Hillary Clinton's biggest mistake was not divorcing Bill in 2001 and then pressing forward into the presidential campaign as Senator Hillary Rodham. He's a millstone and the campaign thus far has exploded the claim that Bill Clinton is still magic as a vote winner. Many Democratic Party regulars have very hard feelings about him. Clinton was not good for the Democratic Party when he was in the White House. As Barack Obama pointed out in a speech in Virginia Beach, "Keep in mind, we had Bill Clinton as president when, in '94, we lost the House, we lost the Senate, we lost governorships, we lost state houses."




On top of that, Bill Clinton infuriated blacks in South Carolina by mildly race-baiting Obama. Clinton's little slaps, designed to ghettoize Obama, produced huge black majorities for the purveyor of Change and angered many white liberals too.




Hillary as divorcee would have had real panache, a woman high-stepping into freedom on the ashes of her past, like Eva Peron. As things stand, she can't even offer Obama a deal whereby she'll accept the vice presidency. Who would want Bill scampering in and out of the Old Executive Office Building, ogling the interns?




But if Hillary's in bad trouble, the Hillary-haters are in even worse shape. The conservative movement is finished. Rush Limbaugh, the dirigible of drivel himself, is flaming out, like the zeppelin Hindenberg. For years now, the liberals have loved to tremble at Limbaugh's malignant powers. But it turns out Rush couldn't get a dog-catcher elected. For months, he's urged the dittoheads to rally to a true conservative. He's worn himself hoarse denouncing McCain as a traitor to the cause. With each daily dose of raillery from Limbaugh, McCain's cause flourished.




Then came a futile fatwa from the Rev. James Dobson, the single most influential voice among evangelical Christians. "I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language."




The prophets are discredited because their cause has failed. The conservative movement has splintered, victim of lethal saber slashes from the neocons, who plunged the country into an unpopular and hopeless war, and from George Bush, who rewarded the conservatives with the No Child Left Behind Act and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, both of which could have been put forward by Bill and Hillary Clinton.




These two betrayals were compounded by Bush's great failure in his second term &

his proclaimed ambition to hand over the Social Security trust funds to Wall Street.




This was never a job for Republicans, any more than was welfare "reform." Eradication of the social safety net is a job for the Democratic Party and by late 1998 Bill Clinton and a secret team were far advanced in the attempt.




As Robin Blackburn described it on the CounterPunch Web site in 2004, "It was a desperately close run thing. On the account of members of Clinton's secret White House team, mandated to map out the privatization path for Social Security, they had got as far down the road as fine-tuning the account numbers for Social Security accounts (to be) released to the captious mercies of Wall Street." Then came the Lewinsky scandal. Clinton needed the liberal Democrats in Congress to stave off successful impeachment. Now it looks as though it will be up to Obama to include "reform" on the menu of "change," when the latter condition has to assume some concrete shape.




Has Obama made any mistakes? Not many, so far. That's the beauty of talking vaguely about the audacity of hope and the need for change. People lap up his high-minded waffle, which is why they didn't like the above-mentioned mild race-baiting in South Carolina. Mild? We live in timid times. Back in the late 1960s, my friend Andrew Kopkind wrote in the New York Review about Martin Luther King "shuffling off" the stage of history. Malcolm, not MLK, was the lodestar on the left. In the 1967 essay,




"Soul Power," Andrew wrote. "In spite of King's famous sincerity and the super-honesty he exudes, there is something disingenuous about his public voice. He is not really telling like it is, but as he thinks his audience wants it to be. Though he speaks of structural changes, he assumes structural preservation."




Remind you of anyone? It's not Obama's mistake if you believe what he says. Obama reminds me of Jimmy Carter in 1976, talking about the need for a government as good as the American people. That kind of flattery always goes down well. They both have the same national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. There's structural preservation.




Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through . To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at .