Is Carol Moseley Braun the most inept candidate ever?

The former U.S. senator and ambassador to New Zealand is running for mayor of Chicago. She’s running second in a field of six, way behind Rahm Emanuel, who will almost certainly be the next mayor — perhaps as soon as Feb. 22 if he gets 50 percent plus one vote and thus avoids an April 5 runoff.

He could not have designed a better opponent than Carol Moseley Braun, 63, who is living up to her reputation for ineptitude, solidified during her one term as U.S. senator. She buried herself in so many mistakes and scandals that she ended up, in 1998, losing her bid for reelection to a little-known Republican.

A year later, then-President Clinton rode to her rescue by giving her the ambassadorship.

One might have expected that she would have used the gift of this political appointment to learn something about diplomacy.

If she did, she has obviously forgotten. (Her tenure ended in 2001 when Clinton left office.)

As a candidate to replace Rich Daley, she has shown herself so hotheaded and mean-spirited — the latter a phrase she used last month to describe Rahm, citing as an example his sending a dead fish to an opponent 18-plus years ago — that her campaign has turned into a running joke, a script for an upcoming segment of “Saturday Night Live.”

Here are just a few of her campaign-trail antics:

— Last Sunday, at a candidates forum, she needlessly, viciously attacked Patricia Watkins, the other African-American woman in the race. (The latest Chicago Tribune poll shows Moseley Braun at 21 percent and Watkins at 1 percent.) Watkins, an up-from-Cabrini-Green success story who poses no threat to Moseley Braun, had beaten an addiction to cocaine some 30 years earlier. Braun blasted Watkins as a “crack addict” with a “record,” presumably criminal. As usual, Braun got her facts wrong, and the Tribune editorializedthat Braun lacks the character to be mayor.

— On a radio show last month, Moseley Braun claimedto have “an advanced degree from Harvard.” She doesn’t. 

— Asked to release her tax returns, as her serious rivals have done, she declined “because I don’t want to.” She had to anyway, but the weeklong brouhaha drowned out anything she might have had to say on the issues and caused Chicagoans to focus on her messy personal finances.

In an interview a couple of weeks ago, Watkins told me that Moseley Braun had asked her repeatedly to drop her campaign and join hers. (“She said she thought I had a bright future and that she thinks I should join her campaign.”) Watkins, who is all over the news now, having been wrongly labeled a “crack addict,” could hurt Moseley Braun by shaving off much-needed African-American votes. 

The big winner? The man who will be mayor — Rahm Emanuel.

When Bill Clinton announced that he was coming to Chicago to campaign for Rahm, Moseley Braun declared war on her former patron, accusing him of “betrayal” of the African-American community and reminding voters of the Monica Lewinsky scandal that, as ABC News quoted her, “almost lost his job from him.”

Oh, and when Moseley Braun is out of work again, she should not expect any president ever — certainly not Rahm’s friend Barack Obama — to hand her another cushy diplomatic posting.