Tuesday, May 13, 2014


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.

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."
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.

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.


aimai said...

Not at all. We will never be less likely to have the conversation about how Hillary is "too old" for the presidency just as we will still have all those other Hillary is Too X" for the presidency. Regardless of what Rove does or doesn't say. I see this piece of Rovian speech as more like John Robert's use of throwaway lines in his own dissents. He ressurects them later as firm doctrine and appeals to their authority when (most) people have stopped paying attention.

Old people are not at all averse to the accusation tha tsome other old person is "too old" for the job. As long as it is done politely or effectively--they know it to be true for themselves and they suspect it to be true for people who are of a different political persuasion than themselves anyway.

As for Rove's "thirty days i the hospital" I think that is quite effective on the kind of low information voter Rove cares about keeping in the fold--white women who voted Republican because they always have but who are sick and tired of the kind of republican male candidate that the republicans throw up. I think those women don't remember or werent' paying attention and the "30 days in the hospital" is meant to be embedded conventional wisdom that Rove et al can draw on later. There will be accusations that she's not as smart as she used to be, that she is mentally unsound, that Bill is really planning to do all the work and resume the thrown under cover of her election.

This is all quite carefully thought out. It may not work, but its not a one off accusation and it was not a mistake.

Steve M. said...

I still think it comes off as a cheap shot that rallies people to her side. People aren't going to rely on some self-appointed savant to tell them whether her brain is working properly. They can hear her talk and make up their own minds.

Victor said...

Karl Rove is lower than fish-poop in the Marianas Trench.

And don't forget, he's no longer the darling of the Reich-Wing - not since his groups funding of the epic election disaster, that was 2012.

He's a walking, talking, human-in-form-only, miasma.

Julia said...

Troll - I never thought Rove was a genius. He found an environment in which he does well. He's a maggot that wound up on a particularly large pile of shit. And he doesn't seem to notice that the pile is rapidly shrinking.

So, Rove can make cracks about HRC till he's blue in the face, but he has gone from being the right-hand man of the most powerful man on the planet, to a petulant boob who made an absolute ass of himself on TV when it turned out The Math was wrong a second time.

Disparaging comments about her intelligence sound more like projection to me.

aimai said...

Rove got his start turning people's supposed strengths against them--accusing a judge with a history of do-gooding for children of pedophilia. That sort of thing. I think this was a bit clumsy but fits right into a master narrative about the Clintons which goes way back: they are controlling, secretive, ambitious, etc..etc...etc... He doesn't have to affect everyone--in fact their strategy for the last few years has been to neglect the idea of the common or swing voter in favor of the base. So its a base strategy. I think *that* decision is stupid and in the long run counterproductive. People who won't vote for Clinton because she's the Democrat in the race aren't going to be affected one way or another by his intemperate language ("brain damage") and their suspicions of the Clintons aren't going to be any higher because of the "dark glasses" insinuation.

But he is paid by the word, qua pundit, and if other people are not starting stuff that he can comment on he's going to need to start stuff himself. I don't think he sees any harm in it and I doubt it does any harm to his eventual employer (whichever republican floats to the top and pays him). In fact I figure this is more like a job audition than a real electoral strategy at all. Rove is chumming the waters for the billionaires trying to get one or more of them interested in paying him again.

Steve M. said...

fits right into a master narrative about the Clintons which goes way back: they are controlling, secretive, ambitious

I'd think the previous right-wing story -- that she faked the medical condition to avoid testifying on Benghazi -- fi that narrative much better. How do you secretly control the country with brain damage?

Ten Bears said...

How do you secretly control the country with brain damage?

Ambien, Prozac, Viagra and crotch-shots on CNN/Fox Kool-Aid.

Contemptible indeed.

No fear.

aimai said...

I think its a mistake to look for consistency. They have no problem arguing (then) that she faked the whole thing to avoid answering questions and also asserting (now) that she really had a head injury and is so now unfit to serve. As for the secrecy and controlling part one of the most delicious things, for the voting public, is the conviction that they are being lied to and that someone (Rove, Fox News) is going to uncover the dirt for them. So that part of the base is thrilled to think that Rove is bravely exposing either 1) a fake injury or 2) a real one that is being covered up.

