The Grim Reaper as the Ultimate Superdelegate: Hillary Clinton Raises Assassination Scenario to Justify Staying in the Race

Hillary Clinton has been criticized for coming up with new rationales for staying in the race from the popular vote to superdelegates to red state successes. Yet, few were prepared for her latest rationale: Obama could be dead before the summer convention. This was the most obvious interpretation given to her use of the Robert Kennedy assassination as a justification for staying in the race through June: Kennedy was cut down in June 1968. The video link is below.

Clinton’s astonishing statement came in South Dakota when she said:

“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.”

It is a particularly ironic new claim given the news reports that Clinton’s husband and staff are putting considerable pressure on Obama to make her a vice presidential candidate: a move that would enrage many voters who have come to deeply dislike Clinton either before or during this campaign, click here Indeed, it is statements like this one (and others like her ambiguous response to the question over Obama being a Muslim) that have alienated many of Clinton former supporters in this campaign.

The statement in South Dakota is so shockingly insensitive and opportunistic, it is breathtaking. It makes it sound like almost hopeful thinking: either a scandal or an assassination. When one starts to factor in the possibility of the death of one’s opponent, you know things are not going well.

After first defending the comments and expressing surprise by any offense taken, the campaign has now referred to the remarks as unfortunate. Clinton has come out and explained that she was merely thinking of the Kennedy’s because of her concern for Ted Kennedy, click here. She stated

“Earlier today, I was discussing the Democratic primary history and in the course of that discussion mentioned the campaigns that both my husband and Sen. Kennedy waged in California in June in 1992 and 1968, and I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nominating primary contests that go into June. That’s an historic fact. Watch more of Clinton’s comments to the editorial board. The Kennedys have been much on my mind in the last days because of Sen. [Edward] Kennedy, and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever.”

The problem is that she said the same thing back in March before she was filled with angst over Ted Kennedy:

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.
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.

For the March statement, click here.
For the video of the original statement, click here.

For the full story, click here.

17 thoughts on “The Grim Reaper as the Ultimate Superdelegate: Hillary Clinton Raises Assassination Scenario to Justify Staying in the Race”

  1. April:

    Because Michelle Obama doesn’t want it to happen, and Hillary’s take leaves us wondering.

  2. As Michelle Obama said, “As a black man, Barack could get shot going to the gas station.” Why is it ok for her to say it, but not for Hillary to mention Kennedy?

  3. I agree with you Patty and Mike. And they were trying to blame cows for all the methane floating around!


  4. Patty C.
    Bingo! I loathe Tim Russert and believe he’s a blowhard and totally incompetent as a commentator/newsman. I find him unwatchable because he raises my anger and therefore my blood pressure. His methodology solely consists of “Gotcha” journalism on the most trivial of issues. His panels lean heavily towards Conservatives or at best Centrists. This has been proven by MediaMatters. Russert’s behavior during the Monica Lewinsky debacle was reprehensible, as was his questioning of Hilary about it. However, he is but one of many no-nothing journalists that are lionized by the MSM. David Broder, Joe Klein, Jonah Goldberg, Maureen Dowd, Drudge, the Gang at Politico and many more represent ignorance in our national discourse. It’s not that I can’t listen to people who see things differently than I do, it’s the fact that those above exhibit factual ignorance and intentionally (or not) distort the issues to fit their predisposed notions.

  5. Michael, I’d say your assessment is quite accurate and I’m guessing, Tim Russert, would be one of the biggest self-appointed spokesmen – for MSNBC (and the world) with his brand of objective, current, concise, and ahem, ‘thoughtful’ analysis.

    I hope everyone caught one of the Sunday night runs of ‘Meet the Press’ yesterday. One comment made by Doris Kearns Goodwin that most seemed to agree upon or at least, by silence, did not object to, is that there’s little reason for Hillary to quit, now or for super delegates to decide by June how they will vote. Because this election is so important, there are better reasons for everyone to hold off until August or longer.

