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Assassination Chatter, the End of Legitimacy and Why I Can Barely Turn on My Television

Over the weekend, when discussing Hillary Clinton’s latest assassination remark, Fox News’ contributor Liz Trotta slipped up and called Senator Obama "Osama."  "Some are reading [it] as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama…Obama. Well…both if we could," Trotta giggled.

These types remarks are variously called "gaffs," an interesting, soft little word that disguises the true impact.  Trotta’s comment is probably a true gaff.   Watching the broader segment, I really don’t think she meant to say that Obama should be "knocked off."  She probably meant she preferred that he be defeated in the electoral process.  (Trotta reportedly apologized later but I haven’t seen her apology.)

It’s a lot for me to let Trotta off the hook (just a little) on this because I’m deeply concerned about the media assassination chatter and the contemptible drive to link Obama to Osama Bin Laden. 

But fair is fair - evaluating Trotta’s remarks in context, it seems she slipped up, although was perhaps Freudian one.

Hillary’s comments, however, are another matter altogether.  In no way can her remarks be called a "gaff’ or an "outburst."  She said it before and I argued over the weekend that her RFK reference appears to be scripted.

What’s really being revealed in the dark underbelly of this country.  The Obama candidacy was initially a shining moment.  The fact that an African-American might be nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate made my family’s heart burst with pride.  Finally, westarted believe that country’s ideals of freedom,  opportunity, tolerance, fairness and equal treatment were not mere words scratched into the Bill of Rights or our constituion.   

For awhile I was struck by how far we’d come since the days of Selma, Alabama where as a very young child I clearly recall horrific media images of African-Americans being hosed down by the police.   Or the day the three young civil rights workers murdered and found in a shallow grave.  These memories are etched in my memory clearly as the day the nuns walked into my grade school classroom to say that Kennedy had been shot and we all fell to our knees next to our desks and prayed.

Now, with all the media chatter about assassination and Liz Trotta’s latest slip, I’m sickened   The continued media drumbeat suggesting that an African-American leader could, or worse, should be killed, has laid bare our dark underbelly of hate.

I blame Hillary Clinton the most.  She has been willing to tap our deep vein of racism and to send smoke signals that an Obama assassination would clear the way for her candidacy.  

As a television critic, I’m supposed to be covering the media.  Now, I can hardly bare to turn on the television.  And everytime I open up my computer to check Internet buzz, I come across another so-called joke about offing Senator Obama.

Huffington Posts David Bromwich, a Yale Professor of Literature, wrote eloquently today about the "language of generalized insult and contempt…The most disturbing element of [Clinton’s] remark was this: that it chose to treat assassination as just one more political possibility, one of the things that happen in our politics, like hecklers, lobbyists, and forced resignations. The slovenly morale and callousness of such a released fantasy is catching."

Over the weekend, I told my husband that I felt that all this language sent a subtle but unmistakable message of encouragement - "Just do it and I win by default."  It doesn’t matter whether Hillary’s remarks were meant to intentionally send this appalling message.  Even if unintentional, the remarks (remember, these remarks appear to be scripted) show astonishingly bad judgement. 

Anyone with half a brain can make the connection.  Is Terry McAulliffe,  Hillary’s campaign manager and one of the most experienced in the business, that stupid?  I don’t think so.

And here’s what Bromwich had to say, chillingly:

An unmeasurable but well-recorded condition for the assassination of John F. Kennedy was the campaign of delegitimation that preceded that terrible event….The hatred was especially virulent in the South. Death threats were in the air and Kennedy had been warned against taking the trip to Texas.

Huffington Post’s