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May 27, 2008

So Let's Talk About Assassination,
Shall We?

By Mary Lyon

Yes. I heard it. But Hillary Clinton's only one of the most recent public figures to bring up that dirty little unmentionable in American political history. She inferred, more than once, that she, in effect, might as well stay in because - well - something could happen (presumably to her Democratic competitor, Barack Obama), maybe even something similar to what befell Robert F. Kennedy 40 years ago. She brought it up at all in an attempt to name at least two examples of primary campaigns continuing into June, the other example being her husband's first presidential run. Howeve, the record now shows that most of her listeners concluded something completely different.

The most miserable part of this is the fact, the sad fact, that those fears and dreads even have to exist, that they're even there, lurking in the back of our minds, whenever we see some political figure rise from the herd to offer leadership and inspiration. It's sadder still that those fears and dreads are based on tragedies that are very real, very cataclysmic, and very heart-rending. Frankly, I'm sure that a similar sense of dread has crossed the minds of Clinton's supporters understandably worried about her safety. In fact, I'd bet on it.

So okay then, let's talk about assassination. It's the crazy uncle we all try to keep shut away in the attic where nobody really has to deal with it or face it. But there's talking about it and then there's talking about it.

I don't find Hillary Clinton's statement nearly as offensive as I do the callous, cavalier, reckless, at best ill-advised, smart-ass remark by another woman who should know better, far better than even Clinton should. Exhibit A: veteran newswoman and Fox News Channel commentator Liz Trotta, who should be severely reprimanded, or suspended - or more - for the following:

"And now we have what, uh, some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama, um uh, Obama, well both if we could (laughs)."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjYpkvcmog0

Way to go, Liz. Voice that repulsive, thoughtless, criminally-negligent arrogance on a cable network already distinguished, along with most of its viewers, for not standing up and saluting Barack Obama. In the interest of being truly "fair and balanced," I will say she apologized the next day, at the end of a long segment, but only after prompting from interviewer Bill Hemmer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B-hRSgPPZc&feature=related

I once admired Liz Trotta for the foundational work she did - as a woman covering wars and international news in a time when women seldom if ever had a chance to prove themselves on such beats. She was a pioneer for women in broadcast journalism, and cut paths through uncharted terrain for all the rest of us women who came after her. Many of us saw her as an inspiration and a role model, in the same pantheon as Pauline Frederick, Catherine Mackin, and Barbara Walters.

It's with shock and a deep sense of disgust that I say SHAME on you, Liz Trotta. At age 71, with all those decades of experience in locales ranging from the nation's capital to the biggest network newsrooms to any number of overseas war fronts, you should have known better. You're a battle-tested professional who's been at it WAY long enough not to make as glaring and stupid a "slip-up" as that regardless your personal politics, much less to offer an apology that sounded more like a mea culpa for having thrown the white underwear in with the red bath towels.

Hillary's apology hasn't exactly been hailed by all quarters for its sincerity, either, but at least she had sense enough not to smirk. Trotta's contribution - perhaps because of the sideways smile that accompanied it -  had all the sensitivity of a Dick Cheney torture-rationalization meeting. Further, she compounded the unsavory taste of her statements by referring to this as "a very colorful political season." Meaning what, Liz? In any other context that might be a relatively droll line, but you've now established your "credibility" on this subject. Therefore it will be justifiably tweezered, scrutinized, and slammed.

Roger Simon of Politico.com, guesting on MSNBC's "Hardball," asserted "you just don't go there." Unfortunately, some people have done just that. The visuals alone from a mid-month Georgia weekly magazine (The Roswell Beacon) cover featuring a picture of Barack Obama in the cross hairs of a rifle are stomach-turning enough. This whole sordid sub-chapter in the campaign also got a fairly high-octane boost recently when Mike Huckabee weighed in with a literally funereal attempt at a joke. His didn't merely wish, off-handedly, that somebody would rub Obama out, but instead painted a "hilarious" scene in which Obama allegedly heard a gunshot and dove under a table in the back of the room at a big NRA gathering. A real laugh-riot, that one - NOT. The former McCain opponent also should have known better. MUCH better.

Huckabee, you slay me.
Roswell Beacon editors - you damn near horrify me.
Trotta, you deeply disappoint me.
Senator Clinton, please don't go there anymore, especially since the 40th anniversary of RFK's assassination is upon us. And for heaven's sakes, don't start joking about it.




ABOUT MARY LYON

Mary Lyon is a veteran broadcaster and five-time Golden Mike Award winner who has anchored, reported, and written for the Associated Press Radio Network, NBC Radio "The Source," and many Los Angeles-area stations including KRTH-FM/AM, KLOS-FM, KFWB-AM, and KTLA-TV, and occasional media analyst for ABC Radio News.  Mary began her career as a liberal activist with the Student Coalition for Humphrey / Muskie in 1968 and helped spearhead a regional campaign, The Power 18, to win the right to vote for 18-year-olds. She remains an advocate for liberal causes, responsibility and accountability in media, environmental education and support of the arts for children, and green living. Mary writes for OpEdNews.com, Democrats.us, World News Trust, and WeDemocrats.org's We! Magazine. Mary is also a parenting expert, having written and illustrated the book "The Frazzled Working Woman's Practical Guide to Motherhood."

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