I don’t know how stupid Hillary Clinton thinks the American public is but it is somewhere around massively stupid.

Sen. Hillary Clinton referred Friday to the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968 Democratic campaign as a reason she should continue to campaign despite increasingly long odds.

Clinton was responding to a question from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board about calls for her to drop out of the race.

“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. I don’t understand it,” she said, dismissing the idea of dropping out.

Clinton said she didn’t understand why, given this history, some Democrats were calling for her to quit.

If you look at a timeline of events leading up to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, you’ll note that George McGovern didn’t announce his candidacy until August 10th, a mere sixteen days before the convention commenced. As for Humphrey, he wasn’t even on the ballot in the states that held primaries. He entered the race too late for that, after LBJ announced he would not seek or accept the Democratic nomination:

Following this announcement, Humphrey quickly re-evaluated his position, and announced his presidential candidacy in late April 1968. Many people saw Humphrey as Johnson’s stand-in; he won major backing from the nation’s labor unions and other Democratic groups that were troubled by young antiwar protesters and the social unrest around the nation. Humphrey avoided the primaries (and/or was too late to enter them) and concentrated on winning delegates in non-primary states; by June he was seen as the clear front-runner for the nomination. However, following a key victory over McCarthy in the California primary, it appeared that Kennedy could possibly challenge Humphrey for the nomination. But the nation was shocked yet again when Senator Kennedy was assassinated the night of his victory speech in California.

Robert Kennedy’s assassination certainly changed the balance of power in the nominating process, but Humphrey was ultimately nominated on the first ballot despite not having earned the delegates at the ballot box. McGovern offered himself as a candidate at the last moment. The rules have changed since 1968, but the fundamentals are the same. If, God forbid, Barack Obama was to be assassinated before the convention in Denver, all the delegates would be free to pick whomever they like, whether they have been part of the campaign or not. Clinton doesn’t get more of a claim to the nomination because she gets the maximum number of delegates in the three remaining contests. She already has the claim that she won the second most delegates. Further campaigning does not add to that claim.

But to raise the specter of assassination as a rationale to stay in the campaign is completely tasteless, especially with Teddy Kennedy’s recent diagnosis with brain cancer. The fact that it doesn’t even make any sense just adds to the ominous feeling that there is an implied threat. Of course, she has now apologized for any misunderstanding.

“Earlier today I was discussing the Democratic primary history and in the course of that discussion mentioned the campaigns that both my husband and Senator Kennedy waged in California in June 1992 and 1968 and I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nomination primary contests that go into June. That’s a historic fact.” she said. “The Kennedys have been much on my mind 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.”

She continued:”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.”

In any case, this is, at a minimum, an extremely unfortunate turn of phrase that insults our intelligence. Perhaps she merely meant to refer to the June part of the situation, as she claims, but we already have a candidate that has won the majority of the earned delegates. He will be our nominee unless there is a compelling reason to choose someone else. If that happens, Clinton already has the strongest claim to be his replacement and further campaigning only undermines her chances of winning over Obama’s delegates. As she travels the country on her Insult Your Intelligence Tour she is bound to continue to give offense.

Update [2008-5-23 18:57:2 by Steven D]: As Fabooj notes below, this wasn’t the first time Senator Clinton has raised the spectre of RFK’s assassination as a justification for staying in the race to the bitter end.

SECOND Update [2008-5-23 19:4:27 by Steven D]: Listen to what she said, and make up your own mind about what her intent was:

(h/t Man Eegee)

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