But now Hillary is the Democrats' establishment candidate, pitted against the true believer, John Edwards, and the idealist, Obama. Even committed liberals tell focus groups she's too cold, too calculating.
And how did she get that way? She studied at the feet of the master. Bill Clinton cast himself as a champion of the "Third Way," a grandiose political phrase with disturbing intellectual roots. For Bill, it mostly meant that he could split the difference between any two positions. Any hard choice was a "false choice." When asked how he'd have voted on the first Persian Gulf War, he said he agreed with the minority but would have voted with the majority. He smoked pot but didn't inhale. Monica Lewinsky had sex with him, but he could swear under oath he didn't have sex with her.
Bill can make those sorts of things work because he really believes them - or at least he does as the words are coming out of his mouth. Hillary has nowhere near that sort of skill. She's learned the dance moves and she's memorized the lyrics, but she can't hear the music. That was evident in the now-infamous Oct. 30 debate performance during which she said she was both for and against driver's licenses for illegal immigrants and for and against pulling troops out of Iraq.
In this race, she's tried to be hawk and dove, idealist and pragmatist, martyr and hero. But unlike her husband - a jazz impresario of people-pleasing prevarication - she's a terrible liar. She comes across as calculated because that's all that's left to her: calculation. Jesse Jackson once famously said that Bill Clinton had no core beliefs, he was simply "appetite" all the way down. That appetite seems to have become community property in the Clinton household, such as it is.
Obama is surging because Democrats want idealism and hope. Hillary has jettisoned her idealism, and she's filed down her hope to mere yearning.