Not sure what to make of this.
Gov. Greg Abbott was released Friday from a San Antonio military hospital, but he has yet to give details of the accident that put him there with second- and third-degree burns.
Abbott’s office has said his lower legs and feet were severely burned when he came into contact with scalding hot water July 7 during a family trip to Wyoming. It also has released details of his treatment at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. But the governor’s office repeatedly has declined to say how that accident happened, prompting speculation and dividing political observers over whether Texas’ top official should give more information about such serious injuries.
“How incredibly foolish of the governor’s staff,” said political professor Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “One way or the other, the truth will come out. Why not head off silly speculation and tell it like it is from the start. Serious burns requiring skin grafts are major injuries, and people will wish him well. But hesitation to be forthcoming will encourage conspiracy theories in the age of social media.”
Others are fine with Abbott’s choice to withhold some details, including some consultants from the opposite side of the political aisle from the governor.
“I think public officials should be afforded as much privacy as reasonable,” said Democratic strategist Harold Cook. “It’s hard enough as it is to get quality people to run for office. The more intrusive the job description becomes, the more difficult it is.
“So if they have disclosed what the problem is, and what his treatment is and all that, then good enough for me,” said Cook. “And it ought to be good enough for all Texans.”
Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak suggested the details of the accident aren’t crucial.
“All that matters, I think, for most people is, is he able to continue doing his job, and is he able to recover? And I think the answer to both those questions is clearly yes,” said Mackowiak.
Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson called it “unusual for a high-ranking official to be hospitalized with no description of the cause.” He made note that Abbott has “spent a great deal of time talking about his life-altering injury” that occurred in 1984.
“He has talked about it in ways that describe it as shaping his personality and his character and his determination – that that injury is part of what made him who he is, with his determination and strength – and so now to be so quiet about the nature of this injury means they haven’t yet figured out the positive story,” Jillson said.
See here for the background. On the one hand, I agree with Cook and Mackowiak. We know that something non-life-threatening happened, we know that he’s being treated and is recovering, and we know that he ought to be fine after missing a few days at work. What else do we really need to know? On the other hand, I confess I find the secrecy a little puzzling. It’s overwhelmingly likely that the explanation of how Abbott got burned is one of those dumb could-happen-to-anyone things. It’s certainly possible that it could be personally embarrassing for someone involved – accidents often are – and as far as that goes, I can understand keeping the details under the lid, to spare whoever’s feelings. But people talk, and it seems equally likely that word will get out eventually. In the meantime, people will also speculate, and the possibilities they will conjure will surely be more lurid and less plausible than the mundane truth. Seems like a clear case for disclosure to me, but it’s not my call. We’ll see if Abbott changes his mind about this.