Archive for the ‘Bobby Kennedy’ Category
Trying to do my small part to help begin to unify the Democratic Party, I had promised myself that I would halt criticism of Clinton in print and on the Web. There is, after all, so much to be said about McCain and Co. But this evening I find myself unable to carry through on this pledge. There are two significant reasons.
First, I have grown increasingly concerned that Senator Clinton’s continual references to the so-called popular vote may end up damaging Senator Obama’s candidacy. It has the potential to do so by delegitimizing his victory, that is, by making it appear that he didn’t win the nomination cleanly because more people voted for Hillary. Certainly Clinton is entitled to remain in the race through all of the caucuses and primaries, and if she must, until the convention. However, even though it is clear that Obama’s (increasing) delegate lead will give him the nomination, the Clintons have continued to appeal to the notion that she is entitled to it because she has won more votes. It’s of course not evident that she has won more votes, except according to the most contrived mathematical formulas (e.g., leaving Obama without any votes in Michigan). But on a more basic level, the national popular vote is a myth, or I should say, a mythical beast. It is a chimera. You cannot generate a national popular vote from contests that have included caucuses (which cannot produce nearly as many votes as primaries), contests that have permitted independents to vote, as well as states that have permitted Republican crossovers, etc. It isn’t necessary for the Clintons to make the popular vote argument to see the election through to the end, which is one of Hillary’s proclaimed reasons for staying in the race. The argument is shortsighted if you care about a Democratic victory in November. One can only speculate as to why the Clintons have chosen this course, but it isn’t for the good of the Party.
The second reason can be called the anti-mensch factor. Instead of stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for her comments regarding RFK’s assassination, Hillary has come up with two lame strategies and one despicable one for explaining them away. The lame strategies involve trying to justify her comments by saying that 1) Teddy Kennedy had been on her mind, and 2) all she had meant to do was suggest a time line for long campaigns. I won’t comment on the first, except to say that her comments were a strange way to reveal caring and concern. Regarding the second, the time line argument simply doesn’t hold up. There is absolutely no reason why Bobby Kennedy’s assassination needed to be invoked as a marker. There are many other ways to talk about extended nominating contests. And if for some reason she had wanted to mention Bobby, all she had to do was say that he won the California primary in June. (This is not to say that she wasn’t thinking about a time line. The issue is about the role of the marker, RFK’s assassination, that she chose to use.)
But now I come to the despicable reason. Zachary A. Goldfarb reported on May 25th, in The Washington Post, the following. “Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign accused Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign of fanning a controversy over her describing the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy late in the 1968 Democratic primary as one reason she is continuing to run for the presidency. ‘The Obama campaign … tried to take these words out of context,’ Clinton campaign chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘She was making a point merely about the time line.’” [emphasis added] http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-talk/2008/05/clinton_camp_stokes_rfk_flap_b.html?nav=rss_email/components
As noted, the time line argument doesn’t work. And it is virtually inconceivable that some very bright Clinton people do not understand the flaw in their own argument. It’s just too obvious. So it is disingenuous for Clinton to claim that Obama took her words out of context if her own claim about ‘the context’ is justifiably suspect. Further, the reaction to Hillary’s words were viral. They were all over the web within hours if not minutes. In addition, you had papers like The Daily News and The New York Post running banner headlines about Hillary’s “killer gaffe.” McAuliffe’s words were meant to suggest that the Obama people were somehow responsible for the “attacks” on Hillary. It is inconceivable that the Obama organization, even if it had wanted to fan the flames, could have been so successful. There was genuine outrage. I can tell you as someone who lived through the assassinations of the sixties, the outrage was totally comprehensible. It didn’t need any “fanning” from the Obama organization.
But there is more.
According to Goldfarb, “Asked if Clinton has personally called Obama to apologize for the reference, McAuliffe said she has not, ‘nor should she.’ He added, ‘Let’s be clear. This had nothing to with Senator Obama or his campaign.’”
Obama, the first African-American candidate with a real chance of winning the White House, has had to receive secret service protection since last May, long before the other candidates (excepting Hillary as the spouse of a former President). This protection is necessary due to a very real concern, namely, that someone might try to shoot and kill him. As a black American he is uniquely vulnerable. And the Clinton campaign can’t see a reason for a phone call. Why? Because of how they read the politics: if we apologize, then we admit that she may have done or said something wrong. Political calculation trumps basic decency. (The irony, of course, is that they have the politics wrong. How they are handling this will cost them support, especially among Boomers who lived through the sixties.)
As a final note, I watched HBO’s new movie, “Recount,” this evening. I have heard that Hillary has already noted that the movie supports her claims about Florida and Michigan. Nonsense on stilts. The situations are totally different, and a slogan such as, “count all the votes,” had a totally different meaning in Florida in 2000 than it does in Michigan and Florida in 2008. But right now I am just hoping that I don’t feel compelled to write something more about Hillary Clinton.
“It’s Over: Clinton Won’t be the Democratic Presidential or VP Candidate (and Boomers will make sure)”
Hillary’s most consistent supporters have been folks over 50, especially women over 50. With her statement about RFK’s assassination, and her bizarre “apologetic” explanation (namely, I was thinking about Teddy and so I mentioned Bobby’s assassination), she has lost a substantial number of these supporters. I will not say all. I will not say those closest to her. But I will say, a very significant number. Most importantly, in terms of the race, many superdelegates in this age cohort, who may have been leaning her way, will be looking around for the nearest Exit sign. Ditto for those who were in favor of placing her in the VP slot.
