Stephen Colbert last night attacked the media’s obsession with optics in the context of Karl Rove’s comments about the health “issue” that Hillary Rodham Clinton will have to face if she runs for president in 2016. Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that Rove had “suggested” at an off-the-record “conference” near Los Angeles that Clinton may have brain damage.
In a Fox News appearance, Rove denied any such suggestion, yet the New York Post story set everyone into retransmission mode. Cable news, Internet sites, newspapers — no one could pass this one up.
Colbert skewered all those pundits who declared that Rove had won by getting folks talking about Clinton’s health. Examples:
Michelle Cottle on MSNBC: “This is an issue that Karl wants people talking about.”
Alan Colmes on Fox News: “He wanted us to start focusing on Hillary’s health.”
Unidentified commentator on MSNBC: “Karl Rove has gotten exactly what he wants.”
Anna Palmer on MSNBC: “We’re talking about it, and it’s been making news and it’s been on programs on cable news for the last 10, 24 hours.”
Richard Socarides on CNN: “I mean it was totally fabricated. Then he pulls it back. Now we’re having this whole segment on it.”
Such commentators gloss over an important dynamic in all this discussion — namely, that all the chatter is routinely paired with condemnations of Rove, and this whole episode says more about him than it does about Clinton’s health. That’s a point that Colbert makes in terms that can’t be repeated on the Web site of a family newspaper.