Politics makes strange bedfellows. Everyone knows that. This campaign makes for strange bed-hopping. (How post-modern.) Hillary haters find themselves cheering Sen. Ted Kennedy to rally Democrats behind Barack Obama. Some voters are seduced by Sen. Obama's inspiring rhetoric, but many others merely see him as a way to get the Clinton soap opera off prime time. (How post-everything.)
Cynicism is not the driving force of the campaign, but it is a force. The conventional Republican wisdom -- conventional wisdom is not always wrong -- is that Hillary would galvanize the wobbly conservatives who might stay home now that Fred Thompson is a drop-out. They might look at things differently if the race is finally between John McCain or Mitt Romney against Barack Obama.
Differences would be stark, and the debates could be enlightening. Experience and character should count for a lot. Whereas Hillary might say anything to get elected, Sen. Obama would be forced to move beyond inspiring rhetoric and get specific about his conventionally liberal positions on domestic and foreign policies. No triangulation for him. He could campaign on his authenticity, something she couldn't do. She still blames the vast right-wing conspiracy for her husband's infidelities.
Bill Clinton insists that Hillary and John McCain are close and they would make "the most civilized election in American history," but a McCain-Obama match might more readily live up to that interpretation. Civility is Mr. Obama's calling card, and John McCain continues to draw our admiration for his sustained courage and steely character in a North Vietnamese prison.
We all have our own ideas about who would make the best leader in these difficult times, but it's impossible to know exactly what kind of leadership a president will show in office before he actually moves into the White House. "Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them," Shakespeare observed in "Twelfth Night." This phrase rings with truth, but be aware that it comes from a letter written to deceive Malvolio, a clownish character who foolishly saw himself as being singled out for greatness.