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March 15. 2014 9:07PM

Roger Simon: Hillary is sick - of the media

IT WAS BACK on Jan. 27, 1998, when Hillary Clinton first used the phrase "vast right-wing conspiracy" to describe the attacks on her husband.

She was appearing with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today," the day after Bill Clinton had publicly stated: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

For Hillary, the Monica Lewinsky story was the last straw in what she firmly believed was a conservative conspiracy to get her husband. And Hillary stuck to that belief even after she learned the truth about Bill and Monica.

After all, one or both of the Clintons had been accused of all sorts of ugly things over the preceding years: Whitewater, being involved in the death of Vince Foster, controversial cattle futures trading, international drug smuggling through Mena, Ark., etc.

If you are not familiar with the lurid particulars of the past claims against the Clintons, just wait. As 2016 draws closer, the right wing will provide a refresher course for you.

In fact, it is starting already. In case you haven't heard, Hillary Clinton may have a secret terrible illness that will prevent her from running for President in 2016. Rush Limbaugh, The Daily Caller, Matt Drudge and Roger Stone, often described as a "self-admitted GOP hit man," have spread the rumor.

On Feb. 24 of this year, Stone, who now says he is a libertarian, tweeted:

"@HillaryClinton not running for health reasons. Remember you heard it first from the #StoneZone."

Four days later, Limbaugh began a broadcast this way: "Whispers are persisting, whispers - there's a whisper campaign, folks - that Mrs. Clinton is sick, that she will not run for the presidency because she is sick."

Limbaugh went on to speculate that it was Democrats and not Republicans who were behind the "rumor campaign" because Republicans lack the guts for it.

"Do the Republicans have the gonads to do something like this?" Limbaugh asked. "Do the Republicans have the gonads to start a rumor that Mrs. Clinton is ill? It's Drudge's lead story there with a picture of Hillary looking like she's in great stress and distress. The headline is: 'Is She Sick?' That's all it takes, and people start wondering, 'What kind of sick?'"

Limbaugh concluded: "If this indeed is established as a rumor campaign, my prediction is that a Democrat is behind it. There will be a lot of Republicans trying to take credit for it if it's a rumor campaign that ends up being successful in terms of damaging her chances to win the presidency."

The same day, The Daily Caller ran a piece under this headline: "Whispers persist that Hillary won't run: Health may be worse than disclosed."

The piece stated: "These ubiquitous rumors of her health have been fueled in part by the supermarket tabloids. The National Enquirer wrote in 2012 that Clinton had brain cancer, something a spokesman dismissed then as 'absolute nonsense.' In January of this year, the Globe claimed that Clinton secretly had a brain tumor."

Why write a piece "fueled" by supermarket tabloids?

Why not? In modern American journalism, if you haven't gone too far, you haven't gone far enough. If you don't post the story and get the clicks, someone else will. To step back from crossing the line is to admit that such a line exists.

The Daily Caller did include this: "Asked about her health on Thursday, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in an email to The Daily Caller: 'To your question, very caring of you to ask. She's 100 percent.'"

At the end of 2012, Clinton did get the flu, faint, hit her head and get taken to the hospital. Her doctors released a statement saying that she had a clot "in the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear."

"It did not result in a stroke, or neurological damage," her medical team said. She was given blood thinners and was "making excellent progress." Her doctors continued, "We are confident she will make a full recovery."

Ironically, some conservatives said at the time she was not sick at all but faking it to avoid testifying before Congress about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. That particular accusation may have to be scrubbed to fit in with the current accusation, that she is gravely ill with some kind of brain problem.

All indications are that she is doing just fine, however. She is currently engaged in a vigorous national speaking tour, making, some say, up to $250,000 per speech.

To me, raking in that kind of dough is a sign of keen mental health.

If Hillary is flying around the country and knocking down a quarter-mil a speech while being ill, I'll have what she's having.



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Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist.


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