Thursday, January 17, 2008

Change? Yeah, but What Kind of Change?

A cousin and good friend recently sent me a short op-ed piece that he wrote to sort out his own feelings about the current demand for change in Washington. He made several excellent points. One is that except for Bush I, the presidents of the recallable past have all been outsiders, and yet are the guys responsible for getting us here. (Responsible in hugely varying degrees, I might say.)

The other is that those who say experience isn't all that important in light of a president's bank of advisors, also overlook the part about how every President himself has to sort out the advice. At the end of the day, it's the President's call. And that's where experience comes in most. I surely hope the last seven years have gotten that much across to this nation.

Anyway, Jim got me thinking about this cry for change.

"Change" is one of those flirty words that promises everything and delivers nothing. That is, it's meaningless by itself. It has meaning only when we say what it means.

In order to elect the best candidate for President, we need first to know precisely what change we want. We need to think about that with sufficient focus that we can say to the person on the subway beside us exactly what we want to change. We have to be able to prioritize those wants, and, using that scale of values, plug in the candidates' positions to create a matrix, a grid, that helps us move away from "gut" and "personality" to reasonable decisionmaking. Not that gut and personality don't matter; I'm not saying that. I'm saying that gut and personality aren't the only touchstones.

My priorities? They haven't changed since I cast my first vote. I believe that it's a sign of severe mental illness to say, "Your half of the boat is sinking." Put another way, a rising tide floats every boat.

Regardless of issue, policies that reflect that world view are my priorities. I would rank action on issues by impact and by risk.

To my way of thinking, that puts global warming at the top. We haven't the luxury of waiting, delaying, dillydallying. We have the gravest moral responsibility to our children and grandchildren to demand responsible, immediate, creative, radical actions.

The very close second is ending the disastrous, cannibalistic, evil economics of "free trade," "globalism," and Reaganomics. A Keynesian economics, a radical recission of NAFTA and CAFTA, etc., coupled with a radical, aggressive alternative renewable energy policy--embracing several, not one, alternatives--will do a great deal about the economy, without which healthcare, education, infrastructure, and all the rest cannot be taken on.

Third comes ending the catastrophic war in Iraq--but responsibly: mindful of what the Iraq political, the Middle East political, the military logistical, and the human social realities are in January and beyond. It isn't about winning or losing when winning militarily isn't an option. It's about ending a disaster in the least destructive way, and that has a world of implications that I don't think can be fully enumerated now.

How odd it is that so few of the debates have addressed my top two priorities. The agenda is the responsibility of the debate anchor. How many of these debates has Wolf Blitzer anchored? Just askin'. It's curious, isn't it? Much more attention tonight went to encouraging conflict between Obama and Clinton. In fact, I don't recall a single syllable about the global environmental crisis, and only a passing reference to NAFTA and CAFTA. I need to find out who owns CNN. I should know that already. Duh. It matters.