The level of Hillary Clinton’s exasperation at seeing the White House slip from her grasp became apparent last Friday when she committed what is being called her “killer gaffe.” We refer to her determination to keep running in the race with Barack Obama, and an interview with South Dakota’s Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper, in which she recounted that Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June 1992 in California. If anyone has been wondering what Hillary meant when she said repeatedly that “anything can happen” between now and the convention, the answer is clear: the same fate that befell Robert Kennedy could be visited upon Barack Obama. And if such a misfortune should occur, Hillary will be there, acceptance speech in hand.

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California,” Clinton said. A spokesman for the Obama camp said Clinton’s comment “has no place in this campaign.” The Boston Herald suggested that the remark hinted of desperation; Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina called her statement “beyond the pale.”

Even allowing for the fatigue and weariness that accompanies a prolonged campaign, the fact is Hillary made the same inelegant comment once before, in an interview with TIME magazine last March. This most recent assassination reference has Hillary once again backpedaling and apologizing. The New York Daily News noted that “with both feet in her mouth, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on,” even though the senator said her words were taken out of context and that she was simply pointing to a historic fact. The faux-pas recalled Hillary’s deplorable playing of the race card earlier this month, after the Illinois and North Carolina primaries, saying that “Obama’s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening.”

The security risk surrounding Obama is not a new topic. He began receiving Secret Service protection a year and a half before the general election because security officials were worried about possible threats against him. But Hillary’s insensitive reference to the fatal shooting of Robert Kennedy has triggered highly negative reaction nationwide, including the reaction of many Clinton loyalists. Even Clinton’s campaign staff has remained largely silent, apparently feeling that the less said the better. The Daily News described Clinton’s remarks as leaving “a gaping, self-inflicted wound.”

Political analysts say the thought of Hillary becoming Obama’s running mate has now all but been destroyed, even though Bill Clinton continues to play a gumptious offstage role in advancing that possibility. In a campaign already characterized as doomed, this latest stumble has done significant harm to her party as well as to Clinton’s “legacy.” The timing couldn’t have been worse: there is the deplorable news of Edward Kennedy’s brain tumor, the upcoming anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, and the recent anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death.

So Hillary now faces the dual disappointment of not only losing the grand nomination prize, but also presenting Barack Obama with the perfect justification for not choosing her as his vice president. Any hope of Hillary’s aspiration to unify the Democrat Party in the waning weeks of the campaign has evaporated like the Dixie dew.

Be Sociable, Share!