Victor said...

"I think its a mistake to look for consistency."

aimai's right.

Remember, back in the 90's, the same people who said Hillary was a secret lesbian, also said that she was guilty of killing-off her secret male lover.
And OY!!!!!!!!!

Steve M. said...

that part of the base is thrilled

Right: the base. This is persuading people who would never vote for Hillary in a million years that they should never vote for Hillary.

Joey Blau said...

Well I heard that Hillary was REALLY involuntarily committed to an insane asylum for SIX WEEKS and the brain injury was just a cover story!!

aimai said...

I don't deny that this is a base strategy--I said it in my first post. But I also said that it is probably more of a donor strategy--showing donors what kind of arguments a Karl Rove anti-Hillary argument would look like. And I'm pretty sure Rove and his potential donors believe that there are plenty of people who were not enamored of HIllary and Bill the first two times around and who are looking for reasons not to vote for her. I don't agree with them--I think Hillary and Bill both have aged into something else, a different kind of phenomenon (especially when it comes to women voters). But, nevertheless, Rove's entire shtick is "there's no smoke without fire." This may well simply be one among many such potential targeted attacks. And the assumption is probably that one or the other of them will work on some number of potential white democratic voters, not just on the base.

Steve M. said...

You may be on to something regarding the donors. One belief about the Clintons is that every possible attack has been tried on them, and none have stuck. This may be Roves way of saying, "Here's a fresh line of attack." It may not work, but the donors may not know that. If fat checks are written to Crossroads, that's probably all that matters to Rove.

Julia said...

I think it far more likely that they're paying Rove for being a dick. "Hur hur, did you hear what he said about that hag Clinton?"

So yes, if being mean gets the money he's fine with that. If they're fine with paying him even though it doesn't win elections, I guess everyone is happy.

aimai said...

Its Audition time for everyone--its not just the candidates going to kiss the ring of the Adelson types. And it makes sense for Rove to set himself up as the person to take down the Democratic candidate, rather than a person affiliated with any one Republican candidate. The real money is in capturing the campaign money and the billionaire money not in tying yourself down to any one of the seven dwarves. That money is going to get spent one way or another so better to get your hand on the spigot than try to siphon it off lower down.

aimai said...

And right on time Fox and Friends demand the "release of Hillary's medical records" to put out the fire they started. They are going to try to turn this into Mitt's tax records. And really why not? If Hillary runs she is going to win. They have to try to prevent her from even running.

Steve M. said...

But does anyone who doesn't watch Fox care?

aimai said...

No, but remember that stuff always starts on Fox and then makes a jump to the mainstream. I'm not worried about this as a political strategy but it *is* a political strategy. That's all.

The Republican strategy (such as it is) for regaining the White House remains what it has always been: 1) keep its base turned up to 11 and 2) desperately try to attract "swing" voters and aggrieved whites in the general election while suppressing the non white or single female vote.

Attempting to make a Hillary run untenable is one kind of strategy. Its not going to be successful because Hillary is too old a campaigner to be thrown off her stride or forced out by this kind of thing. But that won't stop them from trying it. The other Fox/right wing wurlitzer thing is to try as many false stories as they can and just see which one flies *with the media* eventually.

They see no real reason to conserve attacks or focus on one. They can start as many stories as the media will bear and figure some of them will work.

aimai said...

BTW if you go back and read The Hunting of the President, which was written by Gene Lyons and Joe Conason you will see that attempts to destroy or dislocate the candidacies of potential presidential contenders start early and contain multitudes. Its what they do. They are starting early on Hillary--its not aimed at any one segment of the population really. It just is what they do.

DavidG said...

Steve, Steve,

I'm surprised you missed the significance of Rove's remark. He was telegraphing (and trying to pressure) that the Benghazi special committee will "investigate" Hillary's state of health. The excuse will be that it's relevant because she used her fall and blow to the head to postpone her testimony on Benghazi.

Can you imagine the hideous scene of a congressional committee of old men holding hearings speculating on the contents of the secretary of state's CAT scan? I knew you could.