Karl Rove: Hillary Clinton's health a concern

By Anthony Zurcher
Editor, Echo Chambers

Karl Rove speaks at a 2008 panel discussion in San Francisco, California.Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Karl Rove wonders about Hillary Clinton's 2012 "serious health episode"

Republican strategist Karl Rove thinks Hillary Clinton may be hiding details about her health.

According to New York Post gossip columnist Emily Smith, Mr Rove repeatedly told a "stunned" audience at a Los Angeles conference that the public needs to know more about what happened after the then-secretary of state hit her head following a fall in December 2012.

"Thirty days in the hospital?" he asked, as quoted by the Post. "And when she reappears, she's wearing glasses that are only for people who have a traumatic brain injury? We need to know what's up with that."

Smith goes on to point out that Mr Rove has his facts wrong. Ms Clinton was only in hospital for three days after receiving treatment for a blood clot and concussion.

"Please assure Dr Rove she's 100%," a Clinton spokesperson told Smith. "Karl Rove has deceived the country for years, but there are no words for this level of lying."

Mr Rove, much reviled among Democrats as being the Machiavellian "brain" behind President George W Bush's presidential campaigns, was roundly criticised following his remarks.

CNN's John King called the comments "shocking" and "reprehensible".

The Guardian's Ana Marie Cox said Mr Rove's "fiendish theorising" was "not just offensive, but tellingly so".

"Such inflammatory messaging suggests the depths to which the GOP will go to destabilise Clinton's earned reputation for competence," she writes.

On Tuesday Mr Rove appeared on Fox News to assert that he never said Ms Clinton had brain damage.

"But look, she had a serious health episode," he added. "And I don't know about you, but if you go through a serious health episode, it causes you to look at life a little bit differently. This was a serious deal."

The Daily Kos's Laura Clawson thinks Mr Rove's comments are all part of a larger strategy (remember, he's a balding Machiavelli, right?):

So he's not telling the Clinton-haters she definitely has brain damage, he's just suggesting that there's something suspicious going on with her health related to a blood clot (or "blood clot") in her brain, and they should probably go looking for answers. I think we know where this is going to end up, don't you? If there's a 1990s-era conservative in your life, you can look forward to email forwards suggesting that Vince Foster's ghost pushed her down the stairs, or that her lesbian lover broke a vase over her head during a fight, or some other piece of the kind of nutjobbery we've so often seen directed at the Clintons in general and Hillary in particular.

Whether it was a gaffe or a misquote or a sinister plot, Mr Rove has made his play to breathe new life into questions about whether Hillary Clinton's age - she will be 69 in 2016 - should be a concern if she were to run for president.

Mary Katharine Ham of the conservative blog Hot Air thinks so:

I know everyone's going to be in a tizzy of righteous indignation over this, and Rove sounds rather blunter about it than I'd be. But the fall was serious, her disappearance lengthy, and information about her condition not exactly readily available. There would be questions about it just as there were always questions about McCain's health, right? I suppose those questions are seen as unseemly, but I'm not sure they're out of bounds.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza also believes that age- and health-related questions are fair game, although Mrs Clinton could turn it to her advantage.

"She could do that in the context of how the episode focused her or reminded her of her mortality or any number of other positive spins that could work in the narrative of a presidential campaign," he writes.

If Mrs Clinton directly addresses the question and continues to keep any active schedule leading up to and during a presidential campaign "without incident", he writes, those questions will go away.