Column: Devolution Of Clinton's Campaign Disheartening

This story was written by Matt Petryni, Oregon Daily Emerald

Last week, Hillary Clinton again made news in the presidential race when she all but suggested in a videotaped newspaper interview that her logic for staying in the race, despite Barack Obama's insurmountable lead, relied largely on a hope that an assassination could take place which would by default make her the nominee. The comment referenced the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy - a similarly charismatic, hopeful leader running on a ticket of change - which took place late in the nominating process. Kennedy, at the time, had the nomination all but sewed up, as Obama does now. Clinton was providing an example of how, in a close race, anything can happen - anything, she supposes, including assassination.

This actually was not the first time she's cited the 1968 tragedy. It came up several times throughout the race, when she suffered major setbacks in her bid to become the Democratic nominee. But they were largely overlooked in those previous cases because she used them at a time when there were a great number of primaries still to occur - and it was clear that the specter of a horrible tragedy that could result in her nomination at another's expense was not the only reason for continuing this race.

Before this comment, actually, I had given Clinton the benefit of the doubt. She remained because she believed the process should be played out completely, I thought; that every state should have its chance to vote. And with few states left, only three at this point, there's no reason she should drop out this late and snub those few states. This is actually a sensible argument. It's not going to take long to actually finish off the process completely, so why not?

But referencing the Kennedy assassination as an example of how one could secure the nomination despite ever more difficult odds suggests a level of desperation that borders on the inordinately selfish and the criminally insane. What gets me here is the question: "What the hell happened?"

I've supported Hillary Clinton since she first began her campaign for the Senate. I found her a dynamic, well-connected and smart leader who cares deeply about the future of our country. She represented a level of intellect and dedication that are required to seriously deal with the problems we face both in this country and around the world. Hers was a level of intellect and dedication largely looked down upon by the celebrated incompetence of the Bush era.

And so, I was disappointed to find that she voted to authorize an obviously belligerent president to go to war in Iraq in 2002. Anyone who knows their history and knows how governments - like Bush's - constantly try to find new ways to gain more power would instantly have seen this to be a critical mistake, as Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden did when faced with the same vote. Sen. Gordon Smith, of course, did not, but everyone expects him to be an idiot when compared with the likes of a Hillary Clinton, so somehow that was less disappointing.

The true tragedy of this embittered Democratic nomination contest is the transformation - perhaps, devolution - of Hillary Clinton. She started off with an air of inevitability, transformed to a leader of change, morphed again into a tough fighter making a comeback, dropped down onto the low road with a series of harsh, negative and personal attacks on her opponent, next a supporter of a economically ridiculous gas tax who ignores basic expert opinion, then claimed ground as a populist, down-home small town politician who understood "guns and religion" like Obama supposedly did not, and finally became the diehard Huckabee-type who hopes for the tragic downfall of her party's nominee so that she may finally ascend to greatness. The whole process, to me, was incredibly bizarre and painful to watch.

Painful, largely, because I liked the old Hillary Clinton. I admired her courage, her commitment, even her strength to put up with Bill's shenanigans (as good a president as he was, I'd have to be insane to not acknowledge his personal flaws). But all of this transformation, these new personas, the pandering - it's just unforgivable.

I had decided not to support Hillary's campaign for president late in the race (after New Hampshire), mainly for her failure to stand against the war when it mattered, for the fear of a Bush-Clinton dynasty, and of course for the inspiration Obama is capable of drawing from a long-discouraged American people. But it wasn't until this week that I became unsure even if she should remain in the Senate. Citing the possibility of assassination of a presidential candidate when explaining the reasoning for continuing the campaign is simply too far. It indicates a level of selfishness - deep, on the inside - rapidly fortifying a Republican argument that the Clintons have mostly been in it for themselves. And that much alone is terribly depressing, for sure.