By ROBERT HEROLD & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & H & lt;/span & illary? Honk if you are overjoyed by the prospect of a Hillary nomination. The silence is deafening. Right?
Where is her support? It must be there; all the polls report that it is, but where? Who? No one I know. OK, so my pool of respondents is not scientifically selected. And yes, I resort to anecdotes. But, that acknowledged, my goodness, Hillary draws a zero in my crowd. No one I know -- not one person, whether family, friend or colleague, East Coast to West Coast, even a long-time moderate Mormon friend who doesn't particularly like Mitt Romney and is ready to throw the bums out -- likes Hillary. Several liberal feminist friends, when asked about her, frown, raise their eyebrows and shrug. Some enthusiasm! Republicans hate her. Democrats just seem resigned to her seemingly inevitable nomination.
Our UW junior son, who regularly wore a Che Guevara T-shirt to high school, says that he can't stand Hillary. His politically knowledgeable mother, a woman whose blood pressure spirals out of control when she even hears the name William Kristol and who fights off nausea when Karl Rove's image passes before her eyes, views Hillary as a manipulative, presumptuous opportunist who sees herself succeeding Dubya as America's rightful dauphin. My good wife finds herself in unlikely agreement with Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd. Noonan, the former Reagan speechwriter, and Dowd, the liberal New York Times columnist whom my wife has long regarded as a lightweight, both criticize the Bush regime while at the same time warning that Hillary is bad news. Count me in, says Barre. Talk about losing your base.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & asked my 20 freshman political science students to rank all the candidates from both parties in order of preference, and, at the same time, identify candidates they wouldn't vote for under any circumstances. The class, which leans slightly towards the conservative side of the spectrum, rated John Edwards, Barack Obama and Rudolph Guiliani as their favorites. Not one student picked Hillary. Seven listed her as a "no vote under any circumstances." Romney, the second most disliked candidate, drew six votes.
My students' reasons for being so down on Hillary are of interest. A young woman from Vermont expressed concern that Hillary, whether her fault or not, would draw so much hostile reaction that her administration would be distracted and weakened even before she took office. Others agreed with this. Some thought that Hillary is too calculating. Several said that the first woman to become president should not come toting baggage.
My acquaintances and friends draw attention to what my wife terms "Clinton fatigue." Do we really want another four or eight years of soap operas? Do we really want to rehash and update Bill's sex life? And have you gotten a gander at Hillary's own bubba brothers?
Few if any critics dispute Hillary's success in the Senate. (Dowd fails to recognize this personal success.) Many of her senatorial colleagues, from both parties, speak of her warmth, sense of humor, pragmatism, competence and collegiality. The polls, which reflect all this positive sentiment, allude to the anti-Hillary sentiment that I hear and see. More than a few Democrats are beginning to sound concern that Hillary's high negatives, especially among moderate Republicans, could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This eventuality would prove disastrous. If ever there was a mess in Washington that needs cleaning up, it is this one. If ever a crowd needed to be tossed, it is this one.
For certain, no Republican candidate is up to the task. Not one of the GOP wannabes has shown a willingness to denounce George W. Bush for his recklessness, his corrupt and corrupting regime and for wading into Iraq. They remain politically wedded to this feckless man who allowed himself to be manipulated by his curia of neo-cons and their nonsensical analogies emboldened by discredited expatriates. Instead, the GOP candidates come off sounding like so many reincarnations of Mike Dukakis. Remember Dull Mike's tiresome line: "... this election is about competence not ideology." The Republican candidates' version? "Well, yes, mistakes have been made." Mistakes? And other than that Mrs. Lincoln ...?
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & aybe, though, all isn't lost. Recently a pick-up golf companion at Indian Canyon volunteered that he had just retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. A lifelong Republican, he and his wife had lived more than 30 years in Orange County before retiring to Whidbey Island. "And what about you?" he asked.
"Well, I teach political science at Gonzaga University," I responded.
I waited for the usual responses, which are, in order: "Ah, and you must be a liberal," followed by, "And who's your favorite candidate?" More recently I'm hearing a third response: "Bush sure turned out to be a real so-and-so."
However, instead of tossing a question my way, he announced: "I'm going with Obama."
A retired sheriff's deputy? Republican? From Orange County? Obama?
"Why?" I asked, as my jaw dropped.
"Because," he responded, "Barack Obama is the only candidate who has a chance of changing the way we do politics, changing how we think about politics, changing the debate."
Could I have heard the muffled chirp of a canary caged deep down in Hillary Clinton's expensively appointed mine shaft?