I truly don’t want to know the details of Julian Assange’s broken premolar and exposed dental pulp, and I doubt most American voters do either. But know those things we now must, since the WikiLeaks founder released 27 pages of his own health records as an act of public service to our nation.
Leave aside that the 45-year-old Australian, who lives in self-imposed exile inside the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, can’t be our president, and can’t vote in our election. That hasn’t stopped him from promoting himself and his boundless loathing of Hillary Clinton, whom he recently called a “demon that will put nooses around everyone’s neck.” After video emerged of Clinton faltering as she left a Sept. 11 memorial service — overheated, dehydrated, and wiped out from campaigning with pneumonia, according to her doctor — Assange is again on the warpath. The once-noble-sounding mission for public transparency has morphed into a personal vendetta against the former secretary of state, who accused him of endangering lives by revealing government secrets.
Releasing his health records is a classic Assange move: Under the guise of principle, he wins publicity for two favorite causes — himself, and derailing Clinton. Ostensibly, Assange’s medical records “challenge” was aimed at both candidates. But he didn’t glom onto the health issue until Clinton wobbled this week, and peddlers of wild conspiracies of seizures, Parkinson’s, lupus, secret injections, a hypnotist, and a body double elbowed into the mainstream.
Never mind that Clinton, 68, already released a medical report last year detailing conditions and prescriptions dating back to 1998, and shared an updated doctor’s letter Wednesday saying she’s recovering from mild pneumonia and is “healthy and fit to serve as president.” Donald Trump, 70, released a comedic four-paragraph note in hyperbolic, Trumpian prose last December claiming unspecified “astonishingly excellent” lab tests and asserting he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected” — a note his gastroenterologist says he drafted in five minutes while a limo waited. This week, Trump shared a new one-page summary on “The Dr. Oz Show.’’
As Assange knows, timing is everything. Remember the Democratic National Committee e-mails showing that some officials improperly favored Clinton over Bernie Sanders? WikiLeaks cannily rolled those out on the eve of the DNC convention, stirring a roiling pot of Republican schadenfreude and Democratic division. The scandal was a neon-lit reminder of Clinton’s own e-mail errors — as if anyone could forget them. WikiLeaks released a new trove of purported DNC documents this week.
US intelligence agencies say the Democrats were hacked by Russian cyberoperatives, part of a broad covert effort to influence our election. A recent New York Times investigation found Assange’s leaks often dovetail with the anti-Western agenda of Vladimir Putin — no fan of Clinton — who professes mutual admiration for Trump.
Assange asserts impartiality, but bias burns bright in his relentless torrent of anti-Clinton propaganda, from wacky murder conspiracies and dark hints of indictment, to a now-deleted online poll about whether her problems stem from “allergies and personality,” Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or head injury. Assange claims Clinton versus Trump is like choosing between “cholera and gonorrhea.” I don’t know which disease is better, but his actions favor the Putin-praising Trump.
And here’s the likely reason why: It was Secretary Clinton in 2010 who condemned WikiLeaks’ release of 250,000 classified State Department cables revealing names of American informants, intelligence assessments, and sensitive critiques of foreign nations. Assange styled himself as a high-minded crusader; Clinton said he selfishly risked lives of innocents and threatened national security. The Obama administration studied whether it could charge Assange under the Espionage Act, but never did, since he wasn’t the source of the leak. The US Army private convicted of passing the files to WikiLeaks is serving a 35-year term.
In 2010, Interpol issued a warrant for Assange on rape charges in Sweden; in 2012, he jumped bail when Britain moved to extradite him there. He was granted asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, from which he hasn’t emerged since, for fear of arrest, extradition, and the long arm of US justice, were it to reach for him.
Assange’s campaign against Clinton is about protecting his future, not ours. Ask yourself who benefits from this crusade.
Indira A.R. Lakshmanan is a Washington columnist. Follow her on Twitter @Indira_L.