Gen. Douglas MacArthur said that every military defeat can be explained by two words: "too late." Too late in anticipating danger, too late in preparing for it, too late in taking action. Clinton's political defeat can be similarly explained -- too late in recognizing that the electorate does not acknowledge her entitlement to the presidency, too late in understanding that she had a serious challenger, too late in anticipating that she would not dispatch Barack Obama by Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), too late in planning for the special challenges of caucus states, too late in channeling her inner shot-and-a-beer hard hat.
Most of all, she was too late in understanding how much the Democratic Party's mania for "fairness," as mandated by liberals like her, has, by forbidding winner-take-all primaries, made it nearly impossible for her to overcome Obama's early lead in delegates. If Democrats, who genuflect at the altar of "diversity," allowed more of it in their delegate selection process, things might look very different. If even, say, Texas, California and Ohio were permitted to have winner-take-all primaries (as 48 states have winner-take-all allocation of their electoral votes), Clinton would have been more than 400 delegates ahead of Obama before Tuesday and today would be at her ancestral home in New York planning to return some of its furniture to the White House next January.
Tuesday night must have been almost as much fun for John McCain as for Obama. The Republican brand has been badly smudged by recent foreign and domestic policies, which are the only kinds there are, so McCain's hopes rest on the still-unattached cohort called "Reagan Democrats," who still seem somewhat resistant to Obama.
McCain's problem might turn out to be the fact that Obama is the Democrats' Reagan. Obama's rhetorical cotton candy lacks Reagan's ideological nourishment, but he is Reaganesque in two important senses: People like listening to him, and his manner lulls his adversaries into underestimating his sheer toughness -- the tempered steel beneath the sleek suits.