She has no idea.
She has no idea how many times I defended her. How many right-leaning friends and relatives I battled with. How many times I played down her shady business deals and penchant for scandals -- whether it was Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Cattle Futures, Web Hubbell, or Norman Hsu. She has no idea how frequently I dismissed her husband's serial adultery as an unfortunate trait of an otherwise brilliant man. For sixteen years, I was a proud soldier in the legion of "Clinton apologists" -- who believed that peace and prosperity were more important than regrettable personality traits.
And then she ran for president.
After seven years of George W. Bush, America is hungry for change. Big change. And let's face it -- Hillary Clinton, the party standard-bearer and former White House denizen -- isn't it. But even after voters coalesced around Barack Obama, handing him eleven straight primaries (twelve, if you count Vermont), she refused to accept the possibility -though math, money and momentum were clearly against her -- that the Bush/Clinton Family Band might not be #1 on America's Billboard chart anymore.
So, rather than step aside and become the hero of her party, she made a strategy decision to go negative in advance of Ohio and Texas. Not just negative -- personal. She cynically chided Mr. Obama's message of hope. She played the victim card. The gender card. The Muslim card. She cried "shame on you, Barack Obama" for his campaign tactics, while (if we're to believe Matt Drudge) simultaneously floating a picture of him in Somali garb to stir up questions of his patriotism.
She accused Mr. Obama of his own shady business deals (the irony of which nearly ripped a hole in the fabric of space/time). She accused him of being two-faced on NAFTA, when it was her campaign that had winked at the Canadians. She demanded that he "reject" the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, but remained silent when Rush Limbaugh stirred up votes for her in Texas. And she crafted the now-infamous "3am" attack ad -- which used scare tactics to highlight Senator Obama's perceived lack of experience in foreign affairs. Straight out of the ol' Atwater/Rove playbook. Of course, all of this paled in comparison to her husband's patronizing, racially insensitive comments earlier in the primary season.
Was this the same Hillary Clinton whose husband ran on the idea that hope was more powerful than fear? The wife of a president who had less foreign policy experience than Barack Obama when he was elected? And exactly which crisis is she referring to when she claims to have more experience? And while we're at it, where the hell are those tax returns?
It's clear that Hillary's back in this thing, at least for the time being. But at what cost? Short of some cataclysmic event, there's no way either she or Mr. Obama can reach 2,025 delegates in the remaining contests. That means she's accepted the inevitability of a brokered convention. A convention she'll almost certainly enter with fewer delegates than her opponent. That raises some important questions:
Will she subvert the will of the voters? Will she turn Denver into a series of shady back-room deals and arm twisting? Will she dispatch her husband to pressure superdelegates into switching allegiances at the last minute? Are we in for, as one pundit put it, a good ol' fashioned "knife fight?"
And if she does manage to secure the nomination, what about the scores of disenfranchised Obama supporters (many of them young people with little loyalty to the Democratic Party)? How will she bring them back into the tent? Hillary seems confident that this can be remedied by offering Mr. Obama a spot on her ticket. Really? And what would his motivation be for accepting? Playing third-fiddle to Bill?
However, if Mr. Obama goes on to secure the nomination, she'll have handed his rival a treasure trove of sound bites. All John McCain has to do between August and November is play clips of Hillary questioning Obama's experience and belittling his platitudes. In a way, she'll have become Mr. McCain's second running mate.
She's proven that she cares more about "Hillary" than "unity." More about defeating Obama than defeating the Republicans. She's become a political suicide-bomber, happy to blow herself to bits -- as long as she takes everyone else with her.
On Friday, one of Barack Obama's foreign policy advisors, Samantha Power, resigned after calling Senator Clinton "a monster" during an off-the-record exchange. It was an unfortunate slip, but one that echoed the sentiments of many Clinton apologists like me -- who've watched Hillary's descent into pettiness and fear-mongering with the heartbreak of a child who grows up to realize that his beloved mother has been a terrible person all along.
Are the conservatives right about the Clintons? Will they do and say anything to get elected?
I don't know.
All I know is...I'm through apologizing.