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Ready or Not, Here Comes HIlary

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A couple of weeks ago, a veteran Democratic politico was in San Francisco. He noted that current estimates are that in 2008 it will cost at least $40 million to run as a Democratic presidential candidate. And, that sum takes you through the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. He said that only Hillary Clinton and John Kerry are likely to amass that much money before the opening 2008 contests.

If you want to stop here, run to the toilet, and toss your cookies, I'll wait.

You heard right. The most likely 2008 Democratic presidential candidates are Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Before you touch those keys and fire off that angry email, please note that I am not suggesting they are the best the Dems have to offer. I'm merely pointing out what the word on the Democratic "street" is: Clinton and Kerry have the money and no one else does.

Go ahead, run to your window. Throw it open and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

Feel better? Then, consider this. In politics, as in much of American life, it's money that matters. We're unlikely to nominate the best Democratic candidates until there is real campaign finance reform. Until there are publicly financed elections at all levels of government, including the race for the Presidency.

Will this happen soon? Don't hold your breath.

In the meantime, the best way to deal with the prospect that the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee will be either Hillary Clinton or John Kerry is to be clear about what they would have to do to be acceptable to the Dem rank-and-file.

Kerry is easy. He had his chance in 2004 and blew it. He's not a fighter. Enough said.

Hillary is more complicated. As a Quaker I've had lots of experience with women in positions of leadership. That's convinced me that it would be a good thing for the US to elect a female president. But, that's not a sufficient reason to nominate Hillary.

The junior Senator from New York is pro-choice, pro-woman, and pro-family. I'm pro-choice too, in my own Quakerly fashion. My wife, daughters, and granddaughters make me aware that the Bush Administration has thwarted the movement for equal rights for women. They've given the American family the shaft. Once again, Hillary's position on these issues is good, but not a sufficient reason for me to support her.

Hillary is smarter than George W. Bush. Duh. She's probably better on most issues than anyone the Republicans will nominate. She's certainly preferable to John McClain, who is a social conservative and wants to send more troops into Iraq, among other crazy notions. And, the other likely Republican nominee is Bill Frist, who is an empty suit.

But, I have problems with Senator Clinton. They start with Iraq. I find her position incomprehensible. It seems to me that you either support Bush's "stay until we win" position on Iraq or you are for some form of withdrawal. Clinton's statements 'we must have timetables for success," "the President broke Iraq, he has to fix it "seem to me to be deliberately evasive. They suggest that she's waiting until the last minute, until definitive poll results are in, before taking a position. I don't know what you call this where you live, but in Berkeley we say this is chicken sh*t politics.

If there were a Democratic Presidential primary today, in California, I would vote for Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. I know where Feingold stands on the issues I care about, like Iraq. I admire him for taking a stand against The Patriot Act and against NSA warrantless eavesdropping, among other things.

It's informative to compare Clinton and Feingold. Hillary has raised tons of money; every day seems to bring a new email from one of her minions Ann Lewis, James Carville asking for donations. Feingold seems not to care much about money; he champions campaign finance reform.

Hillary is evasive on issues like Iraq, national security, and morality in government. Feingold isn't.

The smart money says that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee in 2008; argues that Russ Feingold hasn't got a prayer. Maybe that's the case. But if I were Hillary, or one of her advisers, I'd pay attention to Feingold. I'd remember that no one gave Howard Dean a chance in 2004 and he came out of nowhere, raised a ton of money from unconventional sources, and got close to the nomination. A lot of us feel that, in retrospect, he would've been a hell of a lot better candidate than John Kerry. Dean is a fighter. So's Russ Feingold.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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