Rested and ready, the Clinton crew is busy stirring the pot again.
Fresh from a nearly six-week layoff, Hillary and her team are picking up where they left off in June. Her pledges of unity and wholehearted acceptance of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party's nominee seem to be, well, halfhearted.
One day she's on a YouTube video talking about the need for a "catharsis" at the Democratic convention, which sounds suspiciously like a demand to have her name put in nomination for a roll call. Then an interview surfaces of Bubba refusing to say Obama is ready to be President. And close aide Howard Wolfson rips the scab off the primary wounds by saying Hillary would have won if the media had exposed John Edwards' affair earlier.
This is definitely not the vacation Obama had in mind. From the headlines about Edwards' sordid romps to the Russians' brutal reminder of their Evil Empire days, his downtime before the convention begins Aug. 25 hasn't been stress-free.
Obama, in Hawaii visiting the ailing grandmother he threw under the bus to defend the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's racist rants, has surely scratched Edwards from his surrogate list. And as a mere candidate, there isn't much he can do about the Russians, though as President hewould inherit yet another twist in a nasty world order.
More important in the short run, there isn't much he can do about the Clintons, either. Sort of like the Russians, they do it because they can. They are who they are. They still want the White House, maybe even more because they can't have it now.
The three recent incidents cited above, combined with an account in The Atlantic Monthly about the sheer incompetence ofher campaign - she spent $100 million before New Hampshire - won't endear Hillary to Democrats who hoped the past was past. Instead, the conspiratorial drama that continues to ooze from everything Clinton confirms the past is prologue.
It's tempting to dismiss all this talk of a catharsis and what might have been by saying she should get over it, that it's an election, not group therapy. But there is no use blaming the Clintons. They can't help themselves.
There's also another reason not to blame them. It's Obama's fault that he isn't able to shut the door on their endless soap opera.
He could never deliver the knockout punch during the primaries and limped across the finish line barely ahead of Hillary in delegates. Even more shocking is that he hasn't benefited from her absence and ostensible support. He didn't get a lasting bounce after she conceded June 7 and has actually slipped recently in head-to-head matchups against John McCain.
Now that she's back, her shadow is magnified by his weakness. The more he underperforms the generic Democratic brand, the larger she looms.
His running mate choice will almost surely suffer by comparison to her. Whomever he picks will bring far less pizzazz to the ticket than she would. That's not an argument for picking her, it's just a fact Obama has to deal with.
Then there's the convention, where Chelsea Clinton will introduce her mother on Tuesday night in what is sure to be a prime-time, rafter-shaking moment. With Bubba set to speak on Wednesday, the torch will be passed to the winning team only later that night when the veep nominee speaks. He, and it will likely be Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, will not have easy acts to follow.
None of this is to predict disaster. Obama's acceptance speech on the final night is set for 70,000 partisans at the Denver football stadium and could be such a dramatic spectacle that it sweeps away all the doubts and even the Clinton distractions.
Then again, they are the Clintons.