Republicans are doing all they can to discourage former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from becoming a presidential candidate in 2016 by attacking all things Hillary. They fear that she would easily roll over any Republican candidate and generate many congressional victories in her wake.
Secretary Clinton says that she will decide by the end of the year whether she will run for president. But, given the fact that she is already the overwhelming favorite to win her party's nomination, she has been the target of political attacks from the right. The most recent assault comes from Republican strategist Karl Rove, who, speaking at a closed-door corporate event in southern California on May 8, raised questions about her health. The New York Post reported earlier this week that Rove said, "Thirty days in the hospital? 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."
These comments from this master of dirty tricks and misinformation were no accident. Rove's intentions are to raise doubts among voters about Secretary Clinton's health, and to get cable pundits to talk endlessly about the issue. By being disruptive and dishonest he wins the admiration of many in the Republican party, even despite his recent poor performance. For instance, Rove's political action committees spent more than $300 million on the 2012 election cycle and failed. In response, Donald Trump, real estate mogul and occasional Republican presidential aspirant, was sharply critical of Rove. "When you spend $400 million and it's a failure and you don't have one victory, you know something is seriously, seriously wrong," he said last spring.
But Rove can live with the criticism, and he is being well-paid to do so. Rove was a longtime adviser to President George W. Bush, and he helped shape the administration's case to the American public for waging war on Iraq. Of course, the Bush administration misled the world into believing Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Also, Rove was questioned regarding his role in leaking covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity in 2003 as retaliation for criticism by her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, of the Bush administration's case for the Iraq war.
Rove made quite a name for himself from his tactic of attacking an opponent's strength. In 2004, then Senator John Kerry was nominated by his party to run for president against the incumbent President Bush. Kerry was seen as a Vietnam War hero, while Bush had pulled strings to avoid fighting on the front lines in that war. Texas journalist Wayne Slater said, in a PBS Frontline interview, "The number one thing that John Kerry offered was his heroic service in Vietnam ...and so what Rove did was attack the strength of Kerry, not his weakness." Rove's tactic led to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth negative campaign against Kerry's heroism. The campaign was discredited, but Bush won reelection.
Karl Rove is a protegee of the late and legendary Republican dirty trickster, Lee Atwater. Rove was first investigated by the Republican National Committee in 1973 for allegedly teaching dirty tricks to young Republicans, but he was cleared of wrong-doing. And George W. Bush biographer Louis DuBose says Rove was behind a whisper campaign about then Texas Governor Ann Richard's "sexual orientation." DuBose wrote, "No one ever traced the character assassination to Rove. Yet no one doubts that Rove was behind it."
But all of this is okay in politics, where operatives are not penalized by the public for lying about an opponent, and they are not financially penalized by a candidate for losing an election. Karl Rove spent and wasted an enormous amount of fundraising money in 2012. In fact, he was so concerned about upsetting his donors election night that he went into a meltdown on Fox News when the network declared Ohio for Obama. Rove insisted their declaration was "premature." Of course, Ohio did go to President Obama, and its delegates put him over the top in his reelection bid.
Over the past few months, Rove and other Republican operatives have been building up their war chests for the 2014 midterm and 2016 presidential elections. And congressional Republicans have focused their attention on the terrorist attack at Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
If she runs for president, Secretary Clinton will showcase her experience at State as a strength. But Republicans are now on the attack. Despite the findings of a rigorous bipartisan report, which did not blame Secretary Clinton, several congressional hearings, and the 25,000 pages of relevant documents that have been turned over by the administration, Republicans have now begun a select committee investigation. Meanwhile, GOP congressmen have turned up the volume on their attacks of Secretary Clinton. They have accused her of mismanagement, incompetence and a coverup.
On Thursday, a Quinnipiac poll of registered voters in Ohio found that Secretary Clinton's commanding lead over each of her possible Republican opponents is narrowing. This may be, in part, the result of all of the Benghazi attacks. The poll was taken well before this week's "brain-ghazi" attack by Karl Rove.
Thankfully, former President Bill Clinton responded to Rove's charge with humor. "First they said she faked her concussion and now they say she is auditioning for her part on the Walking Dead," President Clinton told a gathering in New York. "If she does (have brain damage), I must be in really tough shape because she is still quicker than I am."
From all the political bombast that is being hurled at Secretary Clinton, you would think America was in the final stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign. But rest assured, Karl Rove is just getting started.