Believe it or not, the 2008 presidential campaign is underway.
Within five months-the close of the first quarter of 2007-all or almost all serious would-be replacements for George Bush will have announced their candidacies and begun raising funds.
The first-tier candidates will have banked approximately $20 million-collected in $2,100 increments-by the first quarterly campaign reports. This is the first leg of the "money primary," and the failure to clear it will be the failure to establish seriousness.
Three figures will put those numbers up easily-Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.
Rudy Giuliani may also bank some early dollars in impressive numbers, as may Bill Frist, the retiring Senate majority leader.
John Kerry, Al Gore, and John Edwards might have an outside shot at hitting $20 million, though Kerry's slur on the American military on Oct. 30 could well have snuffed out his already damaged appeal to Democrats looking for a winner.
To readers astounded at the prospect of a new campaign so close on the heels of one just completed: Welcome to the realities of American politics, where campaigns last a long time and are rarely uplifting. But ask yourself how much better off Iraq or any other tortured area of the world would be if even smash-mouth politics replaced the violence that now accompanies the hunt for political power?
Politics were always civil in the old Soviet Union. But there was no freedom. Political leaders in Iraq face the daily threat of assassination and reprisal.
We are blessed-blessed-with a political system that is exhausting, sharp-tongued, and, in the end, as peaceful as any in the world.