Rich Lowry

This has always been the corruption at the core of the Clinton team — Bill's heedlessness and the need to cover it up. It created a political ethic that has a rottenness at its heart, and Hillary has deeply partaken of it. She tacitly acknowledges as much. On the campaign trail, she says of Republicans, "I'm the one person they're most afraid of because Bill and I know how to beat them, and we have consistently." It's the war room as applause line.

Of course, Bill also always had an irresistible, lovable-rogue quality. With Hillary, voters will get all the bare knuckles with little of the charm. Howard Wolfson now refers somewhat dismissively to Obama "as someone running on a campaign of hope." Prior to Obama, the candidate most associated with hope in American politics was Bill Clinton. The enablers around him justified their hardball tactics on grounds that his Kennedyesque potential couldn't be wasted on some silly scandal or another.

In Bill, the Democrats had the entire package — a young, charismatic politician who was also an adept attack artist. Now, they have Obama, who represents the first tendency, and Hillary, who represents the second. Perhaps one of them will achieve a Bill Clintonesque synthesis. For now, their race is a test whether a self-described purveyor of hope can survive the rigors of running against a brilliant, experienced wielder of the convenient lie.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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