Friday, May 23, 2008

It was different the first time

Why didn't Clinton's invocation of the Kennedy assassination on March 6 ignite the firestorm it did this time? The two statements were different. The first tightly situated the assassination allusion as a data point showing that nomination battles have historically lasted into June:
I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer.We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual.
An ugly choice of illustration if you think about it, but the surrounding 'thesis statements' it was supposed to support made it less likely that listeners would think about it. Contrast the report from today's interview. Asked, "you don't buy the unity argument?" she responded:
"I don’t because I’ve been around long enough," she said. "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I don't understand it. And there's lots of speculation about why it is."
Same data points, thinner frame. Or a different frame, one that seems to evoke some opaque point of paranoia: what's behind the pressure for me to get out of the race? From that charged field, the assassination reference spills out all over.

P.S. There are weird resonances in Clinton's apology as well:

“The Kennedys have been much on my mind in the last days because of Senator Kennedy, and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever.”

“My view is that we have to look to the past and to our leaders who have inspired us and give us a lot to live up to. And I’m honored to hold Senator Kennedy’s seat in the United States Senate from the state of New York, And have the highest regard for the entire Kennedy family. Thanks."

It's inspirational to look back to Bobby Kennedy's assassination as an illustration of the length of campaigns past? And what's up with that statement of regard for the whole family? Does she feel the need to reassure us that her deadly nightshades aren't directed at the Kennedys either?

1 comment:

  1. That's a good reading. I thought the same. The first one she gets away with because of the way it was worded. The second one makes you wonder what the heck she was thinking. Clearly, she should not use that reference ever. People don't think of RFK in the context of a long primary. She should know that.