Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bad move, Senator Clinton

I was hoping not to have to post about Hillary's RFK gaffe any more. In my original post, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I still do. I don't think she intended her comment about Bobby Kennedy to mean anything other than the fact that the campaign was still going in June. I'm sure that was an extraordinarily painful moment for her. About the only comparable thing I can think of in my own life is the Challenger accident, which I can pinpoint to January, 1986.

I ended that post with the comment, "She's in a hole. She really had better figure a way to dig herself out."

But she didn't figure out a way to dig herself out. She managed to find a way to make the situation much worse. I think I have overused the phrase "mind-boggling" in this campaign season, but boy, does it apply here. In an Op-Ed piece in the NY Daily News, she actually wrote this:
"some took my comments entirely out of context and interpreted them to mean something completely different - and completely unthinkable.
. . .
I was deeply dismayed and disturbed that my comment would be construed in a way that flies in the face of everything I stand for - and everything I am fighting for in this election."

Wow. She's not just not taking responsibility for making a mistake - she's blaming the people who took offense. Just incredible.

I want to take a step back and remember that I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and I think it's unfortunate that many people did not. Lots of people reacted very strongly, misconstrued what she said, were deeply offended. Did people overreact? Probably. But assassination of a presidential candidate is also one of the most serious topics in American politics. Anyone who brings it up, in any context, has to know that they are playing with fire. And Hillary was the one who brought it up. Miscommunication like this happens all the time in a political campaign. The testing of a politician is in how well they deal with this kind of event. After all, isn't Job One of a politician to communicate with the voters?

Technically, there is nothing that says that she has to address people's concerns if they overreact. This is the nature of politics - some people are always going to twist what a politician says, particularly her political opponents. So she doesn't have to address the concerns of people who reacted negatively to her gaffe.

Unless, that is, she wants their votes.

The fact that many people possibly overreacted to this does not change the fact that their reactions were their own. Whatever their reasons, they were disturbed by this comment. If Hillary wants them to even consider voting for her, she has to address their concerns. She has to make it clear that, at the very least, she is listening to them and understands their concerns. But she's doing the exact opposite.

Hillary is acting as if the people who reacted negatively to her comments were her political opponents. By defending herself so strongly, she's making it sound as if anyone who was bothered by her comment is attacking her character.

This is beyond ridiculous. Many of the people who were offended or bothered by it were perfectly normal Americans. One of the first people to talk to me about it was a very sweet African American woman of Hillary's generation who works in my office. She had her a snippet of the news about it and asked me what it was about. I explained it to her, and we agreed that it was not offensive per se, but definitely tasteless, and just really not a good idea. Hillary seems to be throwing my co-worker, who is Sunday school teacher-nice, in with the "vast right-wing conspiracy." You know, all those people who attacked she and Bill in the '90's. It increasingly seems like her default mode of response to a controversy is to attack first, and then attack again.

But it doesn't stop there! As if having put her foot in her mouth and THEN throwing fuel on the fire isn't enough, she proceeds to shoot herself in the other foot. Immediately after the sentence that I quoted above, blasting people who disagree with her, she writes this:
And today, I would like to more fully answer the question I was asked: Why do I
continue to run, even in the face of calls from pundits and politicians for me
to leave this race?

Once again, the mind just boggles. Not only is she not apologizing, not only is she opening up on the regular voters who have questioned her judgment, she immediately changes the conversation back to herself. How spectacularly rude can one person possibly be? In fact, most of the piece is on the topic of why she is still running. Absolutlely amazing. Given an opportunity to show concerned citizens that she is listening to them, she talks about herself. Almost as if she is running for the office of Most Self-Centered Person in America.

June 3rd can't come fast enough.

1 comment:

libhom said...

Clinton made a thinly veiled threat to assassinate a political opponent. Most people are underreacting to what she said, not overreacting to it.