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In the beginning was the word.

Senator Barack Obama’s rhetoric has accomplished what we Republicans have failed to do for years. He’s undone Hilary Clinton.

It understates Obama’s achievement to simply say his rhetoric is articulate.

To a certain, surprising, extent American politicians all oddly seem to sound the same. Sometimes listening to, say, Hillary, then to John McCain, is like listening to two people singing the same song. Or rather the same tune, but with different lyrics. The words may differ, but the cadences are the same.

Obama’s cadences are different. Not completely different. But different enough. Take how he attacks Hillary. He says very reasonably, Here’s what Hillary says about me, then he answers, equally reasonably, And here is why I say she’s wrong. Compare that to Hillary’s sixty second blasts of rhetoric that resonate like the same old sound bites we’ve heard over and over for years.

The question is: Does a heart of true evangelical change beat beneath Senator Obama’s rhetoric? Or is he just a very clever politician?

Time will tell. For now, Obama’s rhetoric, combined with the demographics of Democratic primaries, has left Hillary in a dilemma – in a sense of her own making. There was once a time (not so long ago) when Hilary had every political advantage over Obama. She led in every poll. In dollars raised. In how well she was known. In just about every other way that matters politically.

She could have, then, had she chosen to be – dare we say, negative – made Senator Obama’s political life extraordinarily difficult. Instead, making what seemed to be the safe bet – that her name and money would safely see her through to the nomination – she proceeded into the primaries as if waltzing toward her coronation. But, in the process, she gave Obama the gift he needed most – all the oxygen necessary to grow and thrive. So, now, he has eclipsed her. Leaving her little choice but to attack him. But to do it at an extraordinarily difficult time – when Senator Obama is riding a huge wave of momentum and when the pundits struck senseless (but not speechless) are just waiting for Ohio and Texas to rewrite the political obituaries they penned for Hilary before the New Hampshire primary.

And, according to the newspapers, that is the debate going on inside Senator Clinton’s campaign right now. To attack or not to attack. According to the press, her media advisor Mandy Gruenwald says, no. Her pollster Mark Penn says, yes.

Ms. Gruenwald was part of Governor Jim Hunt’s 1984 campaign against Jesse Helms. I don’t know where she stood then on the issue of Hunt attacking Helms. But I know we were thankful for every day Hunt took the advice of those who said, ‘No. Don’t attack’ – so, at least, when he finally did it was all but too late.

Senator Clinton is standing on the deck of a sinking ship with water around her knees. Without a miracle it’s no longer viable for her to win by saying – Senator Obama is a fine candidate. A fine man. He’ll make a fine president. But I’m better. She’s going to have to make her case by saying, Here’s where I’m right. And here’s where he’s dead wrong.

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