Friday, May 23, 2008

In Defense of Hillary Clinton

Live by the manufactured scandal, die by the manufactured scandal.

In the immediate aftermath of her unfortunate reference to the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy today, let me say I think she really was just attempting to point to a well-known historical event as evidence that primaries often continue well into June.

I disagree with folks like Keith Olbermann, who issued one of his signature "special comments" tonight, that her error was invoking the unspeakable spectre of assassination. I do agree that, so far, her "clarification" has been insufficient.

I do think, however, that she unwittingly betrayed the depths of desperation to which her campaign has descended, advancing as a legitimate rationale for staying in a race she now has (perhaps unconsciously) acknowledged is lost the possibility that something unfortunate might befall the nominee.

It's a tempest in a teapot, but nonetheless I think her campaign is now over, regardless of what happens with the Michigan and Florida delegates. I believe she will now fall victim, not to sexism, but to the same kind of hackish politics of distraction in which she and her husband have trafficked in for so long.

She tried to tar Obama with Tony Rezko, with Farrakhan, with William Ayers, she gave us the immortally artful dodge that Obama is not a Muslim..."as far as I know," she floated the gas-tax pander and then threw one of her staunchest and most valuable supporters, Paul Krugman, under the bus when she defended her crass politics channeling President Bush, "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists." She supported stripping Michigan and Florida of their delegates, but is now comparing that action to Zimbabwe and Selma and labeling it a constitutional crisis.

Who knows why politics works the way it does, and I don't think this slip-up is any more serious than any of the other non-scandals the public has suffered throught his year, but for some reason I suspect this one is going to stick, and sink her. I think this is exactly the cover the superdelegates needed to come out for Obama, and she may even lose some that were previously pledged to her. Politicians, remember, are masters of self-preservation, not martyrs. The S.S. Hillary Clinton is taking on water, and the rats are going to jump. They're not going to stand up for a candidate whose justification for continuing to campaign is the twisted hope that something awful might happen.


Mike B. said...

I don't see anything to disagree with in Olbermann's comments. I didn't know that she said the same thing four times. Jesus Christ.

I used to like her and dislike Obama. Really, I did. Now I'm ashamed to have shaken her hand once.

Anonymous said...

Really-what she said was in context to answer the question she was asked and secondly-whether we want to hear it-it is the truth. Why can't she or anyone else say it? It happened. What is different if she answers that question?
It is a sad moment in our history but true.

Andy said...

Well, it doesn't actually answer the question, because she still hasn't put forward a plausible explanation for remaining in the race when she has no realistic chance of winning the nomination. In 1992, Bill Clinton may not have "clinched" the nomination until California in June, but as of March of that year, he was the last candidate remaining in the race. In 1968, Sen. Kennedy didn't even announce his decision to run until March 16, so the primary had not dragged on for six months. Hubert Humphrey didn't enter the race until April. In the California primary, Kennedy only narrowly defeated Eugene McCarthy, with the important New York primary still to come. (Then of course unfortunately Kennedy was assassinated.) The point is...the 1968 primary was an entirely different circumstance than where we find ourselves today. Kennedy was not the presumptive nominee; when he was shot, Hubert Humphrey led by about 170 delegates. So for Clinton simply to point to these two years as evidence that sometimes primaries are still happening in June bears absolutely no relevance to the 2008 Democratic primary, in which, as I said, she no longer has a realistic chance. And it really did sound like she's hanging on because, you never know, something might happen.

Jeff said...

Actually, Clinton wasn't the last candidate remaining; Jerry Brown was still running. The California primary in June was ostensibly important, since he was the state's former governor. But realistically he didn't have a chance. He was way behind in delegates, and Clinton was presumed by most people to be the nominee as of March. You've got to wonder if Hillary is subconsciously competing with her husband. Or not so subconsciously.

Andy said...

I stand corrected!

Jeff said...

More info on Bill Clinton and June 1992: here.