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Olbermann on Clinton and RFK

When The Fix heard late Friday that Keith Olbermann, the host of "Countdown" on MSNBC, was planning a "Special Comment" on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (N.Y.) raising of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in answer to a question about calls for her to leave the race, we made sure to Tivo the show to catch what Keith had to say.

Olbermann has emerged this election cycle as one of the leading voices on the political left -- beloved by liberals who believe he (and he alone) speaks truth to power when it comes to President Bush and, of late, the Clinton campaign. (Worth noting: The Fix is an occasional "Countdown" guest.)

He didn't disappoint. Here's what Keith had to say:

Whoah. Actually, WHOAH.

To say Olbermann's outrage was palpable is, um, an understatement. "You cannot say this," Olbermann lectured Clinton at the start of a series of comments that spanned more than ten minutes. He went on to call Clinton's comments "insensitive" and "heartless", adding that the comments offered a glimpse into the New York senator's soul that was "not merely troubling but frightening." Later he added: "We cannot forgive you this, Senator."

While Olbermann (and the coverage on television and on the blogs immediately after the fact) suggested that Clinton's comments in South Dakota would signal the end of the end for her presidential campaign, the issue has not shown the legs many believed it would -- yet.

Much of that has to do with Sen. Barack Obama's (Ill.) remarks in Puerto Rico yesterday in which he seemed willing to give Clinton a pass. "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 a radio interview.

Some of the seeming lack of outrage (Olbermann excepted) also has to do with the fact the news broke late Friday when many people were either out of town or headed that way for the long Memorial Day weekend.

Clinton, for her part, penned an editorial in the New York Daily News today seeking to further explain her comments -- and offer more context on why she continues to run.

In an op-ed entitled "Hillary: Why I Continue To Run" Clinton wrote that "I realize that any reference to that traumatic moment for our nation can be deeply painful" before adding: "I was deeply dismayed and disturbed that my comment would be construed in a way that flies in the face of everything I stand for -- and everything I am fighting for in this election."

Politico head honcho -- and Fix mentor -- John F. Harris has posted a must-read piece on the media scrum in the wake of Clinton's comments and analyzing whether it was the right or wrong way to handle the situation.

The most interesting point: "Clinton's clumsiness does not excuse news media clumsiness in making a minor story seem like a major one," according to Harris.

How big a story are her assassination remarks? Should they be getting more or less coverage? Why or why not?

By Chris Cillizza  |  May 25, 2008; 10:35 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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