July 23, 2024

The mud campaign has begun


Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Anyone who thinks it’s too early to focus on the 2016 presidential election better think again because the campaign has begun, kicked off by none other than the GOP’s favorite attack dog, Karl Rove. In remarks that have been well publicized, he says Hillary Clinton suffered a traumatic brain injury in a fall at home after the 2012 election, and that the voters have a right to know more about her health before she runs for president.

Asked about the assessment of “Dr. Rove,” former President Clinton said at an economic forum in Washington that his wife works out every week, is strong, and “seems to have more stamina now.” He poked fun at Rove and the Republicans for initially saying Hillary faked her fall to avoid testifying about Benghazi. “Now they’re saying she’s auditioning for a part on ‘The Walking Dead’,” he said. “It’s just the beginning,” he added.

The Republicans are just warming up; they’ll get better at it, Clinton said, seeming to signal he and Hillary are gearing up for what will likely be a nasty campaign, and not to worry, the First Couple knows how to handle the rough and tumble of campaigning and governing. And they know there will be legitimate issues to address.

The opposition party is teeing up the scandals, one by one, as if on a conveyor belt, testing to see what sticks with the conservative base, and what might have broader appeal beyond the base. So far, everything they’ve come up with excites the Tea Party, but pretty much leaves the rest of the electorate cold.

The House committee investigating Benghazi will have to uncover some new information for their work to be taken seriously. But short of the proverbial smoking gun that leads directly to the Secretary of State for some real or alleged wrongdoing, it’s hard to see anything sticking to Hillary and creating such significant problems that she would decide not to run.

The Clintons have weathered so much together that the reappearance of Monica Lewinsky in a magazine piece is one more chunk of history they’d like to forget. The country feels the same way, making it unlikely that the tawdry episode will cost Hillary any votes beyond those she already doesn’t have.

Examining Clinton’s record at the State Department will get underway in earnest next month with the release of her book, “Hard Choices.” No matter what she says about Benghazi, her critics will not be satisfied. That’s a given. Still, her upcoming book tour should help put to rest criticism about whether she has the stamina for a campaign.

If Clinton wins the presidency in 2016, she would be the second oldest person to assume the office, the first being Ronald Reagan. He was 69 when elected, older only by a matter of months than Hillary would be. Running for reelection in 1984, Reagan deftly defused the age issue by saying, “I won’ make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Standing across from Reagan on the debate stage, Vice President Walter Mondale laughed as heartily as the rest of the country, and the die was cast for Reagan’s landslide victory.

Politics has gotten meaner and more partisan since then, but openly questioning Hillary’s fitness for office based on her age and a bad fall she suffered has Rove on the defensive over his tactics. Among those chiding him is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who declared himself “deeply offended” by the personal attack. “I was angry when people did this to Reagan in 1980, and I am angry when they do it to her today,” Gingrich wrote on his Facebook page. In Congress, Gingrich pioneered the art of personal attacks, so it’s nice to know there’s still a line or two he’d rather not cross.

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© 2014 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.



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