Hillary Said WHAT?

I’ve been out of politics as a pursuit for about ten years now. And my vacation has done me some good, I think. I’m more rational, I see the gray area in issues that have gray areas, and I tend not to see people in two tribes in a life-or-death struggle. A good way to go through life, all in all.

Then, yesterday, mostly because I’m more plugged in to what’s going on this year than last because of my interest in social media, I hear tell about an alleged verbal misstep by Hillary Clinton in an answer to a question by the Argus Leader editorial board (covered live on Mogulus) about her staying in the primary race. As you’ve heard by now, 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.

I heard the outrage. I read post after post, in places like Twitter, of what a dangerous thing she said. And I have to admit, I had no idea what they were talking about. And every idea what Hillary was talking about.

She correctly reasoned that we don’t get any closer to seeing her position—that she feels entitled to make it to a California primary just as others before her did—if she names two examples that weren’t memorable for something. She referred to the nomination bids of Bill Clinton, who’s memorable for being her husband and a recent example, and Robert F. Kennedy, who as we remember vividly was murdered immediately after his victory speech in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

That’s what she said. That’s what she meant. That’s what I got.

You know when a politician talks, and you think, “Uh-oh, that could be taken two ways, his/her opponents will have a field day with that, better circle the wagons”? I got none of that with this. Yes, the message that informed me of the instance was from an outraged Obama supporter, so instructions on how to react were already attached. Fortunately, she and others I know online could only declare the depth of their shock, and not the reason for it, beyond the actual quote, as if it was self-evident. And as I wrote above, shock is not what I got.

I finally put it point blank to an online friend, Len Edgerly, in this Twitter posting:

@LenEdgerly You think he was risking an implication she wouldn’t have meant? What implication? Help me see.

It turns out, after some Web exploring and Keith Oblermann’s forehead-vein-bulging commentary, I realize that the meaning that was taken was something to this effect:

Hey, you should be grateful I’m still here. We Democrats are in good shape with a spare candidate as we get into California. Because you can never tell. Something unfortunate might happen to Mr. Obama. Something…permanent. Remember Bobby at the Ambassador? Hey, I’m just sayin’. There are plenty Sirhan Sirhans still running around, know what I mean? And, uh, they all want a piece of this guy. I mean, he’s black, for chrissake. You know what that means, especially in those states. And he makes a pretty speech. Like…well, like the Kennedys. You connect the dots. Don’t get me wrong, I hope he makes it, but…you know. Better safe than sorry.

So help me out here. What am I to be more outraged about? The words that actually came out of Hillary Clinton’s mouth? Or the words that were, through a mass psychosis I can’t even begin to understand, unceremoniously shoved into it?

I have watched over the years as politics as practiced in America mutated into a form of Greek mythology, with politicians made demigods, especially “great” ones who bully their schemes into law in spite of resistance (like the Constitution), and a special throne of holiness reserved for those cut down in their prime. Their names may not be taken in vain. Evoking them and referring to their deaths as anything less than an American tragedy is grounds for chastisement—as if you mentioned the name of Allah and left out “peace be upon him”. I actually heard “assassination” referred to last night as “The ‘A’ Word”.

Have you people completely lost your perspectives? These are politicians. Even the “good” ones. They are applying for a job. Their predecessors made the process of hiring their replacements an exhausting, multi-year-long ordeal, God knows why. It’s a job whose current occupant has thwarted the Constitution and amassed a huge amount of power, not to himself, but to the chair. The job. If you’re now worshiping and revering the guy you want next in that chair, how much of that power do you think he’ll push away, like a second helping of stringbeans, and how much of it will you want him to keep? If your answer is all of it, then you’ve proven to me that your appetite for freedom and limited government is trumped by your love of a good Shakespearean tragedy every four years. If the President had only so much he was allowed to do, who got the job would matter less, you’d get more sleep, and there’d be less worry about shootings.

I got your Shakespeare right here: A pox on both your houses. The devil take the hindmost.

I resume my vacation.


4 responses to “Hillary Said WHAT?

  1. Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  2. Rick, I can’t speak for anyone else on this, so I’ll simply try again to clarify my own reaction, which was very strong when I saw the New York Post headline. It’s really about fear that Obama will be struck down, because of the obvious parallels with others who have been. What I assume about the risk is that public discussion of it and news coverage is more likely to unleash some deranged person to action. That’s why I’ve cringed every time I’ve seen anyone, including the New York Times, talk about the possibility of harm befalling Obama. I don’t think he’s a god, but I do think he’d make a good president in these times, and the thought of him not being able to serve because of another tragic event scares and angers me.

    My strong reaction to Hillary’s mentioning of the word, which I do believe carries power even in the saying of it, is related to this assumption. I don’t think she hopes for Obama to be taken out through violence. But I assume that she, more than anyone else, understands the vulnerability of an historic Presidential candidate, and that, because of that understanding, the word would be one she simply would never utter in front of a camera or microphone.

    I thought her apology was equally clumsy, because it did not take into account this fear I’ve been talking about. She apologized to the Kennedys, not to the Obamas, who deal with this risk every day. I can’t imagine what reaction they had when they saw that headline.

    I still feel as if I’m not clear about the matter. Fear is not so good at expressing itself rationally. It’s good to have someone like you who is not a partisan mull this incident, because you helped me see that I overreacted at first and made assumptions about Hillary’s intent that were incorrect.

    I hope that I’m off base about the risk of a tragedy and what increases or lessens it. Maybe if everyone understands that it’s real and pays attention and isn’t afraid to even mention assassination, there will be many eyes and hands ready to intervene if a would-be assailant ever makes a move.

    I was 14 when JFK was killed and remember where I stood when I heard the news shouted by a kid in a passing school bus. I got an autograph from Bobby at Logan Airport in Boston. Those events are part of my and the national fabric, nerve endings that trigger strong and sometimes baffling reactions, as they did yesterday.

  3. A very easy to read analysis, thanks for being balances. I watched the video, and understood her to mean “anything can happen and the primary isn’t over until we vote at the convention” but she sure could have fared better without the reference to Kennedy.

  4. Len, as a New Yorker, I’d just like to apologize for inflicting the Post onto the other 49 states. That paper takes pride in being the exception to too many journalistic rules. Don’t let them get under your skin, or anyone else’s.

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