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The tasteless and the meaningless

The stench from the smoking wreckage of the Hillary Clinton candidacy continues to sting our nostrils. It's clear, from the

The stench from the smoking wreckage of the Hillary Clinton candidacy continues to sting our nostrils.

It's clear, from the full context of her Friday remarks to a South Dakota newspaper, that Clinton really did not intend to suggest that she's staying in the race just in case Barack Obama shares the fate of Bobby Kennedy. Such is the unfair shorthand that has ricocheted around the blogosphere over the past 36 hours.

What's clear is that she was trying to make the (specious) case for extending the '08 primary season into June. Her argument was that past Democratic campaigns have often lasted that long. It was in that context that she cited the RFK assassination, which occurred shortly after the results were announced in the June 4, 1968 California primary. (Indeed, she first cited Kennedy's June shooting during an interview two months ago.)

Here's the main problem with what she did: She offered a thoroughly tasteless example in support of a worthless argument. She was basically trying to say - and this is what her candidacy has been reduced to - that it's fine for her to extend her campaign into June, just because some past campaigns have gone into June.

And before she even brought up RFK, she sought to buttress her point with this: "You know, my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?"

Actually, wrong.

Anyone who remembers 1992 - as I do, because I covered it - is well aware that Bill Clinton effectively wrapped up the 1992 nomination on April 7, when he won the New York primary. He didn't officially nail down the math until June, but that was a mere formality, because his chief competitor, Paul Tsongas, suspended his campaign in the wake of the April 7 loss. Nothing of consequence happened after that; Bill was shadowed only by a sideshow candidate, Jerry Brown.

So Hillary's attempt to invoke 1992 as justification for clinging to her '08 candidacy does not pass the reality test. And even the tasteless RFK reference was historically flawed, because in those days the primaries started later and finished later. Kennedy didn't even enter the race until March.

So here's the gist of her remarks, in context: My husband campaigned in June (meaningless), Bobby Kennedy was shot in June (tasteless), so why shouldn't I campaign in June?

Hardly the kind of slogan that she originally intended when her campaign was first being mapped.


In my Sunday print column, I look at John McCain and the age factor. Conclusion: it's not his age per se that could pose a problem; rather, it's age as metaphor.