Kathleen Parker

Not to mention when her previously inevitable date with fate is challenged.

Two-fisted brawling has its appeal, to be sure. We seem especially to admire tough grrrrrls who can deliver a strategic wallop to a male foe. But four-fisted pummeling against one skinny guy, as Hillary and Bill have done in recent weeks, has struck many Americans as, well, un-American. And unfair in the extreme. Toss in a racial component, as the Clintons have, and you incite a riot of contempt.

Hillary's perceived minimizing of Martin Luther King's courage and sacrifice may have been an honest attempt to highlight the importance of Washington know-how, but it also betrayed a lack of judgment and sensitivity toward the African-American community she and Bill had courted so assiduously through the years.

Was it real, or was it pandering? The answer may be found in Bill's assessment of Obama's South Carolina primary victory: "Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88." By implication: It's just a black thing.

This was not a pretty moment for the Clintons. It was certainly not Kennedyesque from the most ardent pretender to Camelot. It must be bruising to Bill Clinton, who fashioned his own political life after JFK's, that Obama should be the one to capture Princess Caroline's affections.

For his part, Obama would rather have the Kennedy imprimatur than not, but he's no JFK, as even he would surely insist. And maybe he doesn't want to be. Camelot was once a dream, but today it is a curse. No one can live up to a hallowed past, especially one that didn't really exist.

Perhaps the reason we attach ourselves to the legacies of icons past is because we have so little faith in the future. But surely it's time to let Kennedy and Reagan rest in peace. They've earned it -- and imitations are always just that.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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