By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Making sense of Clinton’s senseless remark

Trying to make sense of Hillary Clinton’s truly bizarre reference to Robert Kennedy’s assassination? Good luck. The New York Times’ Katharine Seelye put up a comprehensive blog post last night that’s full of insight — yet she can’t seem to make sense of it, either.

Seelye seems to accept Clinton’s explanation that she was referring merely to the fact that the Democratic primaries had extended into June in 1968, and that she was not trying to suggest that, well, gee, maybe Barack Obama will get shot just like Kennedy, so she ought to stick around.

Yet Seelye also opens her post by referring to Friday as possibly “one of the worst days of Senator Hillary Clinton’s political career.” And she closes by wondering whether Clinton’s remarks were so toxic that she may have even alienated those who want to help her find “a graceful way out” of the presidential race.

Perhaps most telling, Seelye embeds a lengthy commentary by Keith Olbermann that is, as she says, “tough beyond measure.” Suffice it to say that Olbermann does not give Clinton the benefit of the doubt as to whether she had deliberately evoked Kennedy’s assassination.

Personally, I’m not sure what to think. Like Seelye, I believe Clinton was trying to make a point about the timing, not the assassination. But her remarks were tasteless and grotesque nevertheless. This may be one of those situations in which what Clinton was trying to say is being deliberately distorted, and she deserves it.

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  1. Anonymous

    She said the exact same thing in a Time interview a few months ago, almost word for word, and nobody made a peep.What’s the deal here, only Obama is ever allowed to mention Bobby Kennedy? The campaign went into June. Then it stopped when he was killed.To try to twist it into something nefarious is deeply, deeply sick.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    No, the question is why everyone gave her a pass the first time she said it. This is a little like Jeremiah Wright — the media had been reporting for a year that he would be a problem, but it wasn’t until we saw the video that people started to react. Likewise, this time people actually saw Clinton talking about the Robert Kennedy assassination.

  3. paul

    To try to twist it into something nefarious is deeply, deeply sick.It’s really hard to figure out exactly what she was trying to say here — I suspect she was trying to say “who knows? anything can happen here…” and picked the wrong example. But it almost doesn’t matter at this point what she really meant to say — the remark is so easy to twist into something unflattering to her that it’s hard to feel sorry for her for saying it.

  4. Mr Punch

    Once it’s become clear that a major part of coalition is bitter racists with guns, you’ve got to be really careful about suggesting that your African-American opponent just might (who knows?) be assassinated. She was given a pass the first time because she was then regarded as a relatively sane person supported by soccer moms and ward heelers.This is the “character issue” in its original Nixonian form: the idea that a public figure might be not evil but crazy.

  5. Jess

    This one isn’t about her intentions, it’s about her inability to think through the connotations of her statements before they leave her mouth. I’m with Olbermann on this one. You just CANNOT say this, no matter your level of fatigue or your good intentions. Don’t go there.

  6. Marc

    Why is everyone so willing to give Hillary a benefit of the doubt. The Clintons are very smart people with zero shame.

  7. Don, American

    The Queen didn’t mean anything cleverly insulting; she’s not bright enough for that.

  8. Anonymous

    Well, at least according to the Herald online, “RKF Jr.” is not offended. Whoever he is.

  9. MeTheSheeple

    Let’s talk about knocking off Osama … Obama … well, both if we could … There’s two people on this Fox news show. Both think it’s funny and laugh.

  10. Anonymous

    I think the whole dust up was just typical campaign behavior circa 2008. I look at the RFK assassination comment as a way, awkward as it was, to tie the continuation of the primary campaign season to a concrete date in June of campaigns past. Just saying that candidate X, Y, or Z, was still competing in the year he ran for president, may mean nothing to me, but to mention Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, makes the image crystal clear. I know that it was June, and the primary, before Kennedy’s murder, was a likely significant point in that primary season. I don’t see anything sinister in Clinton bringing it up, certainly not implying that she wanted to be around to step in, should Obama meet a tragic end.

  11. Des

    I am afraid if Hilary can not make any sense out of herself then there is nothing down for us in trying to make sense out of her also

  12. Bill Baar

    I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio while driving up to Milwaukee and listened to a call in show about the dream ticket of Obama-and-Clinton. Callers were asked to identify as Obama or Clinton backers and then give their opinions. Almost all of the callers were Obama supporters and one mentioned everyone knew if Clinton were VP, Obama would be assasinated. The moderator was a bit shocked and cut the guy off……a few calls later someone called in to agree. These sounded like sane, rational, NPR listeners.. (no joke intended…I mean they sounded educated… the local people who are political junkies)This really flummoxed the moderator.Anyways, point is there are lots of odd notions out there about the threat, and who might be conspiring … so a smart Pol should add assasinations as topic to avoid…even in a sort of historian-mode-of-analysis as HRC seemed to have been in…

  13. Anonymous

    Let’s not forget that the point she was trying to make, that her husband’s nomination battle, among others, dragged into June. This isn’t even close to accurate. Tsongas dropped out in March and Bubba had a 7 to 1 delegate lead over Jerry Brown who would not get out. It was over in June, 1992.

  14. liamstliam

    There are some of us who remain convinced she played a role in the “suicide” of Vince Foster.I do not trust her or Bill Clinton at all.I believe they are capable of nasty things.PS: Dan Am I missing Sal Dimasi/gambling comments somewhere” I expected the see some.

  15. liamstliam

    OK, sorry. Saw the DiMasi thing.

  16. Anonymous

    For those of you not worshipping at the altar of St. Barak….an objective view on this story.

  17. Anonymous

    Nice to see that Olbermann has enough bile to go around for everyone….

  18. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 10:54: Once you understand the context — and I do — then Clinton’s remark is merely hideous and inappropriate, the sort of thing that ought to convince her that she’s no longer playing a positive role and that she ought to get out. That’s all. No big deal. Not the sort of thing that ought to lead the Secret Service to bring her in for questioning. But please, don’t try to play this down. It’s clear evidence of what’s rattling around in her brain.

  19. Anonymous

    Are you people high?I thought Hillary’s comments were completely innocuous, and if Barak Obama truly interpreted them as offensive, he’s way too sensitive to be president of the United States.What’s he going to do if he’s president and Iran calls America “The Great Satan”?

  20. Anonymous

    She said, “We all remember that RFK was assassinated in June…” There’s a temporal aspect I can’t help thinking about. We don’t ALL remember. But she does. She was born in 1947, I was born in 1943. She and I remember those years, 1964 and 1968, when you could feel real terror when the TV station threw up the “Special Bulletin” card… what next? Who next? So, I have to tell you, I can’t cut her any slack at all. Those of us who DO remember those days (I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on LIVE feed…)don’t glibly and innocently use assassination as an example of things that happen in June to mess up elections… Leslie.

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