  6. Patty C.,
    In your penultimate post you alluded to believing that there has been undue pressure to push Sen. Clinton out of the race. I agree with you. My belief is that the MSM and the Washington Punditocracy has shaped every aspect of this race. There were viable candidates other than Clinton and Obama, who candidacies were marginalized, or in Edward’s case torpedoed by media and pundits. Hilary was presented as inevitable and received the main focus in debates and campaigning. Once Edward’s was forced to drop out for lack of news coverage, Obama came to the foreground as Hilary’s opponent. Then Hilary was trashed by the usual suspects and sexism became respectable. Once Obama took the lead he was then trashed and despite his greatest attempts to not make race an issue, it became injected into the discussion. Then the media pendulum swung back in Hilary’s favor and now it is again in Obama’s favor. Issues, except at the most simplistic level are never discussed by the streams of “pundits” who despite being repeatedly wrong are lionized on TV and in the papers. The “horse race” is all and that is covered with an astonishing lack of intelligence, insight and knowledge.

  7. Two corrections:
    Son, Patrick Kennedy and NM Governor and sd, Richardson – scusi…
    I should probably add John Kerry- 2004 Democratic presidential candidate.

    …”As much as Bill Clinton might have behaved more the elder statesman than ‘supportive spouse’ of, then, front-runner, Clinton,
    MA Senators Kennedy (along with niece and nephew Caroline and Patrick Kennedy) and John Kerry could have ‘zipped’, as well. I am also persuaded super delegate and former candidate NM Senator Bill Richardson screwed Hillary Clinton with his announcement
    in support of Obama, despite repeated earlier assurances to the contrary.”…*********

    In the meantime, I came across an interesting article from Feb.2007 (’07) in IHT – the global edition of the NYT on Obama, playing up his early opposition to the war, while on the campaign trail.

    On the campaign trail, Obama plays up early opposition to war
    By Jeff Zeleny
    Published: February 26, 2007

    WASHINGTON: Senator Barack Obama is running for president as one of the few candidates who opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, a simple position unburdened by expressions of regret or decisions over whether to apologize for initially supporting the invasion.

    Iraq remains a defining topic in the opening stages of the 2008 presidential race, but it may prove easier for Obama, a Democrat from Illinois, to relitigate the past than to distinguish his views in the future. The current Iraq proposals of three of the Democratic candidates — Obama, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and John Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina — have more similarities than differences, including a gradual redeployment of troops.

    While Obama is framing his candidacy to appeal to Democrats who have long opposed the war, until recently his was not among his party’s most outspoken voices against it.

    He campaigned strongly against the war in his bid for the Senate in 2004, but when he arrived in Washington he waited 11 months to deliver a major speech on Iraq. And only after he opened a presidential exploratory committee did he introduce legislation to withdraw U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008.

    In an interview last week, he said he intended to continue using the authorization of the war to distinguish himself from fellow Democratic candidates. In addition to Clinton and Edwards, the senators Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware voted to authorize the invasion.
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    “The authorization vote is relevant only because it gives an insight into how people think about these problems and suggests the sort of judgment they apply in evaluating a policy decision,” Obama said. “There are people who sincerely believe that this was the best course of action, but in some cases politics entered into the calculation. In retrospect, a lot of people feel like they didn’t ask hard enough questions.”

    Obama was not always so critical of the congressional vote taken on Oct. 11, 2002. In several interviews before the Democratic National Convention in 2004, where his national political ascent began, he said he did not place blame on Democrats who had voted to authorize the war, conceding he had not been privy to the same intelligence information.

    Now, he appears intent on drawing the contrast between his early opposition to the war and the Senate votes to authorize it by Edwards, who has since apologized for his vote, and Clinton, who has not apologized but has said she would not have supported the resolution had she known then what she knows now.

    These days Obama dismisses the suggestion that it was easier for him to speak against the war because he was not serving in the Senate and therefore obligated to vote on the matter. He recalled worrying, at the time, that he might lose his Senate primary election because of his decision to oppose the Iraq invasion.

    “It certainly didn’t look like a cost- free decision when Saddam Hussein’s statue was being pulled down in Baghdad,” Obama said in an interview. “I was in a hotel room in the middle of my Senate campaign, watching that happen, and President Bush’s job approval rating was at 60 percent. Those who voted for the authorization felt pretty good.”

    In a Senate debate on Iraq last June, he voted to oppose an amendment seeking to set a specific timetable for redeploying U.S. troops. His position evolved after the bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended a time frame similar to the one outlined in his Iraq proposal.

