This weekend the suddenly former frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination was shifting some of the chairs on the foundering ship S.S. Clinton. She fired her campaign manager after Barack Obama swept a round of primaries and caucuses - Nebraska, Louisiana, Washington state, Maine, the Virgin Islands.
Hillary! may yet pull this thing out of the fire, but it won't be easy. For one thing, there's her Bill problem. William Jefferson Clinton used to have the surest of political instincts. Now every time he speaks up for the Mrs., he alienates more voters. He seems to have lost his touch. All those post-presidential years hobnobbing with the power elite from Davos to Kazakhstan may have taken their toll. It's as if he'd turned into one of those corporate fat cats he used to inveigh against.
Obamamania mounts across the country, and the Clintonistas still struggle to counter it. Catch phrases (Experience! Ready to do the job from Day One!) may not work against a self-possessed candidate the likes of which Democrats haven't seen since Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy back in 1968. Barack Obama seems to combine the appeal of both, not to mention the grace of JFK in 1960.
Once again a new generation is insisting on being heard, and it's being joined this election year by the generation still suffering from Clinton Fatigue and eager to, yes, move on.
The real drama this year has not been the fall of Hillary Clinton but the rise of Barack Obama. He's got the touch of the great politician, which isn't easy to define but is immediately evident on the campaign trail. Call it charisma, magnetism, charm.
Camus once defined charm as "a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear questions." Any slight policy differences that Barack Obama may have with Hillary Clinton may be unclear, but the two couldn't be more different. She seems charmless, he irresistible. The personal, as it turns out, really is the political.
Who would have thought it? Eloquence still seems to matter in American politics. So does a dogged insistence on victory, however improbable it may seem at times. See the surprising strength of both Barack Obama and John McCain.
One of the surest signs of a free country is that it'll surprise you. A lot. By that standard, there's no doubt that this is still the land of the free. More surprises doubtless await in what already has been a most surprising year.
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