Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hillary dismissal of ’92 Illinois primary a bigger lie than her comparison to RFK

When Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary R. Clinton recently managed to offend people with her apparent comparison between Barack Obama and Robert F. Kennedy (who was killed in mid-campaign in 1968), it wasn’t the most outrageous thing a political person ever said.

It wasn’t the most ridiculous statement to ever come from Hillary’s own mouth (remember her recollection of her 1996 trip to Bosnia?). For that matter, it wasn’t even the biggest lie from Clinton that very day.

I ACTUALLY TAKE greater offense at the other part of that same statement she made Friday during an interview in South Dakota (where the primary season wraps up June 3), when she tried to re-write history and claim that there is nothing unusual about a losing political campaign that continues to fight into the summer months.

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?,” is what came out of her mouth when she spoke with the editorial board of the Argus Leader newspaper of Sioux Falls, S.D. “We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

Actually, Bill Clinton wrapped up that nomination for the right to challenge incumbent President George H.W. Bush by mid-March. I remember that because it was his primary victory in Illinois that supposedly ensured Clinton would be the nominee – rather than Tom Harkin, Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown or any of the other Democratic dreamers from that year.

That was the year that Harkin gained early momentum by winning the caucuses in his home state of Iowa, but then found out the rest of the nation had no interest in his candidacy. Tsongas took New Hampshire, but then Clinton started coming on strong in the following primaries.

BY ILLINOIS’ PRIMARY election, most of the other Democrats had dropped out of the race or were so financially strapped that they were unable to do any more serious campaigning.

For Hillary to say that Bill Clinton didn’t get the nomination until the California primary is a case of using a fact to tell a lie. The nomination was his long before that particular primary in June.

In fact, most presidential primaries wrap up after about a month of serious campaigning because the losing candidates don’t have the money to justify continued activity. We usually know by early April at the latest who is going to be the nominee for the two major political parties.

That is what makes the 2008 Democratic primary so unique – because it didn’t get wrapped up early like it always did in Hillary’s political fantasies. This was a case where two candidates each have a significant chunk of the electorate that seriously believes in their abilities and wants to see them in the White House.

I DON’T DOUBT the sincerity of those people who back Hillary Clinton and would like to see her as president.

But for Clinton to come out with comments implying that there’s anything typical about this campaign cycle is just a lie.

If she wants to remain in the running because she thinks there’s a serious chance that a technicality will enable her to get the nomination for president, she ought to just come right out and admit it.

A slight majority of Democrats appear to want Obama to be their political party’s nominee in the Nov. 4 elections for president. But Clinton is willing to accept the nomination under any circumstances – even under ones that might stir up resentment from the masses of Obama people who in the past have shown little interest in the Democratic Party – or electoral politics in general.

IN FACT, THAT is why I was not offended by the second part of Clinton’s comments in South Dakota – the part that referred to Bobby Kennedy.

Some take it as evidence that she would like to see someone take a shot at Obama, thereby clearing the way for her to get the nomination similar to how Kennedy’s presidential bid was leading the field of primary candidates up to the point of his death in Los Angeles on June 5.

It is an unfortunate remark for Hillary to make, because the sad reality is that the possibility of someone trying to attack Obama is a very real possibility in today’s political and social climate. Security around Obama is very aware of the threat and is trying to take what few measures are possible to prevent such an incident from occurring.

But there are no guarantees.

SHE SHOULD HAVE known better than to say anything that could imply the threat of physical harm, although I will take her at her word that she didn’t mean she really hopes for an attack on Obama sometime soon.

But this is a case of a political person coming out and saying what is really on their mind. Hillary Clinton gave us an insight into her inner thought process and confirmed the worst suspicions of many political people.

What Clinton wants is for something – anything, a scandal of sort – to come along that would be so devastating that political people would feel compelled to shift their previously pledged support from Obama to Clinton.

She wants something to happen that will ensure Obama cannot be a political force, now or in the future. She wants him to be damaged goods of such a high degree that he would be unable to run for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.

IN HILLARY CLINTON’S world of political fantasies, Obama would have to seriously contemplate resigning immediately from the Senate, and would never be able to run for elective office again.

She may not want him literally dead, but she wants him deceased politically.

That’s the problem with candidates who become movements – people follow them so closely and put their interests ahead of political party. As long as people see that Obama is a viable alternative, they would be inspired to ignore much of anything Clinton wants.

That is why it never made sense politically that Obama would be a vice presidential choice under Clinton Some might literally figure it is worth doing nothing now so that a “President Obama” could act in the future and get credit for the achievements.

THAT DIFFERENCE IN viewpoints is what has created the current split among Democrats that party officials ought to be making a priority of trying to close. It is not a bad thing that two Democratic candidates created such intense interest in the presidential elections that the number of people who bothered to vote is at all-time highs.

But it is bad if the split creates lasting hostility.

And it is this hostility that has built up between the two camps that will prevent either from working too closely with the other in the near future. The best we can likely hope for is a cool co-existence.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Hillary Clinton is still drawing grief for her comments in South Dakota (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/25/AR2008052502685.html?hpid=topnews) that reminded people of the fate of Robert F. Kennedy. For his part, Barack Obama is trying to rise (http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUSN2430844920080525) above the moment.

The Argus-Leader (I love their name) gets its moment of national attention for its attempt to (http://www.argusleader.com/assets/doc/DF109229524.DOC) draw out Clinton to say something honest. They succeeded.

It was interesting to remember that Bill Clinton wasn’t always seen as the candidate (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE2DB103AF93AA25750C0A964958260) of choice for the African-American vote, as noted in this recollection of the 1992 presidential primary in Illinois.

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