To some, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s remark seemed entirely innocent.
To others it was taken, as MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann suggested, as evidence of Mrs. Clinton’s inner “darkness.”
“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary in the middle of June, right?” she last week told editors of a newspaper in South Dakota, where voters go to the polls next Tuesday.
“We all remember,” the junior senator from New York continued, that “Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June . . .”
Such words coming from any other candidate would probably have stirred little concern or public discussion.
But in her frenzy to win a presidential nominating race she is losing, Sen. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have again and again unleashed what pundit Andrew Sullivan described as “raw, unprincipled bare-knuckle politics.”
When asked about the religion of the rival outpacing her, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton snidely replied that he was a Christian, not a Muslim, “as far as I know.”
The drumbeat of doubt stoked by Mrs. Clinton’s statement, and questions raised about Obama’s faith and United Church of Christ spiritual mentor Dr. Jeremiah Wright, have had an impact.
Clinton has also described herself as the candidate of “hard-working Americans, white Americans . . .” What does such a borderline-racist statement convey about her view of African-Americans and other non-whites?
In Ohio and Pennsylvania, one out of five voters questioned told pollsters that race played a role in who they decided to vote for, and 90 percent of those saying this voted for Hillary Clinton.
In Texas, one of Mrs. Clinton’s top Hispanic organizers spoke openly with reporters about the racial disharmony between Latinos and African-Americans, both competing at the bottom of the ladder for many of the same jobs and neighborhoods.
Over and over, the Clinton campaign has used the not-so-subtle politics of divide and conquer, driving wedges between blacks and whites, blacks and Hispanics, Christians and a rival she implies might be Muslim, and between men and women, old and young.
Such wedge politics inevitably produce the polarized, Balkanized politics of "us versus them." And at the extremes of such politics, this uncivilized tactic begets fear, anger and hatred.
It has become a widespread concern that Sen. Clinton seems willing to do “anything” to win. Many rank and file Democrats suspect she is willing to shatter longstanding coalitions within the Democratic Party if that is the price of her winning.
Others wonder if her attacks on Obama come from a rule-or-ruin cynicism bent on destroying his chances of winning this November so that she would not face the re-election campaign of an incumbent Democratic president in 2012.
If she acquires enough leverage to demand the vice presidential bottom half of an Obama ticket, this tarnished baggage attached to his idealistic campaign for “change” could also cause his defeat.
But if an Obama-Clinton ticket wins in November, the sour quip widely ascribed to bipartisan political operative David Gergen, that Obama would have to get a food-taster (like kings of old at risk of being poisoned by those close to them), will be echoed by many.
Speaking recently at a convention of the National Rifle Association, former Republican candidate, minister and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee responded to a noise offstage by distastefully joking that it was Obama ducking for cover because someone had pointed a gun at him.
In mid-May, a blogger named Marilyn on BarackObama.com asked whether Gov. Huckabee was “subtly urging someone to threaten Obama . . .”
“Can we trust the Secret Service,” she asked, “to protect our candidate?”
The point is, Clinton did not make her reference to Robert Kennedy’s June 1968 assassination in a vacuum.
She knew, as do most national journalists, that Obama was provided Secret Service protection earlier than most major candidates are because he was a target of racist threats.
Nobody wants to contemplate for even an instant that Clinton might have evinced a psychopathic desire, conscious or unconscious, that led her to speak words that a mentally unbalanced person conceivably could take as hypnotic instructions to remove this “turbulent priest,” this Barack a Beckett, who stands between Hillary and the presidency.
Both the left and right have their lunatic fringes, and to conjure these unbalanced spirits is to evoke sinister forces. Hillary Clinton’s collectivist appeals to voter gender, ethnicity and race have potentially raised just such demons.
In past years anonymous callers from America’s nighttime darkness to my national radio shows shared their conspiratorial beliefs, claiming that in Clinton-ruled Arkansas more than 40 people in positions to expose Clinton wrongdoing died in mysterious ways.
One shot himself in the head five times and was certified a “suicide” by the state’s Clinton-appointed medical authority.
During the Whitewater scandal, such callers assured me, just before he was to meet with an investigator from Ken Starr’s office the imprisoned man at the heart of the scandal Jim McDougal was suddenly moved into solitary confinement and, as CNN reported, was not given access to his heart medication.
McDougal, in a cell where no other prisoner could see what happened to him, died of a purported heart attack hours before he was to give crucial evidence against the Clintons.
In Arkansas critics of the Clintons gave a nickname to what they saw as the mysterious pattern of deaths of potential Clinton foes. That nickname was Arkancide.
Clinton insider Vince Foster, said to be an especially close friend to Mrs. Clinton, was found dead in Washington, D.C.’s Fort Marcy Park, an apparent suicide. Immediately thereafter, Mrs. Clinton’s then-ramrod (as she is today in Clinton’s campaign) Maggie Williams reportedly was observed carrying documents from Foster’s White House office.
Why would anyone believe such conspiratorial tales, or worry for the safety of Obama just because Hillary Clinton innocently conjured thoughts of assassination and June?
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