This ad has managed to actually shock me. Yes, me, rabid Clinton-hater, second only to Hitchens in Clinton Derangement Syndrome, proud holder of the view that Senator Clinton is one of the ghastliest examples of pure political cynicism and opportunism in public life, an empty, reverberating shell of a human being, a case study in how power and the search for it do indeed in the end corrupt absolutely. I still didn't quite expect this:

This is far too crude even for Karl Rove. It is a parody of a brutal Rove ad. Without batting an eyelid, Clinton effortlessly adopts the entire worldview of the most cynical of Republican operatives and applies it with the delicacy of a shovel to the likely Democratic party nominee. This is a) how desperate she must know feel; b) how utterly irrelevant it is to her what happens in this election unless she is the next Democratic nominee for president.

Simply put: how could the person who approved this ad and the argument it represents logically vote for Barack Obama over John McCain this fall? If it is an Obama-McCain race, how would that person not feel vindicated if Obama lost? In fact, making Obama lose is now manifestly the prime objective of the Clintons. There is no other plausible interpretation of their recent actions, statements and behavior. I find this pretty gob-smacking as an observer; but if I were a Democrat?

Now answer this question: do you believe that the Clintons actually believe that Obama is an effete, ineffectual elitist piece of roadkill for John McCain ... but still somehow impossible to beat by the rules of the Democratic primary system? Or do they think he's better than that? Are they cynics or narcissists? Or, as anyone with an eye and the stomach can see, some horribly perfect combination of the two?

This ad and Clinton's insistence on personally making this argument again and again in the baldest ad hominem ways in a state critical to Democratic hopes this fall should remove any illusions anyone has about the core character of the junior senator from New York. The best gloss is that her own vanity has genuinely persuaded her that she and she alone could possibly beat John McCain. The worst is that after decades of hardball politicking, she and her husband have become completely indistinguishable from the forces that first tried to destroy them.

Just less artful and even less ashamed.