When politicians err, really err, it’s often because they recite the stage directions — the part of the script that directs an actor but is supposed to be unknown to the audience. The Elder George Bush once famously read his stage directions off a card in New Hampshire in 1991. “Message: I care,” he said, forgetting for the moment that he was supposed to do something to deliver the message, not speak his handlers’ words aloud.
Hillary Clinton yesterday made the mistake that will almost surely enter her name in the annals of campaign infamy. Asked why she was staying in the race, she essentially pointed out that, hey, you never know what’s going to happen, so why not stick around? People say June is so late, but RFK was assassinated in June 1968, so….uh oh….
What came out of her mouth was something discussed in late-night sessions at her campaign headquarters, or in tete-a-tetes with Bill — even if the race appears to be sewn up, how can you know something really bad isn’t going to happen to Obama? His crony Rezko could get convicted and agree to sell him out for a lesser sentence. Video could surface of Obama ranting like Jeremiah Wright. Bob Torricelli got indicted. Spitzer got caught with a hooker. McGreevey was outed by a gay lover. Or something really bad could happen. An assassination or something.
When one speaks as frequently as Hillary Clinton, speeches all day, local interviews all night, it would almost be impossible for gaffes not to emerge from her lips. (Obama, at a shul on Thursday, referred to himself as “one who is blessed,” which was unfortunate too, even though he was only translating his first name; another example of this, though far more anodyne, obviously.) But in her position, there is no margin for error, and certainly not in even making a sideways reference to an assassination when there is a black man running for president who might be the target of some psychotic’s murderous fascination.
The reaction is overwrought, and the whole business has been skilfully manipulated by the Obama campaign to deliver a TKO of its already wounded rival. But that’s politics. No one made her open a mouth.