Who Is Clint Reilly, Really?

He's running for mayor again, and this time he wants to define himself, before his enemies do it for him

Reilly supports the death penalty -- "I believe in an eye for an eye," he says -- but has no apparent ideology beyond a self-interested pragmatism. Like Heidegger, Reilly is searching to define himself (and his political agenda) in relation to other beings -- voters, in this case. He is not looking into his soul to discover his true self and present it to you for approval or disapproval. He is looking into your soul to discover the secret desire, fear, or hate that will make you punch a ballot for him.

When I ask him to list, specifically, what he would like to accomplish if elected mayor of San Francisco, Reilly talks about being a "fiscal conservative and a policy liberal" and "reinventing government from transactional to transformational." He says he believes the city's business community has failed to be a watchdog for the common good because "it benefits from the corruptibility of city government." But he says he does not want, at this point, more than two years before the mayoral election, to go into the details of changes he might make at City Hall.

Driving down the mountain from his Napa house, Reilly says casually, "I'll bring you up here next summer, if you want, and you can stay for a couple of weeks." I say nothing.

A bit later, Reilly returns to one of his favorite themes: There is no honor left in politics because of the press. Because, as it turns out, there is no honor left in journalism, either. Even the man on the street thinks most journalists are corrupt. Young reporters start out with noble intentions, Reilly says, but the owners of newspapers -- the de Youngs, the Hearst Corp. -- co-opt them, gradually changing them until they can no longer distinguish rumor from fact.

He laughs. Most journalists are envious of the lives of the rich and famous, he says. I turn off my tape recorder. I remember what his mother said. The emotion I feel is not envy.

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