01/28/2008 08:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Who Got Inside Whose Head? Mind Games That Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ted Kennedy Played. Who Roped The Dope?

Remember the conventional wisdom leading up to the South Carolina primary? Bill Clinton, anointed master politician of our age, was trumping neophyte Obama, stuck as he was in clouds of false hopes. Bill had gotten inside Obama's head, throwing him off his positive message. That's what they were saying in that contentious week--as in here and here.

But events went otherwise. Obama won big. Bill got inside Ted Kennedy's head instead--as we now see. Ted called Bill a few days before the South Carolina primary to urge him to tone down the divisive race-card maneuvering. No word on exactly what Bill said to Ted, but someone on CNN's Situation Room (I can't find the link) reported today that Ted was angrier when he got off the phone then he had been when he made the call. What happened? It's obvious. Bill thinks of himself as the big dog in the party. He resented old Ted's advice, and he blew him off.

How could Bill have been so clumsy? How could he have failed to placate Ted Kennedy who had given every indication, up until then, of wanting to remain neutral?

Answer: It was actually Obama, speaking the simple truth, who got inside Bill's head. Bill was enraged all that week going into South Carolina. He was enraged from way back before the Nevada primary because Barack called Ronald Reagan a transformative president and denied Bill that label. Bill was offended to the core of his vain soul and, even though he was let loose by Hillary to attack Obama tactically--his inner rage and malice showed through. People saw it and that hurt Hillary big time. And, somehow, no doubt about it, that same rage came out in Bill's conversation with Ted.

Bill was the dope and he got roped...