‘Head Space’: How Hillary Clinton’s Inner Circle Tiptoes Around Her Health Issues

Barbara Kinney / Hillary for America

Hillary Clinton’s top campaign officials regularly discuss and assess the Democratic presidential candidate’s mental well-being, according to several conversations seen in Wikileaks’ release of campaign chairman John Podesta’s purported email accounts.

Monday’s new batch of emails revealed a new thread, flagged by The American Mirror, showing that Clinton’s state of mind worried Podesta enough to reach out to the campaign’s Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri — presumably because she was face-to-face with Clinton.

Podesta’s message simply says “How bad is her head?” under the subject heading “Any sense of whether and when she wants to talk?”

Podesta’s phrasing here calls to mind a term that the campaign’s inner circle uses several other times in these emails: “head space.” They drop this term in reference to Clinton’s mental focus, her memory for stump speech lines and talking points, or her ability to handle a task.

Performance Predictor

Huma Abedin, campaign vice chairwoman and a longtime Hillary confidante, says in an August 2015 email thread that Clinton performed a stump speech well because “She was zen” and in a “Good good head space going in.”

Abedin uses the same phrase several months earlier, as her colleague Ann O’Leary praises Clinton’s delivery at an American Federation of Teachers event. “Guess the 4 hour filming really helped her get in the right head space!” she replies.

Just days after Clinton’s campaign announcement, Abedin assures the team that Hillary should perform more passionately and authentically when she starts campaigning in New Hampshire. “[S]he will be much more in the in ‘I’m here to fight for what I believe in’ headspace tomorrow,” she writes. “More than in Iowa. These are her people.”

Minimizing Distress

However, Abedin does not always use the term positively. In July 2015, she relays that Clinton feels “overwhelmed” by the prospect of babysitting her granddaughter:

[S]he is a bit overwhelmed with picking [Chelsea Clinton’s daughter] Charlotte up to babysit her for the week. Oscar [Flores, who manages the Clinton’s Chappaqua home] got a stomach virus and they have been santizing [sic] the house all day so that the baby can be there. WJC [Bill Clinton] was out buying clorox wipes yesterday! so she hasnt [sic] been in the best head space. [emphasis added]

Clinton’s top staffers cite “head space” as a reason to delay or skip interviews with the press. An email thread from August 2015 shows Palmieri suggesting a media strategy for damage control on the investigation into Clinton’s unsecured private email server:

I think our best course now is to hold our staff statement till Sunday afternoon (past Sunday shows), have Brian and I do a lot of tv on Monday to air some of the issues out and then not have HRC do an interview until Tuesday. She would, however, have to do a media avail on Monday. Two benefits of this revised plan – we have a better sense of press reactions before having her sit down and it is more time for her to be in right head space. Given where she is now, I don’t think it is realistic to expect that an interview on Monday would go well. [emphasis added]

The campaign may have made similar calculations in its strategy of pulling Clinton from public events for at least three days before each debate with her Republican rival Donald Trump.

Beyond unscripted events, Clinton’s inner circle expresses concern about her ability to handle bad news or stressful situations.

Podesta himself admonishes Philippe Reines for freaking out about “leaks,” which strikes Palmieri as an accusation against herself or her hires — and the primary objection is that Reines’ concerns will put Clinton in a bad “head space.”

“Do you really think it helps get her in the right head space to tell her she can’t trust anyone she just brought on board?” Podesta writes. “Why are you fanning this with her?”

Podesta drives the point home in a followup: “I just want you to stop whipping her up beyond what she is quite capable of doing on her own.”

Public Denial

Clinton suffered a mysterious medical episode this fall. She left a 9/11 memorial rally early, and her security detail dragged her into her motorcade’s “Scooby” van, losing a shoe in the process — with a bystander capturing the incident on video. Clinton’s campaign blamed the episode on pneumonia and dehydration, but Clinton does not appear limp, as though she has passed out. Instead, her elbows lock up, her arms shake, and her neck stays rigid and upright as Secret Service agents lift her from the sidewalk.

Dr. David Schneider, former physician to Barack Obama, recommended just weeks before Clinton’s health scare that she should undergo a neurological exam and release the results to the public. Breitbart’s Charlie Spiering reported at the time:

“I think she should have had a neurological examination, a thorough neurological examination in 2016,” Scheiner said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett.

He compared Clinton’s concussion — which Bill Clinton admitted that it took her six months to recover from — to a head injury in the NFL.

“We know what happens to football players who have had concussions, how they begin to lose some of their cognitive ability,” he said, calling for Clinton to release her medical records.

Clinton’s campaign has publicly insisted that any questions about her cognitive ability are “conspiracy theories” long debunked by a 2015 letter from physician Lisa Bardack.


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