Yesterday, Hillary Clinton used the example of Robert Kennedy's June 1968 assassination while she was explaining why she's still in the race. The world seems to have done a collective jaw-drop. She has apologized for the parallel drawn saying:
I regret that my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy.
But was her apology necessary? Was the statement, as Michelle Obama worries, a reference to violence that could befall Obama? Or was it merely an unfortunate way to put historical perspective on the month of June in a campaign year? Here's Hillary's whole original quote:
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 [calls to drop out]."
As soon as the egg of a quote was laid, Liberty and I rushed to the Church of Wikipedia to see exactly what the state of the 1968 election was in June. Was Bobby well ahead, or was the contest still alive? That seems to be the crucial detail to me — was the mention of the assassination just a calendar signpost? A way of saying, of course we all remember the day, it happened in June? Apparently, at the moment of Kennedy's assassination, the delegate totals were: Hubert Humphrey, 561; Robert F. Kennedy, 393; Eugene McCarthy, 258.
Hmm. Kennedy was in second place in the delegate totals. Just like Hillary. And we're heading into June. Were people too quick to offense on this statement? Was it just, as a Clinton spokesperson has said, "historical examples of the nominating contest going well into the summer. Any reading into it beyond that is inaccurate and outrageous." Or is any reference to an assassination — especially a Kennedy — despicable?
Want to know more about that tragic night in June? New York magazine has a powerful narrative all about it, out this week.