    Now the politics of the war seem to be working in his favor among Democratic primary voters.

    As Obama has introduced himself in the opening weeks of his candidacy, few subjects have garnered more applause than his criticism of the war. He does not refer to the conflict as Bush’s war, which antiwar candidates in the Democratic Party did four years ago, but rather seeks to expand the circle of responsibility to those who supported the invasion.

    “We continue to be in a war that should never have been authorized,” Obama told an audience in Iowa last week, making a not-so-subtle reference to Clinton and other rivals. Two days later, at a Texas rally, he said, “I am proud of the fact that way back in 2002, I said that this war was a mistake.”

    In the interview last week, Obama said he had not wavered on Iraq since the onset of the war and he disagreed with critics who said he had become more vocal since becoming a candidate. He said he did not deliver speeches on the topic when he first arrived in the Senate because he was taking a low-key approach in his first year in office.

    “As a freshman, our objective was not to try to get in the front all the time,” he said. “But the truth is that in that first year, we had just seen an Iraqi election, and my feeling was that while I was not optimistic, it was appropriate to try to give the nascent government a chance.”

    Staci Semrad contributed reporting from Austin, Texas.

  8. Seems strange to me that Bill Clinton and Bush Sr are best buds.

    Possible connection, the alleged CIA/Iran contra operation that was run from Mena Airport in Arkansas.

    Even stranger Clinton was allowed to come out of nowhere to become President instead of a second term for GHW Bush.

    HRC, the Anointed One, beyond strange, appears to have been dropped by the powers that be, like a rock.

  9. Sorry for not responding sooner. First of all, be it known, I am not crazy about any of these candidates, either.

    I listened to KO berate Hillary for her remark last night with several ‘historical’ comments I had not heard before. I disagree with him that Hillary’s sense that people have been trying to push her out of this race for a long time is unfounded. That has been my sense as well. Since Iowa? Maybe. The air of distrust or that there is ‘something else’ in the offing has been apparent for a some time. That’s George Bush’s ‘legacy’ in the present, IMHO.

    I was trying to remember when it was that Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy had their ‘blow up’ over the phone. Wasn’t it after the ‘fairy tale’ remark Bill Clinton made with respect to Obama’s, explainable but nonetheless, changing position in ‘support’ of the Iraq war, which was then taken out of context? Things took a definite turn after that, I believe.

    As much as Bill Clinton might have behaved more the elder statesman than ‘supportive spouse’ of, then, front-runner, Clinton,
    MA Senators Kennedy (along with niece and nephew Caroline and Patrick Kennedy) and John Kerry could have ‘zipped it’, as well.
    I am also persuaded super delegate and former candidate NM Senator Bill Richardson screwed Hillary Clinton with his announcement
    in support of Obama, despite repeated earlier assurances to the contrary.

    Suffice it to say, there are plenty of people who feel betrayed by our own Democratic Party having been raped, Constitutionally and otherwise, by the Bush administration over nearly two terms with none of our own leadership standing up and by all appearances, additionally, with no recompense in sight.

    Personally, I found Ted Kennedy’s early endorsement of Obama in January much less romantic than many. Maybe that’s what Hillary meant when she said awhile back, “he’s (Obama) not what he seems”…

    Passing the Kennedy Torch

    By Dan Balz
    For political symbolism, there is little that can top Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama. Before a jam-packed arena at American University, the lion of the Senate passed the Kennedy family torch to the young senator from Illinois in his bid to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

    Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., campaigns with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., during a rally on the campus of American University in Washington, Monday, Jan. 28, 2008, after he was endorsed by Sen. Kennedy, and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president John Kennedy. (AP)

    Democrats have searched for half a century for a successor to the legacy of the two Kennedy brothers — Jack and Bobby — who in their own different ways inspired a generation of Americans in the 1960s. Today, the third Kennedy brother told Democrats that Obama is worthy of carrying that mantle — of rekindling the Kennedy magic.

    “I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it,” Kennedy said. “And with Barack Obama, we can do it again.”

