Clinton's Context

"I don't think she's hoping for some tragic catastrophic event to intervene," Obama senior strategist David Axelrod told MSNBC's "Hardball" this afternoon, when discussing Sen. Hillary Clinton's controversial invocation of Robert Kennedy's assassination during a general discussion about whether  her staying in the race puts party unity at risk.

Some in the Clinton campaign are saying that the media is misrepresenting the context of her remarks. She was not discussing why she's staying in the race, they say. She was saying that she doesn't think the length of the race was hurting the party.

The way it played out, Clinton pushed back strongly when the Argus Leader editorial board asked about reports that her campaign was pushing for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to take Clinton as his running mate, or that she was making plans to drop out of the race.

Flatly untrue, she said.

"Neither of us has the number of delegates needed to be the nominee, and every time they declare it doesn't make it so. Neither of us do," Clinton said, according to a transcript assembled by the ABC News political unit's Talal Alkhatib. "And I've never seen anything like this. I have, perhaps, a long enough memory that many people who finished a rather distant second behind nominees go all the way to the convention. I remember very well 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, where some who had contested in the primaries, you know, were determined to carry their case to the convention. I'm ahead in the popular vote. Less than 200 delegates separate us out of 4,400. Michigan and Florida are not resolved. No one has the nomination, so I would look to the camp of my opponent for the source of those stories."

She said, "People have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa. ... I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don't understand it. And between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this. And, you know, historically that makes no sense. So I find it a bit of a mystery."

"You don't buy the 'party unity' argument?" she was asked.

"I don't," Clinton said. "And again, I've been around long enough. You know, my husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary sometime in the middle of June. Right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I just-- I don't understand it. And you know, there's lots of speculation about why it is, but uh..."

She was asked: "What's your speculation?"

"You know, I don't know," she said. "I find it curious, and I don't want to attribute motives or strategies to people that I don't really know. But it is-- It's a historical curiosity to me."

The debate seems to be whether Clinton was merely suggesting that previous Democratic races have gone on a long time, through June, and, "Hey, remember that horrible moment in 1968 with Bobby Kennedy's assassination was in June?" -- or whether she was saying, "Hey, anything could happen. Obama might get assassinated. No reason for me to drop out yet."

The Argus Leader editorial board issued a statement saying, "The context of the question and answer with Sen. Clinton was whether her continued candidacy jeopardized party unity this close to the Democratic convention. Her reference to Mr. Kennedy's assassination appeared to focus on the timeline of his primary candidacy and not the assassination itself."

Judge it for yourself. The Argus Leader has posted the video HERE.

-- jpt

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