For someone who expresses concern about partisans who take the "low road" and wallow in "reckless rhetoric," Karl Rove did a pretty good public impersonation of both this week with his "bizarre" attacks on Hillary Clinton.
Rove, of course, is no stranger to smear campaigns. Just ask associates of Anne Richards, John McCain, John Kerry and Valerie Plame, to name a few. Which is why it was always preposterous for Rove to launch a years-long etiquette campaign lecturing President Obama on the "politics of civility" in his Wall Street Journal columns. I mean, Rove draws a generous paycheck from Fox News, which has nearly run out of corrosive insults to hurl at Obama after six years.
So yes, Rove's glass house is visible to everyone.
But there was something especially hypocritical about Rove taking a break from his "civility" sermons to launch one of the most classless attacks of the political year, reportedly suggesting Hillary Clinton was physically and mentally incapacitated, indelicately portraying the former secretary of state of a feeble senior citizen who had fallen and sustained "traumatic brain injury"; a possibly life-changing wound that had been concealed from the public.
From Sally Kohn at The Daily Beast:
What America needs to know is what's up with your conspiracy theory-based fear mongering that is obviously intended to simultaneously highlight Clinton's age (old people slip and fall) and undermine her credibility as a female candidate (playing to sexist stereotypes that women are mentally unstable or simply less intelligent). Mr. Rove, you make these claims purely as conjecture without any facts, fanned by the emotions of your partisanship.
Speaking at a Los Angeles event last Thursday, Rove presented Hillary's alleged health problem in such stark terms that the New York Post concluded Rove had suggested Clinton suffered from "brain damage." (Rove insists he never said that.) Rove also lied about Clinton having spent "30 days" in the hospital recovering. (It was four days.)
The slander continued during Rove's damage control tour after his comments were published. On Fox, he engaged in further, wild speculation: "We don't know what the doctors said about what does she have to be concerned about. Don't know about -- I mean she's hidden a lot of this." (Cover up!)
Hidden from whom? She's currently a private citizen. Prior to her possible presidential candidacy, Clinton's supposed to send out regular updates about her health to the general public?
And why the Rove urgency now? In the wake of Clinton's illness and fall last year, she soon testified before Congress and then appeared at speaking engagements around the world, sat for interviews with reporters, and wrote her memoirs. At no time did her supposedly "traumatic" injuries take a toll.
All this comes as Rove has spent the last six years clutching his pearls in print, detailing every civility infraction he can find on the Democratic side. And Obama's the worst offender! According to Rove, the president contributes to "slash and burn politics," and he needs to "rein in the verbal excess of the leaders of his own party."
What exactly have been some of Obama's civility sins? According to Rove, in 2010 the president dared to suggest that Sen. Mitch McConnell "was "cynical and deceptive" (gasp!), and he accused his Obamacare opponents of "bearing false witness." (Double gasp!)
This, of course, is pedestrian stuff in terms of public discourse in Washington. But like an overly dramatic hall monitor, Rove has been writing up alleged etiquette violations, cataloguing Obama's so-called offenses in order to propagate the stereotype that never took off with the public but which has been a right-wing calling card since 2008: Obama is a partisan monster.
I doubt Rove actually believes a lot of what he writes in his Journal column, which seems more designed to rally hyper-partisan Republican troops than it does to parse politics in any kind of honest fashion. But if Rove actually believed his musing about the "politics of civility" and "reckless rhetoric," he wouldn't go into dumpster diving mode and spread hollow assertions about the state of Hillary Clinton's health.