Obama “empathizes” with Clinton over

Kennedy comment

By Thomas Ferraro Sat May 24, 9:06 PM ET

Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama empathized with rival Hillary Clinton on Saturday for the firestorm she ignited by referring to the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy.

“I have learned that when you are campaigning for as many months as Senator Clinton and I have been campaigning, sometimes you get careless in terms of the statements that you make and I think that is what happened here,” Obama said in an interview with Radio Isla Puerto Rico during a campaign visit to the Caribbean Island and U.S. territory”

On Friday, Clinton cited the June 1968 assassination of Kennedy during his Democratic presidential campaign to help explain why she was still in the race for the party’s nomination.

“My husband (Bill Clinton) 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,” she told a South Dakota newspaper’s editorial board.

Clinton’s reference to the Kennedy assassination drew a quick rebuke on Friday from Obama’s campaign and she apologized.

Kennedy, brother of slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, was assassinated in Los Angeles just after winning the California Democratic primary.

Obama has a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates to the party’s nominating convention after months of contests that began in January, but Clinton has refused to give up until the last votes are cast and counted. The Democratic nominee will face Republican John McCain in the November election.

With Puerto Rico set to hold its Democratic nominating contest next Sunday, Obama and Clinton both campaigned on the island on Saturday. Fifty-five delegates will be up for grabs in the June 1 vote, with Clinton favored to win the bulk of them. The territory cannot vote in the presidential election.

Clinton made no reference to the Kennedy remark in addressing a rally of several hundred people in the coastal town of Aguadilla after Obama went on a parade-style walk through San Juan.

Instead, she sought to rally the crowd, saying, “If you stand for me, I will fight for you every day in the White House.” They responded with chants of “Hillary, Hillary.”

Obama Empathizes With Clinton…

ABOUT THE TABOO TOPIC:

While Clinton’s remarks drew headlines and became a hot
topic of debate on talk shows, her campaign made it clear it
believed the flap had been overblown and would subside.

“Senator Clinton was very clear yesterday when she explained she was simply
raising historical references,” noting some Democratic primary campaigns had stretched into June, Clinton campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee said on Saturday.”

There have long been concerns about the safety of Obama,
who would be the first black U.S. president. The Illinois
senator was given Secret Service protection 18 months before
the November election — earlier than any other candidate has
received increased security.

Clinton’s comment brought up the taboo topic of the
possibility of a rival’s assassination, and political analysts
said the remark was a serious gaffe.

“This is serious. It’s more serious because there were
already questions about why Hillary Clinton was still in the
race and what she was hoping for,” said Calvin Jillson,
political science professor at Southern Methodist University.”What she articulated was the most catastrophic
possibility,” he said. Jillson said the reference to Kennedy’s
assassination made the chance of Clinton being asked to be
Obama’s vice presidential running mate even more unlikely.

The state-by-state nominating contests end on June 3, when
15 delegates will be awarded in South Dakota and 16 in Montana.
Clinton will spend much of the rest of next week campaigning in
those two states.

The Democratic nominee will likely be decided by the nearly
800 superdelegates — members of Congress and other party
insiders — free to vote for whomever they want. Most have
endorsed Obama.

Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States is the
central issue in the island’s politics. Both Clinton and Obama
support allowing Puerto Ricans to decide for themselves whether
they want to try for statehood or keep their current status.

There are 3.9 million residents on the island, which has a
median income half that of the poorest U.S. state, and an
almost equal number of Puerto Ricans live on the mainland.

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