More 1980 Election Parallels: Passing Out and Falling Down

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The more you think about it, the more you realize 2016 gets more and more like 1980 every day.

As you ponder Hillary Clinton’s fall from grace (even David Axelrod is trashing her now), you might remember Jimmy Carter’s collapse.

I’m not talking about his collapse on election night. I’m talking about one of the two incidents that psychologically destroyed Carter’s image as a leader. In a moment, I’ll remind you of the collapse.

First, there was the “killer rabbit” incident. In 1979, Carter was fishing in a lake in rural Georgia. A rabbit swam out toward his boat. Carter used an oar to splash and flail at the beast, and the White House stupidly released the photo. It went viral. Satire songs sprang up. Here was the leader of the free world, battling the Soviet Union, yet he looked overwhelmed by a swimming rabbit.


As I said, the Killer Rabbit was only the first of Carter’s bizarre problems in 1979.

Later that year, in October, Carter entered a 6-mile run to demonstrate his fitness. Here’s what happened, according to People Magazine:

 In the third mile of a tough 6.2-mile race through the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland—pulling hard uphill, foolishly trying to outpace himself and leaving far better runners behind—the President began to wobble. “Without the Secret Service he would have fallen,” says Paul Liebler, a CBS producer who was running close by. “His legs couldn’t support him, his mouth hung open, he was moaning and his eyes had a glazed look. It was very scary.” White House physician Dr. William Lukash, an unofficial organizer of the race, gave Carter smelling salts and, spurning an ambulance, rushed him to Camp David in a car.

Once again, Carter looked unfit for the challenges a President must face.


When we see the President overwhelmed by a rodent or collapsing in public, our brains say, “we need a new one.” That applies to candidates, as well. As persuasion expert Scott Adams explains in this must-read blog:

If humans were rational creatures, the time and place of Clinton’s “overheating” wouldn’t matter at all. But when it comes to American psychology, there is no more powerful symbol of terrorism and fear than 9-11 . When a would-be Commander-in-Chief withers – literally – in front of our most emotional reminder of an attack on the homeland, we feel unsafe. And safety is our first priority.

Hillary Clinton just became unelectable.

The mainstream media might not interpret today’s events as a big deal. After all, it was only a little episode of overheating. And they will continue covering the play-by-play action until election day. But unless Trump actually does shoot someone on 5th Avenue, he’s running unopposed.

Just to be fair to the other side, Presidential weakness is bi-partisan. I remember  being on the USS John C. Calhoun, a submarine, reading that President George H. W. Bush threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister at a state dinner in Japan. I told my buddy, “he’s a one-termer.” While no one would say they voted for Clinton because Bush threw up, their brains would tell a different story.

Yesterday, Clinton’s long-rumored health problems overcame confirmation bias and changed the psychological narrative. Everyone now believes Hillary Clinton lacks the stamina to be President. They won’t say “I’m voting for Trump because Hillary passes out and coughs too much,” but their brains would tell a different story.