By any measure, Hillary Clinton had a bad week when she became ill with pneumonia and had to rest up at home. But she was also very lucky.
After the Democratic nominee for president was diagnosed, she opted to "power through" her illness and continue with her public appearances. That decision caught up with her at a Sept. 11 commemoration in New York, when she was caught on video practically collapsing as she was helped into her van.
On the face of it, this is the kind of bad dream a campaign manager wakes up from in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat.
But instead of contracting pneumonia when she did, imagine her getting hit with the bug just before her first debate with Donald Trump. Candidates go out every day to shake hands and kiss babies. It's surprising they don't get sick more often. Except for Trump, who has an extreme aversion to germs and avoids physical contact with most people. Clinton caught the bug last week, but it could have just as easily been next week.
Clinton wasn't going to let pneumonia keep her off the campaign trail. So she probably wouldn't let it keep her off the debate stage.
The last time anything remotely similar happened, it cost the candidate the election. That was in 1960 when Vice President Richard Nixon debated his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kennedy.
Nixon, who'd been favored to win over the inexperienced junior senator from Massachusetts, had banged his knee on a car door in Greensboro, North Carolina, that August and suffered a nasty infection from the injury. When he appeared on the debate stage in Chicago on Sept. 26 -- yes, the same date as this year's debate -- he still looked sick.
Nixon's appearance -- he'd lost at least 10 pounds -- turned the tide in the election, allowing Kennedy to eke out a narrow victory in November.
Now imagine Clinton going weak-kneed and, with no Secret Service detail at her side to keep her propped up, collapsing behind her podium on live TV with much of the country watching.
In medical terms, it wouldn't be any more serious than what happened to her on Sept. 11 in New York. In the days that followed, she would make a quick physical recovery, just as she did earlier in the month.
But her campaign would be dead politically. The nation would be watching as medical personnel and Secret Service agents helped her from the stage. The debate would end abruptly, with commentators filling the unexpectedly empty prime time with non-stop talk about Clinton's dramatic collapse.
The stakes in this year's presidential election could not be higher. As I describe in my novella, President Trump, a Republican victory in November could be calamitous for the nation and the world, unleashing potentially violent white nationalist groups at home and encouraging Russian encroachment in Eastern Europe.
It can be disconcerting to know that something as inconsequential as which week a pneumonia bug hits -- simple luck -- can dramatically change the lives of millions of people around the world.
But the truth is that it has happened. Nixon bumped his knee and Kennedy was elected. As president, Kennedy narrowly averted nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis; had Nixon won, the world might not have been so fortunate.
Likewise, Clinton was lucky she became ill when she did. And for those who believe, as do I, that a President Trump would be a threat to peace at home and abroad, Clinton's timing was heaven sent.