Beneath Contempt

I was going to blog about Team Clinton trying to blackmail Barack Obama into offering Clinton the vice-presidency, but both campaigns have now unequivocally denied the story (although, as David Kurtz points out, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been unofficial talk going on between the two candidates).

It may all be moot, however, given that Hillary Clinton seems to be trying her damndest to burn her bridges and dispose of the ashes.  The latest, as Kyle  wrote about here, is Clinton’s latest reason for staying in the race, as explained to the editorial board of the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader:

Hillary Clinton today brought up the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy while defending her decision to stay in the race against Barack Obama.

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it,” she said, dismissing calls to drop out.

Sen. Clinton’s comment has created a huge uproar in blogtopia, and justifiably so. And Clinton’s apology, when it came, was underwhelming:

“I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever,” the former first lady said.

Which, of course, puts the responsibility for being offended on her audience’s sensitivity rather than putting the responsibility for causing offense on her bad judgment — or on her outrageous sense of entitlement to say whatever she thinks will advance her cause, regardless of how it might affect others.

Obama’s response was actually quite understated, considering the obvious implication of using Bobby Kennedy’s assassination at a June campaign appearance as a reason for Clinton to stay in the race until then. Whether she intended it or not, that implication is there.

It’s worth pointing out that the same blogger who could not endure hearing Obama say that Vietnam War opponents often did not distinguish between the government’s evil policies and the men who had to carry out those policies, thinks that referencing the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy to make the point that the 2008 Democratic nomination might not be decided until June is no big deal, and anyone who thinks otherwise is “making mountains out of molehills.”

In context, Clinton’s RFK assassination reference sounds, if anything, more jarring and more calculated (emphasis mine):

Here, a transcript of Clinton’s remarks to the editorial board, as provided by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

[…]

Clinton: This is the most important job in the world. It’s the toughest job in the world. You should be willing to campaign for every vote. You should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere. I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition where we find ourselves and you know, I have been willing to do all of that during the entire process and people have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa and I find it…

EB: Why? Why?

Clinton: I don’t know I don’t know I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don’t understand it and between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this and you know historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery.

EB: You don’t buy the party unity argument?

Clinton: I don’t, because again, I’ve been around long enough. You know my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere around the middle of June

EB: June

Clinton: We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. Um you know I just I don’t understand it. There’s lots of speculation about why it is.

She could have said, “Bobby Kennedy won the 1968 California primary in June.” — in the same way that she said her husband wrapped up the 1992 nomination when he won the California primary in June. If the point is that Bobby Kennedy and her husband both were still actively campaigning in June, why mention the assassination? What’s the point? Does she think there might be some Americans out there who don’t know Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June, in 1968? Does she want to remind them?

Sen. Clinton excused herself by saying that she has had the Kennedy family on her mind in the past several days because of Ted Kennedy’s cancer diagnosis. That might make some sense if this were the first time Clinton had referred to RFK’s assassination in the context of the 2008 elections, but it isn’t:

Though she has now apologized for that very strange and tasteless comment to the Argus-Leader, this was not the first time she’s said it. This from her interview with TIME Managing Editor Richard Stengel, published March 6:

TIME: Can you envision a point at which–if the race stays this close–Democratic Party elders would step in and say, “This is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall”?
CLINTON: No, I really can’t. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn’t wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual.

Her excuse now is that the Kennedys have been “much on my mind these days” with the illness of Senator Edward Kennedy, but that doesn’t explain what brought it to mind more than two months ago.

4 Responses to “Beneath Contempt”

  1. Chief says:

    Okay. I see.

    Your line “She could have said, “Bobby Kennedy won the 1968 California primary in June.”” makes a distinction that I can understand. I like your explanation better than Olbermann’s last night. It is shorter and now I know how her choice of words could have been better.

  2. Dan says:

    Kathy, you wrote “Which, of course, puts the responsibility for being offended on her audience’s sensitivity”. Thank you for hitting on a major irritation of mine – No proper apology contains the word “if”, for just that reason. “I’m sorry if” puts the offended party on the defensive, “I’m sorry for” acknowledges that offense was given and expresses regret. I am extremely careful to note that whenever I hear an “I’m sorry” either in my private life or someone in public. “I’m sorry if” is NOT an apology!

  3. DrGail says:

    I’m with Dan — she never said “I was wrong to say that” or “that was a stupid thing for me to say”. THAT would have been an apology. Instead, she really did deflect blame onto others, which is not exactly what I want in a president or, for that matter, much of a change from what we’ve got right now in the administration.

    It’s the sheer calculation of it that is so galling. She has made a habit of making some statement that (to those who are paying attention) is clearly calculated, then plays innocent when she’s called out on it. Again, how different is that from what we’ve got right now? Hmmm?

    You pointed it out so clearly, Kathy, that it really crystallized the incident for me.

  4. Kathy says:

    Thank you, DrGail, Dan, Chief!

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