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First, two things, just so you know where I’m coming from.

A) I don’t mean to brag, but I do think I have an above-average grasp of the English language, particularly in regards to journalism, media generally, and politics, and am attuned to nuance.

B) I do support Obama over Clinton, personally. And I think the latter has said some things in defense of her continued candidacy that are, at best, an insult to our intelligence. It doesn’t really bother me that she seems to want to go all the way to the convention, but I wish she’d stop making dumb arguments in her own defense. Hell, I don’t even mind wrong arguments, I just hate the dumb ones. And the dumb and morally offensive ones I would hope would have already convinced everyone to pack up the tents.

Having said that, the total and complete freakout over her RFK reference is a total mystery to me. Five out of the eight diaries at DailyKos right now are about it; Keith Olbermann has a Special Comment; this post rounds up comments from the leading lights in the liberal blogosphere about this being the final straw; the MSM is latching on with headlines like Hillary Clinton Raises the Specter of the Unspeakable; etc. I realize that the Clinton campaign has recently turned into a bullshit factory and after the Zimbabwe comparison I lost all sympathy, but I think the coalescing conventional wisdom on this latest statement is wrong.

Here’s what 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.”

She was talking about how primary campaigns used to be longer. People remember significant things more than insignificant ones, and presumably the two most handy examples floating around in her head were her husband in ’92 (significant for obvious reasons) and Kennedy in ’68 (ditto).

Now, it so happens that–again–her reasoning is flawed (also). I’m not sure what else is wrong with it, though. But I’d be glad to hear arguments:

“The tongue slips, of course, but is she really arguing that she shouldn’t drop out because Obama might get shot?


“New HRC campaign rationale — Obama might get shot and killed before formally securing the nomination, so she may as well stay in the race!”


“You only have to spend a few minutes talking with African-Americans about this campaign to discover that the fear that Obama could be assassinated is very much on their minds. It is in everyone’s subconscious, especially Michelle Obama’s. To refer to the June assassination of Bobby Kennedy in the context of reasons to stay in this interminable race against Barack Obama is therefore catastrophically inappropriate.”

Wait, but Bobby Kennedy was white. What if Hillary was coming down to the wire with John Edwards and she’d said that? Edwards kind of looks like Bobby Kennedy–so would it be worse?

“The fear of a president or a presidential candidate being shot or assassinated is horrifying precisely because recent history teaches us that it can happen [just read that whole sentence; no one cares about prose anymore; please turn out the lights when you leave–Mgmt]. We don’t need anybody to remind us, and we certainly don’t need anybody to remind whatever suggestible wackos might be lurking in the shadows.”

So we should definitely write lots and lots about one comment to the Argus Bugle-Whatever editorial board so we can keep talking how no one should talk about it.  But aren’t you… isn’t… your powers are too strong for me….

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–language is going the way of keywords and tag clouds. What used to look like

“Robert Kennedy was still campaigning in California in 1968 when he was assassinated”

now becomes something like

“Robert Kennedy Assassination 1968 California was still when he campaigning.”

That’s not a world I want to live in, even though I’m a Web editor and would have a clear evolutionary advantage.

PS: Have a nice Memorial Day weekend. Like I said last year, read this. Also, Robert Lowell. (h/t ptb)