At first, I thought this was just contemptible:
Republican strategist Karl Rove suggested last week that Hillary Clinton suffers from brain damage, according to a new report.Then I thought: Isn't Rove just being a savvy partisan operative? Isn't he just planting a land mine? Assuming Hillary declares her candidacy for president shortly after her upcoming book tour, and assuming she wins the nomination, she's going to be in the spotlight for at least the next two and a half years. She's going to make a lot of public statements. Sooner or later there's going to be a gaffe -- almost certainly more than one. Maybe there'll be a couple in quick succession. Maybe there'll be a physical stumble. All perfectly normal for a candidate of any age -- but Rove is shrewdly laying the groundwork now for a discussion of this subject some time in the future.
The New York Post's Page Six section reported Monday that Rove, appearing at a conference with former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs and CBS correspondent Dan Raviv last Thursday, recently waded into the former secretary of state’s health issues. In 2012, Clinton — a top possible 2016 Democratic contender — suffered from a blood clot that temporarily prevented her from testifying about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. According to the report, Rove said the Benghazi issue should continue to be pushed.
"Thirty days in the hospital?" Rove said, according to the report. "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."
But wait. The press is going to have that discussion anyway. There's already endless talk about whether Hillary is too old to run. Nobody needs Rove's input -- this will be discussed if Hillary shows any signs of frailty, or even if she doesn't, Rove notwithstanding. In the meantime, Rove -- who, by the way, is only three years younger than Hillary -- is indirectly insulting older people, something you'd think you wouldn't want to do as the mouthpiece of a party that relies on older voters.
This morning, Rove defended his remarks on Fox News -- which is run, of course, by Roger Ailes, who's seven years older than Hillary Clinton. The guy who signs Ailes's paychecks, Rupert Murdoch, is nine years older than Ailes.
Hillary, of course, is far less likely to trip over her words than the guy whose presidential campaigns Rove masterminded, who was a lot younger than Hillary is now. Oh, and Rove lied -- I don't think "misspoke" is the right word -- when he said, "Thirty days in the hospital?" (It was actually three days.)
Rove may have made us less likely to have a national conversation about Hillary's age in the next couple of years. Bring up that subject now and you sound like an oily, unsavory Republican political operative. You sound like Karl Rove.
So, no, I don't think this was Rove being an evil genius. He should have been smart enough to game out the likely impact of this hit on Hillary.
I think he really is that smart. But he was too much of a troll to hold back.