Friday, May 23, 2008

Creative timekeeping

In the news:

Hillary Clinton today brought up the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy while defending her decision to stay in the race against Barack Obama.

"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 calls to drop out.
It depends on what the meaning of the word "June" is.

In 1968, the New Hampshire primary took place on March 12. RFK was assassinated less than three months later, on June 5. (He died on June 6.)

In 1992, the Iowa caucuses took place on February 10. Bill Clinton won the California primary less than four months later, on June 3. Writing in the New York Times on June 14, 1992, Tom Wicker noted that "By the time the California primary rolled around two weeks ago, Clinton had the nomination all but in the bag" [my emphasis].

This year's Iowa caucuses took place on January 3, so the 2008 equivalents of June 1968 and June 1992 would be late March and early May. The Clinton campaign's use of "June" as a fixed reference point by which to judge the appropriate length of a campaign is transparently dishonest. And to invoke a political assassination while explaining why one is continuing a campaign: my mind reels.

I now realize that any attempt to think about the Clinton campaign in relation to kleos may be misguided. Kleos functions in a culture of shame, where the abiding concern is what others will think of you. The Clinton campaign at this point is beyond shameless.

Related post
Creative counting
Hillary Clinton and kleos

comments: 7

Norman said...

What's going on with her? Why can't she just show a little class and bow out gracefully? Her strategy, apparently, is to hammer away at the "injustice" of the party not recognizing the Florida and Michigan primaries (though these states violated party rules), get her delegates seated and then strong-arm the remaining uncommitted superdelegates into supporting her.

Lee said...

These states may have violated party rules, but the opinion of their Democrats does count, in my view.

And I'm not impressed by bandwagons, even Obama's.

Chaser said...

I have to say, I've been reading your outrage at Clinton here and there and it continues to puzzle me. Politics is a rough business--I grew up in it. Regardless of how much I may support Obama, I'm frankly troubled by his rookie mistakes. If that makes me eeeeevilllll or shameless, so be it. There are times when I look at him and I detect the advice he is getting, and I think...gah, Jimmy Carter, 1976, with a bit more charisma. And that's not the Clinton campaign's fault, no matter how rough they are getting.

Michael Leddy said...

But this "June" situation has nothing to do with an Obama mistake. And shameless is a word I applied only to the Clinton campaign.

I've heard Obama speak and met him briefly (he's the only Senate candidate I can recall who's visited my vote-poor section of "downstate Illinois"). He seems to me to be the best hope the Democratic Party and the country have had in many years. And I hope to vote for Kathleen Sebelius for president in another eight years. : )

Lee said...

Michael, I'm still undecided about Obama, but I will also admit that your outrage is beginning to have the exact opposite of its desired effect. It's beginning, in fact, to take on the tone of a rant. And I don't think the 'June mistakes' are only on one side: Obama and the number of US states, Obama and his apparent ignorance of Memorial Day honors.

Michael Leddy said...

Lee, I'm sure you'll understand if I disagree. I think my comment on "June" is pretty restrained. Keith Olbermann on the RFK remark: that's a rant!

I do though think that the Clinton campaign is shameless: that the pursuit of the nomination makes all other matters insignificant. The campaign seems to have a clear position on the relation of means to end.

Lee said...

I do understand, and of course it's difficult to judge the temper of the campaigns just from media and internet coverage, influential as they are. I miss 'in the flesh' conversations.

That said, I have serious doubts that Obama is not also very clear about his 'means to end' and knows exactly how to use his appeal. The first thing I always ask myself is, why do I like this person? what precisely am I responding to?