I've got to give it to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg - he doesn't suffer from low self-esteem. But then, as he owns a 68 percent share of the self-named firm that yields more than a billion dollars of after-tax yearly income to him, why should he?

Now he's announced that he may very well run as an independent for president - and is prepared to spend $1 billion on the project. In fact, according to the reporting of Ralph Hallow in the Washington Times, Bloomberg has already put the billion aside.

The mayor is an ex-Democrat who switched to the GOP for his his 2001 mayoral run because he couldn't get the Democratic nod.

He's routinely characterized as a social liberal who is fiscally tight with a buck. New Yorkers judge him to be an excellent manager of the city's affairs.

People like me see a hectoring, busybody, anti-smoking, anti-trans fat, social engineering, blue-nosing nanny-statist. He thinks he knows what's best for all of us. But he means well. And with his means, he may do well.

After all, the $1 billion is just his ante. If he feels like it, he could double or triple it. By next November, he could spend more than both the Republican and Democratic candidates for president, the two parties' campaign committees, all the special interests, and, in fact, every candidate for Congress. He could spend, out of his own checking account, more than the rest of the nation spends on the entire '08 national election cycle . . . unless George Soros gets jealous. While money can't buy love, it surely can buy attention. And in the freak show that the '08 presidential election is shaping up as, who is to say which freak will end up first?

Consider the lineup. In the Democratic race, the leader and likely nominee, Hillary Milhous Clinton, is, by inclination, an anti-military radical feminist Euro-Socialist-cum-Trotskyite masquerading as a pro-military free-market religious centrist.

She is considered the experienced candidate, although she has had few responsibilities in her life (and no accomplishments) other than to be the put-upon wife of Gov./President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton. But she now speaks easily of "our administration" when referring to the U.S. government from 1993-2000. Do Socks the cat and Buddy the dog (wherever they are) also meow and bark about "our administration"? But the media and the public accept that she is "experienced." I suppose she is, of a sort.

Unloved and off-putting as she is, she'll probably get the party nod even though left-leaning party voters reject her public centrism, while she is afraid to publicly utter her private political yearnings - which are exactly what party regulars want.

IN THE GOP, the two leading contenders are each despised by the base they seek to lead. Rudy Giuliani, though personally admired, is pro-abortion, gay rights and gun control. Should he get the nod, there will be many party loyalists who will neither fight nor vote for him, much as they think he is a fine fellow.

Sen. McCain, having spent the last decade being a pain in the Elephant Party backside, is despised for being the party gadfly and thereby a liberal media darling. Also in the mix is Mitt Romney, the moderately rich, recently moderately liberal Massachusetts governor, son of a moderately liberal, self-admittedly brainwashed Michigan governor - who also briefly thought it would be fun to be president.

If it is Rudy and Hillary and Bloomberg, we could be looking at a race between three moderately liberal to leftist New Yorkers running for president in a right-of-center country with no even moderately conservative candidate. And should Sen. Obama surprisingly get the Democratic nomination, then we would substitute for the secret leftist/publicly centrist Hillary Milhous a completely inexperienced African-American, possibly former Muslim, partially Indonesian-raised, Harvard-trained Kennedyesque candidate.

And that's the three-party freak show that is likely to produce the next president of the United States during this early period of the Age of Islamist Terror. *

Tony Blankley is a syndicated columnist.