Rich Galen

* Hillary Clinton, according to the reporting of the NY Times' Adam Nagourney, came under withering attack from the rest of the Democratic presidential field last night in a pitched two-hour debate that her opponents used to challenge her candor and electability and to portray her as enabling President Bush to prepare for an invasion of Iran.

* The central point of the debate was Hillary's refusal to answer Tim Russert's question about whether or not she supported NY Governor Elliot Spitzer's plan to issue driver's licenses to illegal - that's ILLEGAL - aliens.

* According to New York's Newsday newspaper: At the debate, Clinton appeared to both endorse and oppose Gov. Eliot Spitzer's controversial plan to give driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants.

* According to the Fox News website, after all the candidates were asked if they supported Spitzer's plan, only Sen. Christopher Dodd said he disagreed. He then pressed Clinton on the issue and argued against the plan, saying: "A license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view."

Clinton responded: "Well, I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do."

Dodd then quickly interrupted Clinton before she could finish, seizing on the apparent discrepancy. Moderator Tim Russert then tried to elicit an answer on whether she supported the plan or not, but she avoided offering specific support for the plan.

* On Wednesday, according to Newsday, "the campaign issued an unusual clarification, saying she now supports the plan's concept without commenting on specifics."

* But that's not all. What the campaign did was to claim that the seven male candidates (plus moderator Tim Russert) had ganged up on Hillary thus claiming that she was - once again - a female being victimized by the men in her life.

* This was a very successful tactic when she ran against Rick Lazio in her first election for US Senate in 2000.

* But it will not be so successful in 2008 running for President. In fact, the Clinton campaign has placed itself squarely in a political box which may have long range effects.

* Americans may be perfectly happy to have a female President, but they probably do not want a female President who is going to be shattered by being put upon by men.

* Especially if the men she is being shattered by happen to run countries like Iran and Cuba and North Korea and China.

* The Clinton campaign understands the damage which was done to her during the debate. They held a conference call with fundraisers, a breakfast with other supporters, and put out statements in an effort, according to The Hill newspaper to "apparently to stop whatever bleeding the senator might have sustained during a debate in which Clinton wore a bull's-eye on her back throughout the evening."

* Over the past few months, Hillary Clinton has built a 20+ percentage point lead over her nearest rival Barack Obama and a 30 point lead over John Edwards.

* For his part, according to the MSNBC website, Obama is trying to have it both ways as well.

Advisers to Obama told NBC News that Obama reviewed tapes of Bill Clinton's debate performances in his victorious 1992 campaign for clues to how to ratchet up his attacks on [Hillary Clinton] without sacrificing his likeability.

* Maybe he deserves to be stuck at 20% in the national polls.

* The Iowa Caucuses will be held on January 3, meaning we are only eight weeks away and Hillary's rivals have a make a move and make a move quickly.

* Hillary gave them the opening they have been looking for when she stumbled, mumbled and then crumbled during the debate.

* The Clinton campaign is going to have to decide - and quickly - whether they want to present her as a strong person, or a victimized woman.

* Like Hillary's debate answers, they can't have it both ways.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.