WASHINGTON - The national news media has declared former secretary of State Hillary Clinton the clear winner in Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate.
But they're hardly a paragon of political objectivity when it comes to the former first lady. They've been giving her a pass ever since the Clintons came to Washington, and on the whole, even her rivals for the presidency treated her gently and from time to time came to her defense.
Let's face it, they gave her a pass from beginning to end.
Still, when it comes to bare knuckle political combat, she knows how to play offense. She was crafty, slippery, vague when she wanted to be, combative and confident.
There were no aggressive questions or followups about the murder of four Americans at the minimally secured U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
When she was asked about Libya's downfall, Clinton shifted to an earlier storyline that had nothing to do with the chaos in that country now.
"Our response, which I think was smart power at its best, is that the United States will not lead this," Clinton said. "We will provide essential, unique capabilities that we have, but the European and the Arabs had to be first over the line."
What she conveniently did not address was that the country has since plunged into war with the Islamic State.
So she shifted into a vague reply, dismissing Libya's downfall with one sentence: "Because of the Arab Spring, because of a lot of other things, there was turmoil to be followed," she said.
Republicans were aghast at how she could rewrite the past with soothing, meaningless excuses that had nothing to do with Libya's situation now that the Washington Post calls "a cauldron of chaos and Islamist militias."
"'Smart power at its best' Seriously?" former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on Twitter.
This was a night when there were only two dominant candidates on the stage, Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, who has been closing in on Clinton in some key primary states.
The others, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island are at the bottom of their party's polls.
None of them questioned Clinton's qualifications to be president, nor raised any of the major scandals in her past when she was in the White House and State Department.
None of them had the stomach to question her foreign policy record that shows no achievements to speak of.
When she was asked about the e-mail scandal in which federal investigators discovered she had sent classified information over her private computer, Sanders went to her defense!
Dismissing findings that she had compromised State Department information, by using her home computer system, Sanders angrily said too much has been made of the bombshell disclosures.
Americans are "tired of hearing about" it, Sanders said of the revelations that are now being investigated by half a dozen or more agencies and departments, from the FBI to a team of inspector generals and several congressional committees.
Clinton told a story at one point in the debate when the discussion turned to Wall Street's role in the subprime mortgage scandal that triggered the 2008 recession.
In an attempt to show she had berated Wall Street bankers who were foreclosing on home owners, she told about meeting with a group of bankers in 2007 when she was representing New York in the Senate.
"I basically said, 'Cut it out. Quit foreclosing on homes. Quit engaging in these kinds of speculative behaviors.'" Clinton said.
She said nothing about playing any role in the Senate to prevent the coming housing collapse, nor her own party's role in relaxing federal down payment rules that made it a lot easier for lower income Americans to buy homes they couldn't afford.
Sanders got in one jab at that point, lecturing Clinton that we have to break up the big banks, adding that "Going to them and saying, 'Please do the right thing,' is kind of naive."
Clinton has a long history of getting in over her head and making decisions that she was shockingly unqualified to deal with.
Remember when President Clinton put his wife fully in charge of designing a national health care program that was nicknamed "HillaryCare"?
A high level AARP official admitted to me at the time that the plan was so complicated, he couldn't understand how it worked.
In the end, the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee refused to vote it out of committee and it died an early death.
Somehow, the voters of New York felt this embarrassing failure qualified Clinton to be in the U.S. Senate where she could help write our laws.
Then President Obama decided that she was just the right person to be secretary of state. Besides dealing with and explaining our foreign policy, she was in charge of the safety of thousands of ambassadors, diplomats and other personnel that we send around the world.
As Libya turned into a ground war for terrorism, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens sent repeated e-mails home, pleading for stepped up security at the compound. It didn't come in time.
Clinton has never fully explained why her department couldn't respond in time to save the lives of Stevens and three other American officials.
Except her widely reported reply at a Senate hearing that included these words: "What difference -- at this point, what difference does it make."
Strange, but I don't remember hearing a question about that in Tuesday night's CNN debate.