    If it were only an endorsement of Obama, Kennedy’s decision would be significant enough. When he has supported presidential candidates of late — Al Gore and John Kerry — he has thrown himself into their campaigns with vigor that belies his age and physical limits. He is the party’s emotional leader and his blessing is a valuable asset at a time when endorsements often carry little real weight with voters.

    But this was more than just a decision to support Obama. In doing so, Kennedy consciously decided not to stay neutral in this most fiercely contested battle for the Democratic nomination. Instead, he chose to enter the fight against Hillary and Bill Clinton

    Kennedy took sides after growing increasingly discomfitted by what he saw from the Clinton campaign. First came his private admonishment of Bill Clinton for the way he has chosen to criticize Obama. Ultimately there was the rebuke to the Clintons with a public embrace of Obama’s candidacy.

    Kennedys vs. Clintons is an irresistible story line as the campaign goes forward, warring dynastic families of the Democratic Party. The Clintons, who restored the Democrats to power after 12 years in the wilderness, seek to extend their hold on the party with the kind of tenacity that carried them to victory twice in the 1990s. The Kennedys have called on the party to skip a generation and embrace a leader who seeks to change the politics of the Clinton and Bush eras.

    What are the practical effects of Kennedy’s endorsement? Obama advisers hope that he can help win two types of voters where Obama has been weak: working-class Democrats with whom Ted Kennedy long has had great affinity, and Latinos, who have enormous affection for the Kennedys and who have been strong in their support of Hillary Clinton in this campaign.

    Some strategists doubt whether Kennedy can deliver those voters in big numbers, and the first fruits of his endorsement will be seen on Feb. 5 in states like California, Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona.

    But Kennedy’s endorsement helps Obama in one other critical area. By lending his support, he helps to validate Obama as someone who, despite his limited experience on the national stage, has what it takes to be president and commander in chief. Stealing a line from Clinton’s own campaign talking points, Kennedy thundered to the audience at Bender Arena that Obama would be “ready on day one” to be president.

    “The biggest challenge for Obama has been getting past the concern that many voters have about his readiness to lead, and to have very senior senators who have served with him say that he has those leadership qualities is an important point of reassurance to voters,” said Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin.

    Kennedy’s endorsement — which came a day after Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late president, announced her support for Obama — adds to others that the Illinois senator has picked up lately that speak to a candidate with appeal across the ideological spectrum of the party.

    Along with the liberal Kennedy, Obama has won the support of conservative Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson. He has been backed by red-state politicians like Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. According to many reports, he soon will add Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. As one strategist noted privately, the fact that Kennedy and Nelson can agree on a candidate, let alone one who is not the establishment favorite, is remarkable.

    Clinton has significant endorsements of her own. Some were well earned, but others came by dint of her status as the establishment front-runner at the start of the campaign. What Obama’s more recent endorsements reflect is sentiment among elected officials in areas of the country where Democrats have struggled that they see Obama as a stronger general election candidate in their region than Clinton.

    The Kennedy endorsement was locked up before Obama’s victory in South Carolina, according to aides to the Illinois senator. But its timing helps to sustain the momentum Obama may have gained from that big win on Saturday.

    Obama enters the final week of campaigning running behind Clinton in many of the big states that will vote on Feb. 5. Clinton seeks a public relations boost from Tuesday’s beauty-contest primary in Florida, where none of the candidates has campaigned. Kennedy’s full-throated endorsement will help Obama keep attention on his candidacy.

    In the end, endorsements are not likely to decide this nomination battle. This remains a choice for Democrats of two strikingly different styles of leadership and two candidates with superb assets of their own. But the Kennedy decision is far too rich in its implications for it to be treated as an ordinary event. What Obama can make of it will be up to him.

    Posted at 2:41 PM ET on Jan 28, 2008 | Category: Dan Balz’s Take

  10. I have to agree that Clinton has run a terrible campaign and this was one more example of it. I cannot support either Clinton or Obama but I will vote for either of them.

    I agree with Patty on several points. There has been a great deal of sexism in this campaign which has not been copped to. Obama keeps the press on a very short leash. Groups of local reporters get 7 minutes and no more to ask their questions. Obama has a minder to get them out should they try to exceed the 7 minutes. This certainly does minimize the opportunity for gaffs and quite frankly, this level of control and the press’s aquiescence to it makes me quite nervous. Clinton will sit down to do long interviews with local reporters. This gives her exposure (both good and bad).

