Intrepid reporter reveals Republicans and Democrats divided on issue!

Does Hillary have health issues to answer before 2016? Washington Post's Chris Cillizza gets to the bottom of it

Jim Newell
May 14, 2014 6:17PM (UTC)

Happy early-mid 2014! What do we have for you already? Karl Rove putting out rumors about Hillary Clinton having brain damage.

He said if Clinton runs for president, voters must be told what happened when she suffered a fall in December 2012.

The official diagnosis was a blood clot. Rove told the conference near LA Thursday, “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.”

Rove later offered a clarification, saying, "no, no I didn’t say she had brain damage ... My point was that Hillary Clinton wants to run for president, but she would not be human if [her health] didn’t enter in as a consideration. And my other point is, this will be an issue in the 2016 race, whether she likes it or not.” He's just very concerned about her health, for her sake, you see.


Right on cue came our old pal Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post, asking, "Karl Rove said Hillary Clinton has health questions to answer before 2016. So, does she?"

Putting aside the "brain damage" debate, which seems like a bit of a red herring, Rove -- perhaps purposely -- has injected a very serious question into the public debate (and one that has been bubbling just under the surface for months): Is Clinton's health and, by extension, her age -- she is 66 now and will be 69 on election day 2016 -- a legitimate topic of debate if she runs in 2016?

And so Cillizza goes about determining whether this is a "legitimate topic of debate" by asking some Republican strategists who think it is and some Democratic strategists who don't think it is. Brilliant. A nice day's work from the helmsman of the Fix; time to clock out.

First, we're not sure how health becomes "by extension, her age." Younger people are capable of falling and having a concussion and further complications, too.


But the more annoying parts about posts like these is the nagging about whether something's a "legitimate topic for debate" -- as in, are we allowed to talk about it? Mommy please, can I talk about it at my job today? Pleeeeease??

The good news is that America is at least still a moderately free country, and you can talk about any old thing you want, no matter how ... strange. And then consumers of news and voters with questions will determine whether something is a "legitimate topic for debate" if they consider it important.

The tone set by Rove and Cillizza suggests that they're desperate to talk about this issue which they believe most of the American people are deeply concerned about, but the p.c. police or something are preventing them. But the reason a lot of people roll their eyes at this is because they don't think of 69 as especially old, and it seems curious that so many Republican political operatives suddenly do.


This is the most special quote of all in the Cillizza piece:

Yes, says Alex Castellanos, a prominent Republican consultant. "[Ronald] Reagan had to talk about his age and health," noted Castellanos. "[John] McCain had to talk about his age and health. Why shouldn't Hilary Clinton? Because of her gender? Welcome to the politics of equality."

Nice work by Castellanos there, getting to trash Democratic hypocrisy and take a swipe at feminism all at once.

Hillary Clinton will disclose her medical history, as all presidential candidates eventually submit their medical records to the media. (John McCain set up a funny little process for this in which reporters were able to look at the documents for a few hours on one day and then never again.)


The reason "age" became an issue for John McCain -- and it wasn't really an issue at all, mostly just a source for benign little jokes along the way -- is because, although he was in his early 70s, his curmudgeonly, get-off-my-lawn demeanor suggested that we were dealing with an approximately 175-year-old man. If Republicans think age is the reason why John McCain lost to Barack Obama, rather than the historic unpopularity levels of the Republican Party and its president following eight years of poor national stewardship, and now they believe they can train this powerful weapon on Hillary Clinton, the results may surprise them. People aren't especially worried about Hillary Clinton's age because she doesn't seem, in her demeanor, to be very old. Age was never an issue for Mitt Romney for the same reason, despite the fact that he would have been the fourth oldest president in American history had he been elected in 2012 (a fact that no one pointed out at all except for ... me, one time, when I was bored and trolling.) Most people probably didn't even know that Romney was in his mid-60s; he seemed more like someone who's 54 years old, permanently, since the day he was born until the day he'll die.

No one needs permission to talk about Hillary Clinton's age! There's just not necessarily as much pent-up demand for such chatter as some expect.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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