Karl Rove is smart. A cynical master of dark arts, sure, but clever about it in a self-interested way that this current crop of inept kamikaze conservatives isn't. Which is why it's weird to watch him degenerate into another conspiracy whisperer. Has he had a serious health episode?

Rove made waves, as he is wont to do, over the weekend when he reportedly said at a closed-door appearance that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a health issue:

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. Clinton's rep said, "Please assure Dr. Rove she's 100 percent."

He clarified, on Fox News, that "I didn't say she had brain damage, I said she had a serious health episode," and he began to articulate the subtler points of a nascent conservative meme that will shortly be known to all the world as Rodham Clot Trutherism:

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First she had apparently a serious virus, they announced then on the 15th of December that she had at some period in the past week fallen… the 30th of December she goes in and turns out to have had a blood clot, they won't say where, the next day they say it is between her skull and her brain behind her right ear… She'll be 69 by the time of the 2016 election. She will be 77 if she serves two terms, and this will end up being an issue.

Are age and health legitimate questions for presidential candidates? More on that later.

Let's focus first on the really important question here: Has Karl Rove had a serious health episode?

Is it mercury poisoning? Lack of oxygen? Did he hit his head and experience a hematoma? Perhaps it's the ravages of meningitis, or encephalitis, or syphilis. His confabulations could be indicative of Korsakoff's syndrome.

Whatever the cause, his brain tissue is probably degraded, perhaps atrophying at this very moment. We're not saying he's brain damaged. Just that we've seen the signs of a serious health episode.

There was that time in 2004 he stuck the Republican Party with its steadfast resistance to gay marriage, so they could seal up a handful of states for George W. Bush in the presidential election, and so the GOP could be painted into that homophobic corner today, as the tide turns against government enforcement of "traditional marriage."

There was Mission Accomplished, and the election that was supposed to be won with the War on Terror but wasn't. There was the time he made suckers' bets with $175 million of rich people's money and lost big. And there was the painful public episode we all saw on election night in 2012, when Rove demanded that Fox News unskew its polls showing President Obama was still president, and the synapses and neurons seemed to want nothing to do with the mouth.

That was probably the moment we all knew: Karl Rove has a brain, and it has suffered from a serious health episode.

More recently, he's incorrectly claimed he ran the Reagan campaign in 1980. The poor guy, he's so far gone now, he probably gets scared when he sees lines suddenly move on a teleprompter.

But this Clinton thing. What's that? Acceptability is so rare a quality in politicians these days that it virtually guarantees Clinton the presidency if she wants it. In a post-Bush v. Gore, post-birther age in which denunciation of our political leadership as illegitimate is the new permanent norm, she would win in an acceptable landslide.

Some conservatives can't accept that acceptability. They can't accept that Clinton's ambition no longer works against her with voters. They can't accept that she's the moral-political center of this fictional polity we call The American People. And so they're looking for other ways to bring her down.

Some of those ways are crazier than others. You can criticize a lot about Clinton's life in public policy, from her coziness with Wall Street to her vote for war in Iraq to the media-antagonizing entourage that decamped with her to Foggy Bottom. But Benghazi isn't working. Your average American doesn't really think Hillary Clinton is to blame for the fog of war, imagines she felt pretty busted up at the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his cohorts, and figures that if she did help obscure events afterward—which she didn't—that wouldn't even crack the top five of all-time worst Clinton spin-doctoring sessions, so who gives a shit?

In this atmosphere, the right-wing is going to get bitter, and angry. And sexist. And ageist. Hillary is old! We don't have evidence, exactly, but hey, maybe she's not so fit for business, like physically and mentally. Because that worked out so well as an attack on Ronald Reagan, who arguably was senile by the end of his tenure. (Bob Dole and John McCain were old, too. But they didn't lose presidential elections because they were old, according to stats that Rove would probably dispute as a result of his serious health episode.)

Why would Rove cast his lot with these arch-right deadhead dipshits? He has always gone where the immediate demographic gains are, and suddenly he's tacking much farther right than I think 2001-2009 Rove would have been comfortable tacking. He has to know he's following the death-rattle of old-white-guy rejectionist conservatism. He has to believe that the id of Inner America is ultimately losing the demographic war.

He has to be suffering from a serious health episode. In his brain.