The Washington landscape is littered with presidential sure-things who never made it. A month ago Hillary Clinton was lying dead in the weeds, waiting only the undertaker's art to make the corpse presentable. Joe Biden was the man standing by to take the party's desperate call to 911.
What a difference a fortnight makes. Now Hillary is back on her horse, spavined as it may be, and good ol' Joe has retreated to wherever vice presidents go to patch their cuts and nurse their bruises. Hillary's acolytes in the media, agog again over her performance in the first Democratic "debate," have invoked the mercy rule and awarded the nomination and the election to Hillary.
If you believe everything you read in the newspapers and see on television, she blew away the easily blown away Saturday night in Des Moines at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, which is ordinarily the midwinter Democratic night of revelry and reverie (take your pick) that is sometimes moved around on the calendar to whenever the party needs a pick-me-up. And what was a nice girl like Hillary doing at a dinner honoring two old bigots like Tom Jefferson, accused of sleeping with his slaves, and Andrew Jackson, who reckoned the only good Indian was a dead Indian? Didn't she get the memo about applying baby powder to history the week they took down the Confederate flags?
Hillary's latest triumph was knocking Trey Gowdy and his bumblers out of the box at the Benghazi hearings. She had only one coughing fit over the 13 hours of the hearing, a fair imitation of Krakatoa that would have led to a full-on investigation by every pundit and commentator in town, calling in every tuberculosis and lung-cancer specialist in the telephone book, if that had been Donald Trump or Marco Rubio.
"It was all a political spectacle," observed Erick Erickson of the day-long hearing. "It was just a carnival road show of back bench congresscritters playing to the cameras and Hillary Clinton working hard to play persecuted victim."
The public rarely pays attention to real things, preferring gossip about Hollywood cokeheads and athletes who can't catch a pass but who can put a 90-pound woman in intensive care, or news about whose celebrity boobs are real and whose are fakes. This is how the Clintons keep on ticking, no matter how sordid the scandal or dreadful the consequences to the nation's self-esteem.
The Democrats are still looking for "anybody but Hillary." Or some other miracle will do. Her good October in 2015 hardly augurs a good October in 2016, when it actually counts. Joe Biden, last month's last great white hope, wanted to ride to the rescue but he couldn't find a horse. The fat cats had already caught their rat.
"I'll be very blunt," the veep told an interviewer for CBS News, "if I thought we could have put together the campaign that our supporters deserve and our contributors deserve, I would have gone ahead and done it." But he couldn't, and the party's big donors have forsworn despair, resigned to making the best of what they've got, a candidate everybody calls a liar, nobody trusts or likes but who, with a little luck and the help of Mr. Obama's Justice Department, won't be indicted until after the election, when everything becomes moot.
The fat cats who bought in early are telling each other their bets are safe. The New York Post reports that it found, in the fine print in the campaign financial reports required of presidential candidates, that 760 of her donors list their occupations as CEOs or a variant of the term. The dirty word to avoid is anything remotely hinting of a hedge fund. The fat cats revel in the stink of Wall Street but they know theirs is an acquired taste. Hillary knows how to play the game of being fire-breathing scourge in Peoria and Pine Bluff and toady in the boardroom.
Mr. Biden put to rest the media-made fantasy that he had to run because his beloved son Beau told him from his deathbed that he had no choice. "Beau thought all along that I should run and I could win," he said. "But there was no . . . Hollywood thing that at the last minute Beau grabbed my hand and said, 'Dad, you've got to run,' like, 'win this one for the Gipper.'"
The ghostly Gipper won't win one for Hillary, either. Nothing real has changed. The presidential campaign continues to be one darn thing after another. It's a Clinton thing.