Apparently, if the secretary of state needs to take a sick day, she had better get a note from her doctor. A very "transparent" note, a very detailed note. With enough copies to send to her most vociferous critics.
Hillary Rodham Clinton suffered a fall or a fainting spell in early December while recovering from a nasty flu that had left her dehydrated, and doctors said she had sustained a concussion as a result.
Right away, conservative talking heads scoffed, saying she was faking it so she wouldn't have to appear before Congress and testify about what happened in Benghazi, Libya, where a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans died in what is now being described as an attack by terrorists linked to al-Qaida.
"Help! I've fallen and I can't testify about Benghazi!" Richard Grenell, a political consultant who served in the George W. Bush administration at the United Nations, said on Twitter.
The New York Post called it a "head fake." Columnist and Fox commentator Charles Krauthammer called it "acute Benghazi allergy." Fox's Sean Hannity said he wanted to see the medical report. Outgoing Republican Congressman Allen West described it as a case of "Benghazi flu." Fox News contributor John Bolton, a former American ambassador to the U.N., called it a convenient case of "diplomatic illness." And Republican commentator Monica Crowley called it "a virus with impeccable timing."
A group of commentators called "The Five" on Fox spent a segment laughing and making jokes about Mrs. Clinton's health.
Meanwhile, the European Union Times said that a report is circulating around the Kremlin that the secretary was actually injured in a military transport crash that claimed the life of a Navy SEAL while the two were on a secret mission to Iran — a report the State Department denied.
Then, early this week, doctors discovered that a blood clot had formed in the secretary's head, between her skull and her brain. She was hospitalized immediately and treated with blood thinners, and her daughter was seen leaving the New York hospital looking distraught.
I'm calling it "The Clot Plot."
Politics is a rough game and not for the thin-skinned, and we expect a vigorous press to show a healthy skepticism of any official statements. And doctor-patient confidentiality takes a back seat to our need to know if our leadership is well enough to do the job.
But if you believe that Mrs. Clinton — the most admired woman in America for the 11th straight year, according to a Gallup poll — faked an illness to avoid answering tough questions about what happened on Sept. 11 at the U.S. Embassy, then you probably also believe that Gen. David Petraeus' abrupt resignation as CIA chief because of an affair was nothing but a ploy to keep him from testifying, too.
Oh. Wait. That was the theory put forth by outraged voices who felt President Barack Obama had something to hide and General Petraeus took the fall for him.
Though, of course, he did testify. As will Secretary Clinton, I am sure. Although some of those same commentators have speculated that she will claim not to remember what she knew, when she knew it and what she did about it — and blame the concussion.
It has been a long and mean-spirited political season, and we are all still feeling a little raw. But can we agree that Secretary Clinton would have to fake her own death to escape the grilling of Congress on this matter? That a simple knot on the head wasn't going to get it done?
Speaking of play-acting, this little drama has a second act. Critics are also saying that if she does have a blood clot, this would be at least her second one (she had one behind her knee in 1998), and that makes her physically unfit to be president in 2016.
It is possible that Mrs. Clinton will emerge from this health crisis with a fractured memory of what happened in Benghazi. Or, perhaps, of how she was drugged and kept a prisoner in her own home by a strange doctor and men in dark suits wearing sunglasses and ear pieces so that she could not deliver testimony embarrassing to the president.
Could we all please stop acting like we have a medical degree or a movie pitch for Tom Cruise? This is embarrassing.
Susan Reimer's columns appear Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.