Pubdate: Mon, 15 Sep 2008
Source: Times-Herald, The (Vallejo, CA)
Copyright: 2008 The Times-Herald
Author: Paul Armentano, Vallejo


Call me cynical, but I've had just about enough of the empty 
platitudes this presidential election season - particularly the 
candidates' emotional appeals for "hope" and "change."

Change? From inside the Beltway? You can't be serious, can you?

Washington is a multi-billion dollar, monolithic entity - composed of 
hundreds of career lawmakers, as well as thousands of agencies, 
corporate lobbyists, and lifelong bureaucrats. Aside from the 535 
members of Congress, many of whom are faceless even among their own 
constituents, this Leviathan operates in a manner that is entirely 
unaccountable to the voting public.

In short, Washington is a bureaucracy - arguably the biggest, most 
bloated bureaucracy on this planet - and bureaucracies, by their very 
nature, are designed to stifle, not stimulate, change.

That said, even if Washington was an environment capable of 
responding to such idealistic expectations, neither the Democrat or 
Republican ticket is offering anything other than business as usual.

For all of Sen. Obama's talk of change, there's been little 
accompanying action. As a senator, what reform-minded legislation did 
Obama shepherd through Congress? Seems to me that the first-term 
senator has spent the bulk of his limited time in office campaigning 
for the White House rather than representing the needs of his 
constituents or championing for "change" from within.

Obama's VP pick, the senior senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, is an 
anathema to change. Biden, who won his senate seat in 1972 at age 30, 
has spent more than half of his total time on Earth as a Washington 
insider. Of course, having lorded over American taxpayers so long, 
Biden can - unlike his running mate - take responsibility for 
numerous pieces of legislation.

For example, during the mid-1980s, Biden was the chief senate 
architect of the federal anti-drug laws that re-established mandatory 
minimum sanctions for various drug possession crimes, and established 
the racially based 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crimes involving 
the possession of crack versus powder cocaine. Many academics have 
credited Biden's law as one of the primary reasons why America now 
possesses the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, 
and why approximately one out of every nine young African-American 
males are now in prison. (Ironically, had Biden's running mate and 
former admitted cocaine user Obama been convicted under federal law, 
his future political aspirations would have been limited to Barry the 
janitor, not President of the United States.)

Like all good politicians, Biden recently issued a verbal mea culpa 
for his role in disproportionately expanding the U.S. prison 
population (does saying "I'm sorry" count as "change"?), stating: 
"Our intentions were good, but much of our information was bad." 
Seems to me I heard the same thing from the GOP as it pertained to 
invading Iraq.

Of course, Republican presidential nominee John McCain is no better. 
The senior senator from Arizona has held his seat since 1982 - back 
when gas cost $1.28 a gallon, a new car cost under eight grand, and 
you could buy a new home for about $80,000. By my count, McCain has 
had 26 years in Washington to deliver the sort of "changes" he's 
promising now. Has he?

On the flip-side, Alaska I've-yet-to-serve-one-full-term Gov. Sarah 
Palin is the antithesis of a Washington crony. That said, the 
greatest "change" she brings to Capitol Hill is being nominated for 
the second most powerful seat in the nation while possessing 
virtually no credentials, aside from arguably her gender, to have earned it.

Don't get me wrong. Despite my jaded tone, I'm a strong believer in 
"change." But I look for it within my community, and more often than 
not, within myself. True "hope" and true "change" come from within 
one's soul; they don't emerge out of shallow platitudes uttered by 
career politicians residing 3,000 miles away in Washington.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake