Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Fallout From the RFK Analogy

HILLARY CLINTON: I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don't understand it. Between my opponent and his camp and some in the media there has been this urgency to end this. Historically, that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery.

BOARD: 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 in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I just don't understand it and there's a lot of speculation about why it is . . .

Transcript of Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader interview with Hillary Clinton

I sincerely hope the media will stop obsessing over minutiae and focus like a laser beam on real issues when the general election campaign begins.

But, for now, we have to continue to endure commentary on things that don't really matter.

This weekend, the discussion has been about Hillary Clinton mentioning the Bobby Kennedy assassination during her interview with the editorial board of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader on Friday.
  • John Harris writes, in the Politico, that the furor is an example of the kind of story that "will cause the media machine to rev up its hype jets."

    And Harris claims to have become pretty good at anticipating which stories will have that kind of impact.

    "Her comment was news by any standard," writes Harris. "But it was only big news when wrested from context and set aflame by a news media more concerned with being interesting and provocative than with being relevant or serious."

  • Her recent reference to the Kennedy assassination is further proof, as Michael Goodwin says in the New York Daily News, that Clinton is her own worst enemy.

    "Context, as in 'you've taken my words out of context,' is the last refuge of a politician caught with foot in mouth," writes Goodwin. "But with both feet in [Clinton's] mouth, she doesn't have a leg to stand on."

    But what else could the context possibly be?

    Goodwin observes that "[t]here is no question she was citing the RFK murder of 40 years ago in the spirit of 'anything can happen' ... Which means she was thinking of murder as a momentum changer. Not a pretty thought in any context."

    No, it isn't a pretty thought. Even though it's true. Anything can happen.

    Including losing a nomination everyone expected you to win.

    In this case, as in so many others, I think Clinton may be guilty of giving voice to thoughts others have been having privately.

    Or, perhaps, not so privately.

    I, for one, have mentioned the possibility of assassination -- and not just with Barack Obama in mind.

    Let us not forget that prominent women have also been the targets of assassins in other parts of the world. Indira Gandhi was assassinated in India in 1984, and Benazir Bhutto was murdered in Pakistan less than a year ago.

    Austria-Hungary's Archduchess Sophie was assassinated with her husband, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in 1914, setting in motion the events that began World War I.

    American nun Dorothy Stang was murdered by logging interests in Brazil in 2005 for her outspoken efforts on behalf of the poor and environmentalism. María Cristina Gómez, a teacher and community activist, was murdered in El Salvador in 1989.

  • Maureen Dowd of the New York Times didn't miss a chance to pile on.

    "In politics, there are many unpredictable and unsavory twists and turns," writes Dowd. "That’s why she’s hanging around, and that’s why she and Bill want to force Barack Obama to take her as his vice president, even if he doesn’t want her, even if Michelle can’t stand her, even if she has to stir the sexist pot, and even if she tarnishes his silvery change message."

  • During that now-infamous interview, Clinton referred to her husband's campaign in 1992, observing that he hadn't secured all the delegates he needed until the California primary in June.

    Jake Tapper of ABC News takes her to task on that one.

    "Yes, [Bill Clinton] literally did not secure the nomination until June 1992," Tapper says, "but by then it was a foregone conclusion that he would be the nominee."

    What's really more to the point is Tapper's observation that the 2008 primary/caucus season actually held its first binding vote in Iowa on January 3 -- much earlier than any caucus or primary had ever been held before.

    Which makes the duration of the Democrats' 2008 pursuit of primary votes one for the books.

  • Also to the point is Thomas Lifson's observation, in American Thinker, that "[o]nce again Obama and his partisans take deep personal offense when his name is not even mentioned. Obama is, to himself and his partisans, so significant that any mention of anything that might tangentially be directed at him amounts to a personal attack."

    Obama and his people will have to stop being so sensitive if they hope to be successful in the general election campaign. If this episode has taught them anything, it is that they should never become indifferent to security issues.

    Real security issues.

    Homeland security and candidate security.
You know, I don't dispute that Clinton has a right to take her campaign to the convention in Denver and give a prime-time address to her delegates.

It's not unprecedented.

Ted Kennedy did it in 1980, when he had clearly lost the nomination to President Carter. Gary Hart did it in 1984, when he had lost the nomination to Walter Mondale. Jesse Jackson spoke to the Democratic conventions in 1984 and 1988 -- even though he didn't finish second in either campaign.

But the odds against Clinton get longer with each passing day. It's probably past time for Clinton and her supporters to stop kidding themselves that they still have a chance to win this thing.

At this point, Obama is probably more heavily favored to win the nomination in late August than Big Brown is to wrap up thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown in a couple of weeks.

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