Grim and Grimmer (with Updates)
Clinton's assassination comment got a lot of play on cable news; Keith O. spent almost the entire Countdown on it, plus a special comment. I'd rather it didn't get any mention--it isn't something you want in the air--but it's taken on a life of its own. I was surprised but impressed by the number of people--like historian Douglas Brinkley--as well as bloggers, who said that this is a disqualifier, and indeed may have ended not only her presidential bid but unless she begs for forgiveness in very explicit terms, ended her political career.
She said it was an historical comment, but that only makes it more bizarre. Others have pointed out that there are many better examples of the race extended into June and beyond that don't involve a candidate being killed. But what I haven't seen anyone note is that it isn't even accurate in terms of the 1968 Democratic nomination. By winning California, Bobby Kennedy had successfully become the candidate with the most primary wins, and he defeated Sen. Eugene McCarthy. But he wasn't the nominee--not even the presumptive nominee. The whole system was different then. Primaries didn't yet decide the candidate. RFK was still facing a summer of fighting for the nomination against the sitting Vice President, Hubert Humphrey (who by the way, didn't run in the primaries, so Clinton's argument for staying in the race falls apart right there.) The nomination was going to be decided at the convention--just as it had been in 1960, when JFK had won the most primaries, but was facing a lot of opposition.
But back then, campaigns were shorter. They didn't really begin until Labor Day. The nominee wasn't the nominee until the convention said so. It's very different now, and McCain is already leading a Republican Party that will not offer another candidate to oppose him at their convention. The harm that Clinton is doing is obvious from just this week in Florida, when Obama tried to take advantage of McCain's lobbyist problem, but Clinton's big mouth took attention away.
What this probably will end is any speculation that Hillary will be on the ticket. Despite the latest threat from a rabid Hillaryite. (Like the Obama fundraising operation is going to be scared by the in-debt Hillary fundraiser threatening to hold back funds.)
Ambinder rates the vp choices this way:
1. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) -- Obama really likes her; that's very important.
2. The Virginia boys: Kaine and Webb
3. Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) -- the Clinton stand in.
4. Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ)
5. Sen. Hillary Clinton -- there's a fine balance between subtle pressure and overt hectoring
Wild card: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
This is the best list I've seen so far, except for 3. and 5. Hillary is out, and I don't have the slightest idea why anybody thinks Obama is going to choose a buffoon like Ted Strickland. I still see him standing behind Hillary nodding as she cries, "Shame on you, Barack Obama!"
UPDATE: The New York Times describes the political firestorm set off by Clinton's RFK remark. In part:
Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, which has refrained from engaging Mrs. Clinton in recent days, said her statement “was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign.”
Privately, aides to Mr. Obama were furious about the remark.
Concerns about Mr. Obama’s safety led the Secret Service to give him protection last May, before it was afforded to any other presidential candidate, although Mrs. Clinton had protection, too, in her capacity as a former first lady. Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle, voiced concerns about his safety before he was elected to the Senate, and some black voters have even said such fears weighed on their decision of whether to vote for him.
It was against that backdrop that Mrs. Clinton’s mentioning the Kennedy assassination in the same breath as her own political fate struck some as going too far. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, an uncommitted superdelegate, said through a spokeswoman that the comments were “beyond the pale.”
Update 2: Here's the transcript of Keith's Special Comment. Here's a Kos diary that collects some of the other comment on Hillary's RFK statement, including an excerpt from a piece by Libby Copeland in the Washington Post: "There are taboos in presidential politics, and this is one of the biggest. To raise the specter of a rival's assassination, even unintentionally, is to make a truly terrible thing real. It sounds like one might be waiting for a terrible thing to happen, even if one isn't. It sounds almost like wishful thinking...
The fear of a president or a presidential candidate being shot or assassinated is horrifying precisely because recent history teaches us that it can happen. We don't need anybody to remind us, and we certainly don't need anybody to remind whatever suggestible wackos might be lurking in the shadows.
In the context of Obama, Clinton's words broke a double taboo, because since the beginning of his candidacy, some of Obama's supporters have feared that his race made him more of a target than other presidential hopefuls. Obama was placed under Secret Service protection early, a full year ago. To be unaware that one's words tap into a monumental fear that exists in a portion of the electorate -- a fear that Obama's race could get him killed -- is an unusual mistake for a serious and highly disciplined presidential candidate.
It's surprising, too, because something very similar just happened last week, when Mike Huckabee made a joke at an NRA convention about somebody aiming a gun at Obama. He later apologized and called his remarks "offensive." He also could have called them "instructive" for any politician paying attention."
Another diary at Kos points out the fear, especially in the black community, that someone will try to kill Obama, the death threats his campaign receives, and despite Secret Service protect, the courage displayed when Obama campaigns so openly.
Speaking of all this openly may increase the danger, and yet it may also increase vigilance. It did bring into the public dialogue the fears that apparently many people have had, including me. Of course, Clinton introducing this as a reason to stay in the race is abhorrent in the extreme.
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