Many readers are mad at me for this post, where I reiterate my issue with Senator Clinton. In expressing my aversion in emotional terms, I'm trying to be candid. But you're right. In a serious election, it isn't good enough to write sentences like "I'm sorry but she does that to me." I've written before that Clinton's relentless sensibleness on many issues - including the war, where her own journey has been in the same direction as mine - makes her hard to oppose. So why my continued - almost violent - fear of her as president?

The answer, I think, is about character. It's not so much about policy any more. I'm resigned to the fact that conservatism has entered a wilderness for a while. Bush and Rove killed it, and it will take a period out of power to restore it. And if you're going to have a big government philosophy you might as well have the government run by people who believe in it, rather than by those who think it's just a useful vehicle to get their second cousin a job. And Hillary isn't that left-wing. Yes, I'm worried about what she'd do to the American healthcare industry. But the purge of excellence is coming anyway.

The character issue is really about having a president I can trust, whose words are connected to what he or she actually believes, and a president who can move us past the hideous and growing polarization of the past two decades. The words that come out of Clinton's mouth are like round, honed pebbles on a beach of public relations and focus groups. She has got it down, and it's smooth and round and aesthetically pleasing. But I don't believe it or even hear it except as a series of ever shifting calculations. I know some of this is inevitable in politics. But it has come to drain our political discourse of real meaning and clarity. And the crafted populist soundbites of Clinton's newest, Eva Peron-style campaign ad sound as empty as they may well be effective. She has taken professional politics to a newly homogenized blur of blather. We need plain English.

We may be stuck with her. There would be worse things right now than an extremely careful, cautious and prudent machine pol. A reader notes:

1) If things are bad, getting back to stability is a good idea. "Core competences" in MBA talk. "Stick to the knitting". Nostalgia? Well, duh, habeas corpus, non-interventionism, balanced budgets, respect for the law and the Constitution - sounds quaint, doesn't it?

2) Every candidate hopes to lock things up quickly. Hillary at this point has gotten rid of all competitors but one. Including in both parties. Her steady growth of being accepted or even liked by people from both parties appears to have squashed any real "draft Gore" likelihood, something that wasn't obvious 2 months ago. Compared to skeletons in Giuliani's and Romney's closets, Hillary looks pretty clean. Ron Paul infatuation is fizzling as people become real. Thompson? My bet is he'll never officially announce. Perhaps the Republicans can draft someone who has a chance, but Arnie can't and I don't see anyone else who has any appeal. (Bloomberg is a tough sell).

3) Obama's still in it, but he has a lot of catch up to do. Frum's wrong - the election schedule is too tight - there's no space for rebounds, no time to re-evaluate after start of primaries. Of course it's up to the voters in the end, and it looks like only Hillary and Barack have a chance of drawing the numbers, but it still looks like a Hillary/Barack ticket in the end, rather than Barack/Hillary. Richardson is effectively killing himself off as possible VP, though can still be good again in the cabinet. Edwards? Was fairly useless last time, and not going very far this time.

Hard to disagree. But as long as there is a viable alternative - Obama - there's still hope for something better.

(Photo: Mannie Garcia/Getty.)

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