Hillary Plays the Assassination Card
Hillary Clinton's reference to Bobby Kennedy's assassination as justification for her staying in the race could be the final nail in her campaign coffin.
May 23, 2008 - 3:19 pm
She’s tried everything else. Why not stoke the fears over Obama being assassinated?
Speaking before the editorial board of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Argus Leader, Hillary Clinton journeyed to a place that no American politician has ever gone nor is likely to go again. In response to a question about calls for her to quit the race, Clinton made this observation
“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.
Not surprisingly, the Obama camp has taken a dim view of Mrs. Clinton’s remarks:
“Sen. Clinton’s statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign,” Obama campaign spokesman said in a statement.
Now you might think that the Clinton campaign would have taken the hint and apologized. Guess again:
Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson defended the comments to The Post, “She was talking about the length of the race and using the ’68 election as an example of how long the races in the past have gone — she used her husband’s race in the same vein.”
Well, yes that’s true — as long as you pretend she never said that bit about Robert Kennedy being assassinated and overlook the outright falsehood that she used President Clinton’s race “in the same vein.” Wolfson virtually confirms the idea that the fear of an Obama assassination was used deliberately.
Hovering beneath the surface of this entire campaign has been the unspoken yet real threat that Senator Barack Obama is more likely to be the target of an assassin because of his race. The Secret Service started protecting Obama more than a year ago — earlier than at any time in the history of that detail — because of specific threats to the candidate.
The few times the issue has been raised in the media, there was criticism for even broaching the subject. Last February, the New York Times was roundly chastised for publishing a piece speculating that African American voters wouldn’t cast their ballots for Obama out of fear of him being assassinated. For months, one of the most popular search terms on the web has been “Obama” and “assassination.” Editor and Publisher wondered in an editorial if publicizing the fact that the topic was popular on the search engines didn’t increase the danger.
Suffice it to say, it’s been a touchy subject, and Hillary stepped right on it — as if slipping on a banana peel and doing a full backwards somersault landing right on her keister. And she’s got nowhere to hide.
This is the gaffe of gaffes, the Mother of all campaign faux pas. There’s no taking it back at this point. The statement is out there, hanging like a rapidly decomposing side of beef in the hot sun. To suggest that you should hang around and stay in the campaign “just in case” the unthinkable occurs is beyond anything yet seen in this campaign. And considering all the race and gender cards that have been flying around, the assassination card tops them all.
What is even more curious is that her statement comes on a day when rumors have been flying all over the internet and the national media about the Obama and Clinton campaigns having serious discussions about orchestrating her exit from the race with some reports even speculating that the Clintonites are pushing her for the vice president slot.
Both camps have come out and vigorously denied talks are taking place. Indeed, after today’s events, it would seem very unlikely – if there had ever been much of a chance in the first place — that Senator Obama would agree to adding Hillary Clinton to the Democratic ticket as vice president.
The Clinton campaign should be over after what she said in Sioux Falls. But the thing about the Clintons we tend to forget is that they march to their own drummer and have supreme confidence in their ability to wiggle out of danger.
Except this time, it appears that Hillary has painted herself into a corner with no way out.
Update: A statement released by the Clinton campaign apologized for the reference to RFK’s assassination: “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.