Second, there is Hillary the Comeback Kid. One campaign official commented, "We're taking a long-term approach to the campaign and look at it as a delegate game. This is not like the playoffs, where if you don't win you don't advance." No -- my mistake -- that was not a Clinton official, it was Rudy Giuliani's campaign manager speaking last year. Giuliani tried -- as Clinton is trying -- to disprove an iron rule of politics: When you lose a lot, you eventually look like a loser.
Third, there is Hillary the Tested. "I've been examined one side up and the other side down," argues Clinton, while Obama has not. Well, it is true that the Clintons have been endlessly vetted -- but mainly because their shared career has been an endless string of scandals. Stuart Taylor of the National Journal recently took a depressing stroll back through the derelict funfair of the Clinton years: the deceptions about Gennifer and Monica, the Travelgate firings, the prosperous trade in cattle futures, the questionable transactions of Castle Grande, the strange case of the misplaced billing records. In the midst of these colorful controversies, Taylor observes, Clinton has developed "a bad reputation for truthfulness and veracity."
It is not enough to be vetted. The goal is to be vetted and found clean.
Though it is increasingly unlikely, Clinton may still have a path to the nomination -- and what a path it is. She merely has to puncture the balloon of Democratic idealism; sully the character of a good man; feed racial tensions within her party; then eke out a win with the support of unelected superdelegates, thwarting the hopes of millions of new voters who would see an inspiring young man defeated by backroom arm-twisting and arcane party rules.
Unlikely -- but it would be a fitting contribution to the Clinton legacy of monumental selfishness.