Kennedy assassination remark adds to Clinton woes

May 24th, 2008 - 10:02 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 24 (IANS) Hillary Clinton courted fresh trouble as she referred to the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy to explain why she is still running in the Democratic presidential race despite trailing far behind Barack Obama. Although the media and the Obama campaign have been trying to usher her from the race “historically, that makes no sense,” she told the editors of a newspaper Friday in South Dakota, where the last Democratic primary is scheduled for June 3.

“We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know I just, I don’t understand it,” she said, dismissing the idea of abandoning the race in response to a question from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board.

Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, too “did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?” she recalled.

But the former first lady quickly apologized as she ran into a torrent of criticism from the media with Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton saying: “Senator Clinton’s statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign.”

“The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator (Edward) Kennedy (who has been diagnosed with brain cancer) and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever,” she said.

Clinton said she was referencing to “a historic fact,” to note that campaigns have stretched until the summer before, not to suggest that Obama might be assassinated. In the previous sentence, she had also noted that her husband’s campaign in 1992 lasted until June as well.

What Clinton meant seems clear. But “in a campaign in which voters have voiced concerns about the safety of the first African American front-runner in history, it was a surprising choice of words by Clinton, whose best hope for seizing the nomination now would be a major setback for Obama,” noted the Washington Post.

“Clinton, already a long shot for her party’s presidential nod, may have unwittingly lengthened the odds of her nomination” by referencing the 1968 assassination of Kennedy,” it suggested.

The New York Times, which has editorially endorsed Clinton’s candidature, agreed noting, “the comments touched on one of the most sensitive aspects of the current presidential campaign - concern for Senator Barack Obama’s safety.

“And they come as Democrats have been talking increasingly of an Obama/Clinton ticket, with even former President Bill Clinton musing with associates about the possibility of his wife as vice president as the best path to the presidency if she loses the nominating fight,” the influential daily said.

But in her meeting with Argus Leader editors, Clinton rejected the suggestion saying her campaign has had no discussions with Obama’s aides about her possibly becoming his vice presidential pick.

“It is flatly untrue and it is not anything I’m entertaining. It is nothing I have planned and it is nothing I am prepared to engage in. I am still vigorously campaigning.”

“I would look to the camp of my opponent for the source of these stories,” she said suggesting the talk was coming from Obama aides. “People have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa.”

The Obama campaign also dismissed reports that there were talks going on between the two campaigns about putting Clinton on the ticket.

Obama has an almost 200-delegate lead over Clinton and is just 56 delegates short of the magic number of 2025 needed to clinch the nomination, making Clinton’s goal of catching him more difficult by the day.

Former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson is overseeing the early vetting of possible vice presidential running mates for Obama, Democratic officials say. He did the same job for Democratic nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Walter Mondale in 1984.

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