What we are seeing is a front-runner on a self-destruct course.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton told New Hampshire voters Saturday that ending the war in Iraq is more important than whether she repudiates her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to use military force there.
When I saw tape of her at a previous town-hall-style meeting, she came off as rather indignant that she's even being asked about her vote for the war. Her scolding manner does her no favors, either.
Here, on Iraq, she's trying to have her cake and eat it too -- refuse to repudiate her prior support of the war, while claiming to oppose the war now.
On Saturday, Clinton was asked by a University of New Hampshire professor why she refused to apologize for voting to give Bush the authority for the March 2003 invasion.
"I take responsibility for my vote. It was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances we had at the time. Obviously I would not vote that way again if we knew then what we know now," she said, her oft-repeated explanation.
She takes responsibility? How? How has she taken responsibility at all? Her vote for the war was a cowardly act, and now her refusal to repudiate her vote is more cowardice. Taking responsibility means facing the consequences, and right now she's trying to avoid consequences.
It is sad to see, but she's the maker of her own destiny here. She's obviously an intelligent person, but perhaps she's learned the lessons of Washington a little too well, and now she's less her own woman and more a managed fabrication of a political persona.
Her only hope lies in the fact that it's still very early in the campaign, and despite her mis-steps, she has time enough and deep enough pockets to recover. That is, if she has it in her to recover. I'm not sure we'll see that. In some ways, Hillary Clinton is very much like George W. Bush: stubborn. It is a trait that doesn't serve either well.