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 repeated the claim a number of times to the audience.
In December 2012, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fainted, suffered a concussion, and was hospitalized with a blood clot. Because her injury delayed her congressional testimony on Benghazi, conservative media quickly launched a conspiracy theory: Clinton wasn't really injured, Fox News and others said, she was merely faking it to avoid talking about the attack.
Even for the right, this was bizarre. Clinton's injury was not only real, she also had no incentive to mislead -- her committee testimony was simply rescheduled.
In a curious twist, Republicans have shifted gears. Arguing that Clinton's injury was faked is now out; arguing that Clinton's injury was extremely serious is now in. Karl Rove is leading the way.
The man George W. Bush affectionately referred to as "Turd Blossom" has a well-earned reputation for sleaze, dishonesty, and ugly campaign tactics, and this fits nicely into his established pattern of behavior.
We can note, for example, that Clinton was in the hospital for a few days, not 30. We can also note that Clinton wore glasses because of the temporary "double vision" she suffered after she fainted, not "traumatic brain injury."
But this isn't about reality. This is about Karl Rove playing a game -- one that he thinks he's good at.
As reports about his comments generated chatter throughout the political world. Rove told Karen Tumulty, "Of course she doesn't have brain damage."
Rove added that he believes Clinton suffered "a serious health episode" and she'll "have to be forthcoming" about the incident if she runs for national office again.
But why say any of this? Every major presidential candidate releases medical records, just as a routine part of the process, so if the former Secretary of State throws her hat in the ring, Clinton already knows her health background will be scrutinized, just like every other candidate.
So why bring it up? Because Rove wants to raise doubts about the Democrat widely perceived as the strong potential candidate in the race.
Rove could go after Clinton's record, but substantive debates aren't his style. He could go after Clinton's agenda, but she isn't even an announced candidate, so there is no platform to attack.
And that brings us to targeting Clinton's fitness for office. The next time she forgets a detail or flubs a word during a Q&A, we're supposed to think about the seed Rove planted in the political world's mind: an older candidate with a brain injury.
It's cheap and politics at its most obnoxious, but then again, those are adjectives Rove is probably accustomed to hearing by now.