12/14/2012 12:02 pm ET Updated Feb 13, 2013

Fear and Loathing of Hillary 2.0

On Wednesday night, Karl Rove was back on television to make a big announcement: Hillary Clinton is not running for president. How did he know? Because she said so on the pre-taped Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People, which was to air on another network about an hour after his appearance. And how did Rove know what Clinton said before she said it on air? Selected quotes from the interview, sent out by the press team behind Walters, never one to pass up the opportunity to grab a headline, implied Clinton was making some major announcement about not running for president.

When the actual (heavily edited) interview aired, Clinton made her share of non-denial denials. She wants to return to private life. She is grateful for the 2008 presidential run. She's tired, no, exhausted. But the non-denial denials sounded pretty much like the ones she has already given this year as well as those she used leading up to her entering the 2000 New York Senate race, which she handily won. At the end of Walters' interview, I thought: What on earth was Rove talking about? Then again, did Rove, a seasoned political veteran if there ever was one, really believe Hillary Clinton would make her "I'm-not-running-no-matter-what" announcement on Barbara Walters' 10 Most Fascinating People, sandwiched between One Direction and Honey Boo Boo? Seriously, Karl, get a grip.

Clearly, the right, as evidenced by Rove's excitement over what he believed was a game-changing disclosure, doesn't want Clinton to run because she would be hard to beat. But earlier this week there was a more disconcerting example of how the right is panicking -- and how they may deal with Clinton in a second presidential campaign. On Tuesday, readers of the Drudge Report saw the glaring lead headline: "Hillary Health Scare." The accompanying unflattering picture showed Clinton looking like she was knocking on Death's Door. What was wrong? A heart attack? A stroke?

Click on the link to the story and nothing came up. That was because so many readers were trying to click through and get to the website for Foreign Policy that its server had crashed. Apparently, the magazine had landed a scoop: Clinton was canceling her trip to the Middle East because she had a stomach virus. Forget that over the last four years as secretary of state Clinton has traveled just under one million miles, visiting 112 countries and making her the most traveled secretary of state in American history. For the record, she is also the most traveled first lady; indeed, she may be the most traveled female on the planet. No, Clinton had come down with the flu -- during flu season, no less! -- and that became a "health scare" worthy of screaming headlines.

There is something sexist or ageist (or both) about choosing to use that headline. It implies that, either because she's a woman or in her sixties, Clinton may not be up for another run at the presidency. After all, at her age (wink, wink), there could always be another "health scare." Born in 1947, Clinton would be 69 on the day she was sworn into office in January 2017.

Is a 69-year-old woman too old to be president? If that is the argument the right is going to make, recent history suggests their case might not wash. At present, having just celebrated her fiftieth jubilee, Queen Elizabeth II has served so long on the British throne that she may pass the crown not to her son but to her grandson. In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is two years older than Clinton, was just elected to parliament after serving a 15-year-long house arrest for fighting for civil liberties in her country, further confirming her status as a global icon for democracy.

Previously, Indira Gandhi, who served as the first woman prime minister in India from 1966 until 1977, was 63 in 1980 when she was elected to become prime minister a second time. Then there was Golda Meir. In 1969, she was -- gasp! -- 71 when, after serving in various cabinet posts, she was elected as the first woman prime minister of Israel. An avid proponent of peace in the Middle East, she became a transformative figure in Israeli politics. No doubt at some point she also came down with the stomach flu -- but that didn't keep her from following her ambitions and entering into history.

If these are the opening salvos from the right against Hillary Clinton, in no time the fear and loathing will be palpable. Then again, she's seen it before.