The 800 pound gorilla

Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton entered the 2008 presidential race, taking a jab at President Bush along the way as she finally made the long anticipated move. "I'm in and I'm in to win," said the former First Lady, who wants to become the first woman president. "After six years of George Bush, it is time to renew the promise of America," she added in a videotaped message on her website. Only a few days earlier, Senator Barack Obama threw his hat in the ring and referred to Clinton as a "good friend and a colleague whom I greatly respect." (We'll see how much respect he has for her when she starts demonizing him in the campaign.)

I must admit that she looked friendly and comfortable to be with in the online photo-op. The Dems must have some excellent image consultants because it's not easy to make Hillary look warm and cuddly. "I am not just starting a campaign though, I am beginning a conversation with you, with America," she said.

Judging by her opening comments of the campaign, the "conversation" is going to be centered more on Bush-bashing than on a direction for the future. For example, she referred to "six years of Bush administration failures," as if Dubya was going to be her opponent in 2008. "I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe in or to face down the Republican machine," she said, with an appropriately staged look of determination. What Republican machine? Does she mean the " vast right-wing" conspirators who charged her husband with carrying on a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office? That wasn't a GOP machine, it was merely an accurate account of one in a series of deplorable bouts of boorish behavior by the amoral Chief Executive, who just happened to be her husband.

Either she was in complete denial regarding her hubby's licentious proclivities or she was running interference for him because she wanted to preserve a scintilla of legacy for her own future White House ambitions. Either way, she was hardly an example of moral courage for other women to emulate. There she was on the NBC Today Show telling America that the GOP "has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president."

Well, it wasn't long before she had to eat those words as the affair and subsequent perjury allegations against Bubba became common knowledge. If Ms. Clinton was naive enough to be unaware of her hubby's not so secret womanizing, how in the world will she be sophisticated enough to deal with international leaders, some of whom are masters of deceit? If she, in fact, did know about her double-dealing hubby and was unable to do anything to stop him, how effective will she be in dealing with terrorist leaders who threaten our very existence as a nation? It's become axiomatic that women who allow themselves to be abused by philandering husbands are to be pitied because of their weakness, not applauded for their tolerance.

I firmly believe this country is mature enough and progressive enough to elect a woman or an African-American (or both, simultaneously) to the presidency. Although it's true that Ms. Clinton is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, we need to ask ourselves if she appears so formidable because she is the best and the brightest that the country has to offer, or is it because the Democratic Party has cultivated the notion that 2008 is the year to elect a woman and she is that woman? Surely, in this nation of 300 million people, there are women with more substance, more leadership ability and less baggage. With Ms. Clinton in the race, those of us who want to see the political glass ceiling shattered will have only one choice next year. With all the male candidates from both sides of the aisle to choose from it's bound to look like a bunch of guys ganging up on a woman. That alone could cause millions of female fingers to pull the lever in defense of their "embattled sister." In addition, it could arouse the natural instincts of males to protect a damsel that appears to be in distress. Others may simply feel they're being sexist and unenlightened if they don't take the opportunity to elect the first woman to the most powerful position in the world. No matter how you look at it, if Ms. Clinton gets the nomination and is the only woman running for the top spot, it's hard to imagine a scenario that would prevent her from getting elected.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.