Geoffrey Wheatcroft: The Clinton bubble has burst, and not before time

A look at Hillary's hapless battle...

Last summer Barack Obama was an outsider in the race for president, while only weeks ago Hillary Clinton was still favourite for the Democratic nomination. When she said, "It will be me," her self-confidence was irritating, but understandable.

Now London bookmakers make Senator Obama the favourite for the White House. If things run his way in the Texas and Ohio primaries, it could be all over for Hillary by Wednesday.

At last the Clinton bubble has burst. Her sheer fraudulence has finally registered while the Democratic party, in the words of the columnist Michael Kinsley, has "turned on Bill Clinton with the ferocity of 16 years of pent-up resentments". The surprise is that it took so long. President Clinton's career was an imposture, concealed by partisanship. Even now liberals seem unable to grasp what serious historians on the left have written: Nixon's administration was markedly more progressive in domestic politics than Clinton's, whose main legacy was its assault on the welfare system.

Critics of Hillary have been accused of misogyny, yet the feminist boot is truly on the other foot. Clinton is an affront to feminism. Hers would not be a victory for sexual equality but a throwback to the dynastic politics of the ancien régime, or to Third World nepotism. Hillary resembles not Golda Meir and Angela Merkel but the queen who expects to succeed her husband the king, or those female leaders in the Philippines, Pakistan and Argentina who have followed husbands or fathers to power.

Every American knows that Hillary is where she is because she is her husband's wife. Eight years ago, she turned up in New York, a state with which she had almost no connection, expecting to be made senator by acclamation.

At that time she had never run for, let alone won, a seat. The only political job ever entrusted to her was her husband's healthcare reform, and she made a complete hash of that. For all her claque of admirers (and they include some pretty obnoxious people), Hillary has always been the less impressive the harder you look: "the most plodding and expedient politician in America", as the Washington journalist Leon Wieseltier puts it. Think of the way she voted for the Iraq war and, worse, her subsequent attempts to wriggle out of that disastrous decision.

Her claim to be more "experienced" than Obama is ludicrous. In the words of Dick Morris, Bill's sometime campaign manager, it only highlights the fact "that Hillary's experience is derivative of Bill's and her claims to his achievements are largely invented and spurious". Hillary's greatest achievement has been putting up with her husband. It's no wonder that her core constituency has been betrayed and embittered women of her own age.

In 1992, Hillary said she wasn't going to stand by her man, and then did just that. Now what is so repellent is her sense of entitlement as reward. This is the first case of an errant husband who has tried to placate his wife by giving her the presidency of the country.

And yet, with all that, it is possible to feel sorry for her, if not quite as sorry as she feels for herself. Ten years ago Hillary Rodham Clinton was the most humiliated wife on earth. She looks set to become the most humiliated candidate. Does even she deserve it?