Paul Greenberg

Hillary Clinton has come a far piece in this campaign. Down.

Call it the saga of the Incredible Sinking Woman, for she started off as her party's presumptive nominee for president of the United States. All she had to do was wait to be crowned after the results of Super Tuesday back in early February. Then she could begin her campaign in earnest against the poor, out-financed candidate the Republicans would finally put up. But then that pesky upstart Barack Obama intervened in, of all places, lily-white Iowa and it was back to the drawing board.

The damage control seemed to have worked by New Hampshire, where Hillary! emerged as Comeback Kid II, repeating what her husband claimed to have done in '92 - only to watch her unbeatable lead prove beatable in subsequent primary after primary. By early May, an only-narrow win in Indiana wasn't enough to get her back in the winner's circle, not when teamed with a landslide loss in North Carolina.

So she's changed personas once again. This time she's reincarnated herself as a kind of poll-driven, demographically sophisticated, Ivy League version of George C. Wallace. Did you catch that classic clip of her trying to down a shot of Purple Sock in an Indiana bar to show she's just one of the guys? She sipped it. Like a lady sampling an upscale rosE, and trying not to be offended.

It was all enough to make Richard Nixon's long derided Southern Strategy look subtle. Only this time there's no sub- to the presidential candidate's text. It's all out there in the ugly open. Just listen to her citing AP exit polls after Indiana and North Carolina that "found how Sen. Obama's support among working - hard-working Americans, white Americans - is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me. There's a pattern emerging here."

There certainly is, and it isn't pretty. It's the same pattern Clinton home pioneered, much to his embarrassment, after his spouse's defeat in South Carolina, which he tried to dismiss as the victory of just another strictly black candidate a la Jesse Jackson in another, far different presidential campaign. When he was called on that remark, he resorted to claiming, in that highly indignant fashion he puts on, that it was the Obama people who were trying to play the race card against him.

There is apparently no limit to what Clinton, Mr. or Mrs., will say in a tight spot. They've now long passed the point where charisma has become just chutzpah.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.