Most of you reading this commentary will have heard what Hillary Clinton said yesterday afternoon, May 23rd, to the editorial board of South Dakota’s Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, in response to a question about staying in the race.
“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?” she said. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.” The New York Times, May 24, 2008, Katharine Q Seelye reporting. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/24/us/politics/24clinton.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
And you may have heard Clinton’s “apology,” also reported by Seelye in the Times.
“ ‘The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy,’ referring to the recent diagnosis of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s brain tumor. She added, ‘And 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.’ ”
Members of the Democratic Party who experienced the trauma of the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King will understand that Clinton crossed a line yesterday. Many will agree with Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, an uncommitted superdelegate. Seelye reports that Clyburn “said through a spokeswoman that the comments were ‘beyond the pale.’ ” For those who remember Bobby lying in a pool of blood the night that he won the June California primary, little explanation is needed as to why prominent figures shouldn’t mention the assassinations of presidential candidates.
To say that Hillary was simply using RFK’s assassination as a time marker doesn’t cut it. There are simply too many other ways that Hillary could have talked about extended nominating contests. For example, she could have simply said, RFK won the California primary in June. “Oh, but Hillary would never wish the death of another candidate,” a supporter might reply. But it is not a question of her wishes, whether benighted or angelic. I leave it to the psychologists to analyze her motives. What I do know is that someone who lived through the sixties as an adolescent or adult should understand the dangers of invoking the assassination of a presidential candidate during a campaign, especially one in which the front-runner is an African-American. And Clinton not only invoked an assassination, she invoked the assassination of the brother of a Senator who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. How disturbing is this? Just ask yourself, could you have imagined this story before it happened?
Please don’t tell me that her words can be explained away entirely by ‘Hillary fatigue.’ First, because she was quite lucid when she was speaking, and, second, because she has raised the issue of assassination before, without using the term.
“NBC/NJ’s Mike Memoli notes that Clinton said something similar the day after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. ‘Sometimes you gotta calm people down a little bit. But if you look at successful presidential campaigns, my husband did not get the nomination until June of 1992,’ she said. ‘I remember tragically when Senator Kennedy won California near the end of that process.’ ” http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/05/23/1058940.aspx
Perhaps most tellingly, her “apology” showed little understanding of the seriousness of her “gaffe.” Yes, she should have apologized to the Kennedys, but she should also have taken responsibility for her remarks and made a sincere apology to the American people. She is going to lose support among influential boomers, support that she can’t afford to lose at this point.
This is the end of Hillary’s quest. Her judgment can no longer be trusted. Democrats will not take a chance on running her for president or VP. It is just awful that it had to end like this.
(As a side note, Hillary has been misleading audiences when she has claimed that Bill’s race ran into June. Technically it did because California hadn’t voted. But he had the nomination sewed up before California’s primary in June. The situation is not analogous to the current race.)
Today, as the severity of Senator Kennedy’s condition became more apparent, I found myself, once again, back in seventh grade. I am in a large hall, waiting in line. I am not sure what the line is for, and for some reason the line can’t seem to form properly. We seem to be waiting to go into an auditorium. Words are migrating from student to student. It is November 22nd, 1963. The President has been shot. Next to me stands a sweet looking young girl. Shoulder length dirty blond hair. Delicate features. And she says, “I hope that he dies.” This was the President who had taken us through the Cuban Missile Crisis, who spoke of civil rights, and who had two young children. And she wanted him dead. Her hatred was palpable and irrational. In retrospect, given the times, I have always wondered whether her enmity was due to the fact that he was a Catholic, and one who supported civil rights.
At 12 years old, I couldn’t fathom what I was hearing. I was struck dumb. I simply couldn’t respond. I just stared at her and turned away. Now, of course, I know that it was not her wish, but her parents’ or some relative’s wish. But over the years this fact has only intensified the shock. Everyone says that they remember where they were when they heard that Kennedy was shot. I remember. But I also recall a young girl who believed that she wanted to see him dead.
Before I became fully aware of the deep divisions in the country over civil rights, Vietnam, or “values,” I knew that if this young president could create such hostility, something was terribly wrong. And so it was. I suppose that this was my introduction to the 1960’s. Every now and again this scene reappears. Sometimes it arises for no apparent reason. Sometimes it arises at appropriate moments, like today, when we have learned that Senator Kennedy is gravely ill.
I have disagreed with the Kennedys. But I remember supporting Bobby. And of course I remember him being shot. I also remember Teddy trying so very hard, over four long decades, to do the right thing (as he saw it) for the underprivileged and marginalized. I recently cheered as The Lion of the Senate passed the torch to Obama. He was aging. Now that he had found someone he trusted to carry on the Kennedy legacy, there was an arc from 1963 to 2008, an arc that the last eight years of Bush, Rove, Cheney, et al, seemed to have made impossible. But as I have watched the returns from certain states, such as Kentucky this evening, I return to that space in 1963, and I am afraid. I fear for Senator Obama. And I fear that as a nation we will fail to do the right thing because we are still too afraid of those who are “not like us.”