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When Hillary Came Undone

Michelle's fascinating haul of reportage from inside Clintonland includes this:

"If you look at this campaign as a 15- or 16-month gambit, the public turning point was the Philadelphia debate. Her non-answer on the driver's license issue. Again, it spoke to the character issue: The sense that she will say anything and do anything to get elected. It drove the Obama narrative of her home."

It seems like eons ago, but at the time--late October--Obama was spinning his wheels and everyone was goading him to hit Clinton harder. Obama did bash her judgment on Iraq and Iran. But neither he nor anyone else had really cracked the nut of Clinton's broader honesty and integrity, which turned into perhaps her deadliest vulnerability. Indeed back then it was almost taboo to go there, I think because those critiques were mostly associated with Republicans, and linked to Whitewater and impeachment and other topics that felt unseemly for fellow Democrats to raise.

But hindsight shows that was an intense desire to return to those core character questions. And in this one, short stretch, the floodgates burst open. The media, which until then had been kind to her, went to town on Hillary, and the other candidates quickly lost their inhibitions about blasting her character. (Edwards had actually already been ramping up that line of attack--well before Obama, incidentally--but this was the real tipping point.)

Here's the gruesome sequence:

Final thought: It was all Spitzer's fault! How strange to think that, in an indirect way, the soon-to-be destroyed Spitzer was the proximate cause for Hillary 's collapse. (Although in another strange irony, it was Chris Dodd--perhaps the least effectual of all the "serious" candidates--who really drove the stake into her on that debate stage.) 

--Michael Crowley