In spite of her reported intense preparation for the final Democratic debate before the January Iowa Caucuses, Hillary Clinton may have experienced her "Howard Dean moment" with a bizarre, forced laugh when Barack Obama was asked how he could create change with former Clinton advisors now working on his foreign policy team.
"I'm looking forward to hearing that," Hillary blurted, as she continued to laugh at the question.
According to the Associated Press, Obama deftly "waited for the laughter to die down before saying, 'Hillary, I'm looking forward to you advising me as well,'" as the audience roared with laughter.
In a rather mundane debate, this could likely be the clip that symbolizes the major difference between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. It reinforces Hillary as calculating, unnatural, and disconnected, and Obama as confident, comfortable in his own skin, and perhaps most importantly, a winner.
The strange burst of unprovoked laughter reminded viewers of Hillary's seemingly strategic "laugh track" performance in late September (parodied brilliantly by Jon Stewart in this Daily Show clip) as she made the rounds on all the major networks, discussing her new health care plan. That moment signaled the beginning of a consistent decline in the polls that could dip even more after this latest gaffe.
There was the Al Gore "sigh" and the Howard Dean "scream." Now there is the Hillary "cackle." These moments certainly shouldn't be the deciding factor in an election, but they often bring to the surface deeper and more substantive concerns voters have about a candidate.
In Hillary's case the concern is clear: Do Americans want a president so calculating and poll-driven that even laughing is a strategy?