All in all, it was a rather ignominious, belittling way to almost certainly close out the Clinton Era. Hillary would have done much better to spend the 90 minutes of Tuesday night's Ohio debate by repeatedly reading and re-reading her valedictory, closing remarks from last week's Texas match-up during which -- for a few shining moments -- a Good Hillary seemed to radiate with the grandeur of an honored First Lady and potential president of the United States.
But with her national poll numbers now slipping into a double digit lag behind Obama, with her last-ditch firewalls in Ohio and Texas rapidly crumbling, her political future quickly eroding, it was the Bad Hillary who dominated in what could very well be the final presidential debate of the season.
Thirty-five years of selfless public service, if we are to believe her campaign rhetoric, deserved more than this tin-pan finale. Clinton, in her best moments, is certainly capable of something more than a torrent of peevish, petty, picayune, and intellectually dishonest bickering and parsing.
Instead, Senator Clinton chose to remind us why she is losing the nomination that she was once so very sure would inevitably be hers. The smell of a loser permeated the entire low-energy event as Clinton tried to pick apart this or that phrase uttered one time or another by her rival.
Obama's been on a wild tear, continuing to surge and streak and -- to dip into the conventional wisdom -- it's hard to see anything that Clinton did Tuesday to stem his rising tide.
You'd think that Clinton could leave the national political stage with some larger, meaningful gesture. But, unfortunately, the only memorable line that she spoke tonight was a poorly constructed joke, surely written by a staffer.
It's taken me a decade and I'm still stumped trying to figure out what the meaning of "is" might really be. And yet Hillary tossed us the latest Clintonesque head-scratcher during the debate when she asked me -- and the millions watching -- to ponder the "difference between denouncing and rejecting."
I'm not sure which one of these acts of contrition her rival Barack Obama engaged in when asked by the moderators his view on the Reverend Louis Farrakhan. But whichever one it was, it was apparently the wrong one -- according to Senator Clinton.
Likewise, when it came to universal health care. Though Obama has adamantly campaigned on that promise from his first day on the stump, he was actually opposed to universal health care. At least, according to Hillary who belabored the point (to not say she beat it to death) for the first, torturous sixteen minutes of the debate.
And after repeatedly ignoring pleas from moderator Brian Williams to curtail her health care harangue, after extending and re-extending her remarks, Clinton then portrayed herself as a hapless victim of media bias by comparing Williams' questioning to a satirical sketch that aired over the weekend. "Well, could I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time? And I don't mind," she said with a grimace. "You know, I'll be happy to field them but I do find it curious. And if anybody saw Saturday Night Live, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow."
Or was that a car crash?
Either way, time to bring in the mop-up crews. It's over.