidacy in the 2016 presidential election, raising the question of how important a president's health is to the execution of his or her duties.
Although Madam Secretary has proven Herculean for the past four years, setting a relentless pace of international travel, many wonder if this concussion is the first sign of flagging health. At 65, Hillary is not young. However, the precedent for presidential leadership has often been set by the infirm, rather than the healthy.
Abraham Lincoln, for example, united a broken nation despite a diagnosis of clinical depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt strategized an Allied victory from a wheelchair. Even John F. Kennedy, apparently young and vigorous, diffused the Cuban Missile Crisis while coping with Addison’s. On the other hand, some of our healthiest presidents have left the worst legacies: Herbert Hoover, for example, or George W. Bush. Exceptional executive leadership has nothing to do with a president’s physical condition: rather, it depends on diplomacy, work ethic, and strong character. The past four years have proven that Secretary Clinton has these in spades.
Although some believe this concussion episode to be a stumbling block to a presidential bid, it is quite the opposite. The resulting media storm has proven that Secretary Clinton is still very much in the public eye, and will remain so even after she leaves office. Given her incredible breadth of experience and her overwhelming popularity, 2016 is Hillary’s —if she wants it.