Raise your hand if you are already sick of Hillary Clinton and the 2016 presidential campaign.
Wow, that’s a lot of hands. So that means you will enjoy my latest political idea: I suggest holding the 2016 presidential election at the same time as the 2014 November midterms, so that our nation will not have to endure hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of attack ads. We will also be spared more than two years of headlines about Hillary Clinton’s “brain injury” stemming from a real incident in 2012.
Regarding Hillary’s health, former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove stated, “This will be an issue in the 2016 race whether she likes it or not.”
Do Republicans — all 23.7% of the electorate who identify with the party — believe that a respected Republican strategist speculating about the potential ill health of a celebrated 66-year-old woman will help our party win back the White House?
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Who will want to make this an issue — other Republican candidates and the conservative media? Both are wise to avoid such sensitive personal talk, remembering that what goes around comes around.
Rove may have believed that insinuating that Hillary could have suffered a “traumatic brain injury” in December 2012 would help the GOP win in 2016. Then the media twisted his speculation (surprise!), and he was forced to clarify his comments. The headline at this site and other media outlets reads, “Rove: I ‘never’ said Hillary had brain damage but health could be a 2016 issue.”
A veteran Bush-campaign official, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells National Review Online, “Clearly Rove is planting a seed of doubt about Clinton’s age and health.”
Let’s explore the potentially dangerous 2016 minefield of age and health by asking Hillary’s infamous Benghazi question, “What difference at this point does it make?” With apologies to James Carville — who famously coined Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign theme “It’s the economy, stupid” — my answer is, “It’s the symbolism, stupid!”
To non-Republicans, the symbolism would be: Karl Rove, the “brain” behind Bush (whom 44% of Americans still blame for today’s stagnant economic conditions) is now picking on Hillary Clinton for an incident that occurred in 2012 and from which she appears fully recovered.
And since many casual observers think of Rove as speaking for Republicans generally, they can assume the party is all in for picking on poor Hillary.
We live in an age hypersensitive about “bullying.” Appearing to pick on someone is not a smart move — especially when polls show that person defeating every Republican presidential challenger by 9 to 14 percentage points and possibly on track to become the first woman president of the United States.
Showcasing Hillary’s real or imagined health issues is less likely to turn independent swing voters and Democrats against Hillary Clinton than to remind them why they hate Republicans.
The Clintons invented the modern style of no-holds-barred politics. It’s unlikely Hillary would be scared away from running by an early taste of GOP political warfare. In fact, she’s more likely to go out of her way to prove that she is healthy and raring to go.
Seriously, if the GOP’s 2016 strategy is to make the race about Hillary’s present health and past political scandals (of which there are many, including Benghazi), we can look forward to winning about 100 Electoral College votes.
With the United States facing a multitude of serious economic, social, and international problems, along with a general acknowledgment of national decline, 2016 must be about our party’s grand vision to offer real solutions for the future and not a rehash of Hillary’s (and Bill’s) greatest hits.
Focusing on Clinton’s advanced age and poor health makes our party and our candidates appear weak and will surely backfire in the media (as it has already). Moreover, such tactics give off vibes that the Republican party truly fears her candidacy. (And to that there is some truth.)
Finally, if Hillary Clinton does in fact have a heath problem, then it will become obvious through a rigorous campaign and must be properly and respectfully addressed.
But until then, speculation about her health can only lead to Republicans’ getting injured.
Cross-posted at National Review Online