Clinton Antipathy Palpable at War Protest

Scores of protestors showed up Friday outside the Washington, D.C., offices of a pro-Iraq War think tank to voice their displeasure over President Bush's expected plan to send thousands of additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho, this escalation has got to go," chanted a mixed-age group of protesters as they circled two city blocks in a light rain.

The instigating event was a pair of midday speeches to the American Enterprise Institute by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), two hawkish senators who support substantial and sustained troop escalations.

But McCain was not the only 2008 White House hopeful who found himself in the political cross hairs at today's protest.

"I'm scared to death of Hillary Clinton," said Kirsten Loken of Falling Waters, W.Va. "She is a divider."

Loken, a self-described feminist who has supported the National Organization for Women for many years, said she would "absolutely love" to see a female president of the United States.

"But not Hillary Clinton," she said, "not Hillary Clinton."

Loken is one of four West Virginians who met in 2004 while helping Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) general-election campaign against Bush.

The four women, who traveled by car for more than an hour to Friday's protest organized by MoveOn.org, said they would "love" to see a female president -- but all four were quick to say that the Democratic Party should not nominate Clinton.

Their principal reasons for opposing the former first lady are threefold: They resent her slow retreat from her 2002 vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq, they think she is "too polarizing," and they think that the centrist playbook that she and former President Clinton subscribe to undermines progressive causes.

Liz McGowen, who lives on a farm near Shepherdstown, W.Va., was aware that Clinton recently said that she would not vote for the Iraq War knowing what she knows now.

But McGowen said that she is "amazed" that it has taken her "so long" to come around.

Dianne Hilliard, the mother of an Air National Guardsman from Martinsburg, W.Va., worries that if Bush approves a "surge" in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, her son is "going to have to go."

"He's my only son," she said.

"It's a poor person's war," said McGowen, as Hilliard expressed anger at the way "we were buffaloed into this war" while complaining that Osama bin Laden, "the real culprit," behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, is still at large.

Rie Wilson of Shepherdstown, W.Va., also opposes Clinton getting the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

"I think she's sold out to the middle," said Wilson, while citing Clinton's initial support for the war as well as her support for anti-flag-burning legislation.

The four Democratic peace activists were split as to whom they would like to see the Democrats nominate for president in 2008.

Loken would like the party to nominate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who spoke out against going to war with Iraq in 2002, because she said she has observed how he appeals to conservatives while espousing a progressive vision.

Wilson worried, however, that Republicans will be able to use Obama's relative inexperience in national office to the detriment of the progressive cause.

"I'd like to get him a little more experience," said Wilson.

Wilson would like to see the party nominate former Vice President Al Gore, who spoke out against the Iraq War before it began, or Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), whom she credits for showing an un-Clinton contrition for his pro-Iraq vote.

McGowen named Edwards, Obama, Gen. Wesley Clark and Gore while, Hilliard said it was too soon to get behind any particular candidate.

All four West Virginians agreed, however, that the party should not nominate Clinton.

"Where I live," said Wilson about Jefferson County, W. Va., "I don't know anybody who supports her."

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