First, let’s get this straight: By very definition, Hillary Clinton actually did suffer a "traumatic brain injury" in 2012. She fell; she hit her head; she suffered a concussion; and she developed a blood clot which hospitalized her. A concussion is precisely a “traumatic brain injury,” according to official medical definition.
Thus, when Karl Rove indelicately -- and perhaps not wisely for political purposes -- raised a point the other day about Hillary Clinton’s health, based on the "traumatic brain injury" she suffered in 2012, he was technically on solid ground. What wasn’t so solid was the over-reaction by media outlets to Rove’s rather unchivalrous suggestion. To see the difference between the “pile on Rove” mentality and actual, balanced coverage, consider how CNN rushed to paint Rove as evil, compared to how Washington Post blogger Chris Cillizza put the issue in broader perspective.
On Tuesday morning's @This Hour with Berman & Michaela, CNN featured two guests to analyze Rove’s remarks – but only after one of the two co-hosts, Michaela Pereira, pointedly corrected Rove by noting that Clinton had been hospitalized for only three days, not 30. With that anti-Rove introduction accomplished, who were the two guests? The first was CNN’s reporter Brianna Keilar, “who covers all things Hillary Clinton for us,” according to the other host, John Berman. Her role was to report on the Clinton camp’s response, which was to say that “there are no words for this level of lying.” The second was… no, it wasn’t anybody to defend or even give context for Rove; instead, it was also from the Clinton camp, namely longtime Clinton friend and lawyer Lanny Davis.
Thus it was that after being corrected and then called a liar, Rove was subject to Davis calling him “shameful,” “low,” “sleazy,” and again “sleazy.”
Compare that to Cillizza, the Post’s prolific political blogger whose general frame of reference tends towards liberal conventional wisdom, but who usually strives for neutral-ish “news analysis” rather than for ideological punches. After some introductory sentences explaining the basic facts of the brouhaha, Cillizza got down to business in his May 13 The Fix blog headlined, "Karl Rove said Hillary Clinton has health questions to answer before 2016. So, does she?"
Rove, he said, “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?”
Cillizza then recounted the history of Republican candidates Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and John McCain being asked age- and health-related questions, then provided some comments from both Republican and Democratic insiders.
My take? First, Clinton will have to answer questions about her health/age -- as any candidate of her age (and with a relatively recent issue of a blood clot on the brain) would have to do. That process may well mean that she explains more than she has to date about her fall and subsequent hospitalization in late 2012. … Second Rove is not exactly the ideal messenger to carry [the argument]…. In the end, Clinton's health and age will only be an issue if there is a re-occurrence (or some new occurrence) of a medical problem that suggests she may not be able to carry out the duties of the office. If Clinton is actively moving around the country -- speaking, raising money and, eventually, campaigning -- without incident, the age and health questions will likely disappear.
Now that’s balance. CNN should try it sometime.