Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The more things change...

"Change" seems to be the popular word among American presidential nomination candidates and watchers alike, but I wonder how much change we're really going to see no matter what happens over the next ten or so months.

On the Republican side, we see an interesting cast of characters led by Guiliani, Romney, McCain, and Huckabee. There's not much to say about -- to be blunt -- America's party of thugs and zealots: its record over the last eight years speaks louder than any of those seeking to be its standard bearer. Frankly, none of the leading candidates stand far enough removed from the party's legacy to count as much in way of "change."

On the Democratic side, we see Barack Obama chasing front-runner Hillary Clinton, with John Edwards in third place. The winner of this contest will likely inherent the mantle of a party that has the U.S. presidency firmly within its sights. While the U.S. is far overdue in selecting a bright, talented woman or an energetic, inspiring African-American to lead it, can we really expect a significant shift in policy?

Clinton is on record as being strongly and consistently behind the country's plundering of Iraq, at least until very recently when that position became a political liability, while Obama has already started to flash his cowboy-esque diplomacy skills in proposing to bomb Pakistan, a nuclear power. Of course, we can't blame these Democrats entirely as it seems that no aspiring U.S. leader gets taken seriously without promising to "get tough" by tapping the country's vast arsenal when needed.

If anything changes during their reign, it certainly won't be the U.S. war machine, which
some estimate to account for $1.3 billion or 51% of the country's 2008 federal budget. As Jeffrey Simpson suggests in today's Globe, the "change" we're hearing all about is really about persona rather than policy.

Third-place candidate Edwards has probably been the most exciting proponent of policy change for some of the reasons mentioned
here, but he looks to be too far behind either Clinton or Obama to have a chance of winning. The best we may be able to hope for is that he plays an important role in putting important policy issues on the agenda.


For those curious about my predictions, I'm not one of those who jumped on the "Obama will win" bandwagon last week, after Clinton lost in Iowa. I thought then that Clinton remained ahead of the pack with her well-funded superior organization and experience. No surprise, I'm still predicting a win for this second Clinton "comeback kid." Obama will be well-placed for a future run at the presidency and could even wind up on the Democratic ticket as candidate for Vice-President.

The Republican side is much more of a toss-up. My sense is that loose cannon-types Huckabee and McCain will eventually flounder and that Romney, despite his current struggles, will go on to win the nomination as the anyone-but-Guiliani candidate.

Photo: Democrats rally on "the Green" at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.

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