Hillary Clinton's Blood Clot Isn't a Benghazi Conspiracy

Hillary Clinton did not feign being sick to avoid testifying to Congress about the Benghazi attack.

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton steps away from the podium after speaking at Singapore Management University, Nov. 17, 2012.

Hillary Clinton's impressive career should, on paper, be a sign of women's advancement in public policy and in society as a whole. That was until her detractors accused her of a higher-level version of the feigned "I have a headache" dodge.

Clinton is recovering from a blood clot in her brain. It's a scary development, but her doctors say she is making a good recovery. But the chronology of her illness has spurred an absurd series of conspiracy theories, largely centered on the insulting idea that she was lying about being sick so she could avoid testifying before Congress about the Benghazi attacks.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

It started with a fall, which Clinton's staff attributed to dehydration from the flu. The fall led to a concussion. Treatment and testing after the concussion revealed a blood clot in Clinton's brain, a condition for which she is being given blood thinners. The snide and illogical accusations when Clinton fell—that she was faking so she didn't have to go to the grown-up version of a high school trigonometry test—look even more ridiculous now. And they follow the same politically-driven theories about the State Department's handling of the Benghazi episode itself.

Initial intelligence from the attacks was that the episode stemmed from outrage in the Middle East over an Internet video of a film—actually, a "film,"—that denigrated Muslims. Later, intelligence showed that it was a planned attack. Those two assessments are not necessarily mutually exclusive; it could have been a planned attack accelerated by spontaneous anger over the film. But detractors of the Obama administration, hoping to turn a tragedy into a scandal that would fell President Obama's re-election campaign, made it into a conspiracy by the State Department to trick the American people. They did manage to end the potential nomination of United Nations ambassador Susan Rice to replace Clinton at State, saying Rice misled the American public. Yet Rice was merely going what public officials do in cases like this—delivering the information the administration had received from the intelligence community (and it borders on delusional to think that the Benghazi episode would make the difference for Mitt Romney in the presidential campaign).

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Middle East.]

In fact, it's not surprising that early intelligence from any tumultuous event would be wrong or incomplete. That's the nature of early assessments. People report what they know at the time, and it's not always a full picture. It doesn't make it a lie.

The same is true for Clinton's illness. First, it's laughable that Clinton—who has faced relentless scrutiny as a public figure on everything from her health care proposals to her marriage to her hair—is scared of a bunch of congressmen. And those who now question whether we were all given the full story on Clinton's illness when it first surfaced are guilty of the same conspiracy mindset as those who think the Obama administration deliberately lied in the early hours after the Benghazi attack.

[See 2012: The Year in Cartoons.]

Serious illnesses aren't always identified at the first symptom, which may not look like the symptom of something dangerous at all. Fainting could mean you have low blood pressure or are dehydrated. Or, it could be something more—there's simply no way to know until a patient is tested. The only question here is whether Clinton's initial fall was caused by the blood clot or her flu, but that doesn't suggest a misinformation campaign. The woman has traveled nearly a million miles in her four years as Secretary of State. If there's a surprise here, it's that she didn't pass out a long time ago from sheer exhaustion.

The technology exists for instant communication, and that has given people the impression that facts will be clear at the same pace. Stories take longer to unfold than that—whether it's an attack on a U.S. mission or an illness.

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