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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Call It Quits: Clinton’s RFK comments show need to exit race

Many observers of this year's historic race for the Democratic presidential nomination have been wondering out loud why Sen. Hillary Clinton hasn't dropped out of the race yet. Sen. Barack Obama has won more states and more pledged delegates, and now he has secured the endorsement of more superdelegates than Clinton.

The only thing Clinton has going for her is the popular vote, which she is winning by a slim margin -if you exclude the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine and Washington and include the renegade primaries of Florida and Michigan (Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in the latter state).

What President Bush might call "fuzzy math" is Clinton's best -well, only -talking point for why she "deserves" to be the Democratic nominee.

The dubious nature of her contention is magnified by the complex rhetorical gymnastics and inverted logic inherent in claiming a popular mandate within an electoral process almost as diverse as the states participating in it. Some states hold closed primaries, where only Democrats can cast ballots; some states hold open primaries, where independents and sometimes Republicans can vote; and some states hold caucuses, where participants are predominantly stalwart party activists who have the time and patience to gather and select delegates.

Clinton's caveat-laden popular vote calculus is disingenuous, misleading and desperate. But this is politics, after all, where mastery of the art of spin is oftentimes the most significant component of electoral success. And if Clinton can convince the superdelegates to abandon Obama based on this factually impaired popular vote argument, then more power to her.

Yet recent comments suggest there's a far more troubling rationale behind Clinton's refusal to exit the Democratic race.

On Friday, the former first lady met with a South Dakota newspaper's editorial board in advance of that state's primary next week. When asked why she thought certain segments of the party were calling for her to withdraw from the race, Clinton responded that it just didn't make sense to her, noting that previous Democratic nomination contests have continued deep into the summer months.

This is an established fact. The 1980 nomination battle between President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Edward Kennedy and the 1984 race between Vice President Walter Mondale and Sen. Gary Hart were contested all the way to the Democratic National Conventions of those respective years.

Yet Clinton did not reference these examples. Instead, the junior senator from New York spoke the unspeakable, raising the specter of one of the darkest moments in American political history: the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1968.

"We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June [1968] in Califorina," Clinton said. Invoking the traumatic events of June 5, 1968 is unconscionable and unforgivable. Although she hastily offered a half-hearted apology for her detestable remarks, it's simply too little, too late.

We are quickly approaching the 40th anniversary of RFK's assassination. And in many ways, this year's presidential campaign shares a great deal in common with its 1968 counterpart. Then, as now, the nation faced grave uncertainty, was embroiled in a tragic and unnecessary war and was intensely divided. Likewise, then, as now, there was a candidate who inspired a movement for change, as millions of Americans dared to hope for a future untainted by war, greed and corruption. That vision for change was snuffed out by an assassin's bullet. We pray that this year's campaign renders a different result.

Obama has called Clinton's comments "careless" and has given her the benefit of the doubt. We find the comments abominable, and we view them as proof that it's well past time for her to exit the race.

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