Karl Rove’s bizarre attack on Hillary Clinton

 

If only Donald Sterling had opinions about Hillary Clinton. There is apparently a requirement that the political world go periodically insane about the former secretary of state. Sterling has just the kind of insane opinions that would really drive up business for whoever benefits from these bouts of madness.

Instead, we’re left with Karl Rove’s opinions about Hillary Clinton’s brain. “Thirty days in the hospital?” he said, referring to Clinton’s four-day treatment in late December 2012 for a blood clot after a fall earlier in the month. “And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.” Rove later took to television and The Washington Post to say that he merely meant that Clinton would get scrutiny from the press about her health.

She will now get it earlier, thanks to Dr. Rove.

This is the problem with having so much gravitational pull that The New York Times depicts you as a planet. Everything, including air tanks from Skylab, comes your way. In the last week, Hillary Clinton has been connected to issues ranging in seriousness from Benghazi and Boko Haram to armchair speculation about her brain health and role in orchestrating Monica Lewinsky’s comeback. This is the downside of having no viable opposition. Clinton has no likely opponents who might draw the GOP’s fire and no announced campaign that creates a distracting horse race for the press to cover.

Hillary Clinton has been accused of being involved in a murder plot, lying to a grand jury, and orchestrating her daughter’s pregnancy for political gain, so being accused of concealing a brain trauma is probably not shocking. Going after the front-runner early is also now a best practice. The Obama team brags about how attacking Mitt Romney long before he was the official nominee was a key to its success. Raising issues about health and age is also standard operating procedure in campaigns; in modern history, it has been a chiefly Democratic technique, used against Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and John McCain. Dick Cheney also enjoyed speculation about whether his heart condition had made him go nuts.

Clinton’s health has come up in lots of conversations I’ve had with Republican political strategists and even some potential presidential candidates, but the topic dribbles away because Clinton’s doctors cleared her of neurological damage and said she didn’t have a stroke. It is a legitimate issue, but it’s awfully early. Rove knows better than most that the press will raise the question once the campaign begins in earnest. Now that the age issue is out in the open, though, perhaps some conspiracies can flower. The questions about her health might grow so baroque that they blossom into the spectacular nuttiness of the Obama birth certificate claims. Or, these daily questions about Clinton could achieve a collective weight on her candidacy. So many issues, so much drama, it’s always something with her.

On the other hand, Rove’s counterdiagnosis to the official one could also make it look like the GOP is totally unhinged about Hillary Clinton, so fevered in its desire to drag her down that it will engage in medical speculation. (In addition to Clinton staying in the hospital for only four days and not 30, Rove appears to have been wrong about the glasses. Clinton’s glasses appear to have been her normal ones.) Baseless allegations could create sympathy for Clinton, rally her supporters, and put each incremental GOP claim, regardless of its merits, into the category of wolf crying.

This is a spasm miles away from the election, so no one can make any serious claims this will matter. (It won’t.) But it does highlight a historical quirk of the Clinton candidacy, if there is one. If Hillary Clinton runs, she will be the most uncontested presidential nominee not running for a second term since 1908, when both William Howard Taft and William Jennings Bryan had relatively easy ascensions. Even if she does get a challenger, David Plouffe is probably right that their candidacies will merely be MSNBC auditions.

The press will put the resources it would have sunk into covering the Democratic horse race into an evaluation of Clinton’s biography, record, and yes, her health. It was always certain that the media examination of Hillary Clinton would come earlier than usual. Still, the republic can sleep soundly knowing Dr. Rove is already making emergency calls.

John Dickerson is Slate’s chief political correspondent and author of “On Her Trail.” He can be reached at slatepolitics@gmail.com.

© 2014, Slate

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Too much paranoia about kids alone in parks

    A couple of weeks ago, the Debra Harrell story made national headlines. Harrell was arrested in North Augusta, S.C., and charged with a felony for letting her 9-year-old daughter play at a park while Harrell worked a shift at a local McDonald’s. Now, it has happened again, in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where a mother was charged with child neglect after letting her son go to a park by himself.

  • ’Too big to fail’ equals ‘too eager to borrow’

    Four years ago this month, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, promising that the 848-page financial law would “put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” he said. But recently, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a Detroit crowd that “the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they got too big to fail in 2008.”

  • Why the impeachment chatter continues

    If Republicans want to know why Democrats are talking incessantly about impeachment, even fundraising off the possibility, they need only look to themselves. The GOP leadership has resisted every opportunity to kill the idea. Sure, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called it “all a scam started by Democrats at the White House,” before adding, “We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans.” But that’s cold comfort given his use of the present tense and his demonstrated inability to keep his calamitous caucus in line.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category