    Clinton is correct to say that anything may happen between now & June to change the likely outcome and she should have left her statement at that. Assassination is an unworthy speculation.

  11. “Poor choices of words notwithstanding, doesn’t the skill in running a campaign and managing its message go to leadership?”

    Excellent choice of words.

  12. Poor choices of words notwithstanding, doesn’t the skill in running a campaign and managing its message go to leadership?

    We wrote about it today – aside from the fact that the latest gaffe is most likely fatal – it is most revealing that it wasn’t the first time Hillary implied that “anything could” happen in June.

    We understand that someone could in fact come up with statistics for the probability of Obama robbing a bank, while leaving his two daughters in the family car with the engine running – as a possible June event; it seems likely that by invoking the RFK murder scenario – Hillary has had an irreversible Dukakis moment. Gender and Race playing no part, but rather her own deficiencies playing the heavy in her demise.

  13. Patty C.
    Like Rafflaw I would have loved to have voted for Hillary, even though I felt her husband was a weak President, who backed off principle in the service of political expediency. I voted for her twice for Senator. I have been a supporter of women’s rights since as a child I was outraged that women were separated from men in synagogue. Now living in Florida I voted for Edwards in the primary, which was sparsely attended due to the vote not being valid. After Edwards left the race I studied the candidates views and decided that Obama was my preference. If Hillary had won the nomination though I would have proudly voted for her and would still vote for her over McCain.

    At this point though I would have to hold my nose to vote for her. Her building up McCain’s credentials was not only indefensible, it was incorrect. She has run a slash and burn campaign against Obama and has injected racism into the campaign. Finally, she ran a lousy campaign even though she started out with all the advantages. My distaste has nothing to do with her sex, it has to do with her egotistical belief that somehow this is HER turn. Nevertheless, if by some tragic situation she does win the nomination I will vote for her mainly because of the SCOTUS and Roe v. Wade.

    Although I played a minor role I was a Movement activist and Bobby Kennedy supporter in 1968. The death of Dr. King was devastating to me. I remember watching with excitement as Bobby won California and made his victory speech. I believed fervently that things were going to change in America. Five minutes later he was dead. I stayed up the whole night and didn’t go to work the next day. I was traumatized and my belief in the American System was trashed for a while.

    The Clinton Campaign has constantly alluded to her staying in the race because something disastrous might happen to Obama’s campaign and he would self destruct. She made race an issue and implied that he couldn’t win the general election because he is half black. She and her campaign have even hinted around his possibly being a secret Muslim. Since we know that Obama has been receiving death threats since early on, for her to even talk about assassination and RFK is unforgivable and evokes feelings of horror in me. I might have to vote for her to protect women’s rights, but she has totally lost my respect and trust.

  14. Patty C,
    I would have loved to vote for Hillary Clinton until she stated publicly that She and John McCain had the experience to be President and Obama did not. She sold out her own party in her attempt to be President. I beleive that the only reason she is in the race now is to try to get more money to pay her campaign debt down. I personally don’t think she would accept the VP spot.

  15. Patty C:

    To answer you directly, the standard for accepting change is always higher than for accepting the status quo because we know the consequences of the latter and generally fear the former. It certainly does not make it right, or even desirable, but it seems locked into our genetic code. I too applaud her courage and conviction, but her repeated use of the idea of assassination as applied to another candidate who has already suffered death threats, gives me pause and does cast doubt on her pleas of innocence or fatigue or mere insensitivity.

  16. Hillary Clinton has gone out of her way not to make this campaign about gender so why do men, in particular, automatically assume everything she says is underhanded, manipulative, and/or mean spirited? Why IS the standard of review set so much higher for her than the other candidates she’s trounced so far – including closely-matched Obama OR McCain?

    Do you have a crystal ball? Are you able to predict the future? She has earned this moment in history, deserves to be in this race, and I applaud her presence, her voice, AND her forethought.

    Frankly, I still have my doubts about McCain proceeding unchallenged somewhere down the road – despite recent efforts to anoint him as ‘natural born’. Believe me, if it were to come down to that, the ones standing by ready to hang him out to dry would not be women!

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