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Ochenski

This is change?: Early signs indicate more of the same in Washington

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For the last year, we’ve heard nothing from campaigning politicians except how they are the voices for and instruments of change. Coming from both Republicans and Democrats, you’d think Washington, D.C. would be in a froth of re-invention. But from what we’ve seen so far, there’s very little change in who runs the show, who gets the gold and, unfortunately, who gets the shaft.

Let’s start with this week’s greatest example of no change—namely, the decision by the U.S. Senate Democratic leadership to allow Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., to remain as chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Lieberman, as many will recall, is a renegade former Democrat who ran as vice president with Al Gore, lost a Democratic primary for Senate, then won the general election as an independent. He caucuses with the Democrats, but supported Republican John McCain for president against Democratic candidate Barack Obama.

Lieberman is also one of the biggest hawks in Congress and an enthusiastic and unapologetic supporter of the disastrous Iraq War. He has also been a strong supporter of action against Iran, including statements such as: “Bombing Iran has an appeal to it.” If you had to be “for or against” George Bush, Lieberman would definitely be in the “for” category.

So why didn’t the Dems have the guts to give the guy exactly what he deserves, strip him of his chairmanship and leave him wandering the halls with no committees, no power and no podium? Good question. If you believe Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., it’s because the Democrats are “looking forward, not looking back.” Maybe that makes sense to the refined intelligentsia of Capitol Hill, but why would you want to put an avowed warmonger in charge of a committee that has, unfortunately, been far too compliant with Bush’s agenda of shredding the constitution through illegal wiretaps and secretly spying on American citizens? How do we follow a new path when we have the same leader who has so misdirected our steps in the past? How do you convince the world that America has a new approach when the same old war hawks remain in power?

Or how about the bailout plan for the Big Three automakers? Let’s see here, the Republicans, most recently in the persona of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, are opposed to widening the uses of the financial aid giveaway to non-financial entities like automakers. The Democrats, on the other hand, are for it—from Obama at the very top on down.

Here, the political logic is somewhat easier to discern for well-known and long-standing reasons. Namely, Democrats support unions and Republicans don’t. So the Democrats feel the need to come to the aid of the automakers because of the union employees whose jobs they seek to save. But there’s a hitch that no one, so far, has explained. If the bailout for the car companies goes through, one of the actions being contemplated is the merger of General Motors and Chrysler. While that in and of itself may not be a mistake, estimates say that it would result in 36,000 employees suddenly finding themselves out of a job. In the language of the corporations, it would be called “finding efficiencies.” But the result is the same—those 36,000 men and women will be out of a job at a time when unemployment is skyrocketing and finding replacement jobs would be a difficult, if not impossible, task. The CEOs, however, will keep their jobs. So, where’s the change we can believe in here?

Or how about the flat-out refusal of Obama’s team to even consider punishing those who committed war crimes under the Bush administration? Nope, they say, not gonna do it, end of discussion. Really? Doesn’t this sound exactly like what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said upon taking her position when she, likewise, told the nation that “impeachment was off the table” for Bush, Cheney and their criminal cabal? That was two years ago and people are still scratching their heads trying to figure out how one politician can suspend the law at will.

If you run a red light, I can assure you that when the cop pulls you over, you’re going to get a ticket for breaking the law and endangering the general public. But Bush and Cheney, along with many members of their treacherous team, were able to defy Congress, ignore summons, refuse to testify, lie to Congress and the public, and recklessly spend money in contradiction to congressional direction. Now, instead of facing the justice they fully deserve, they’re going to walk out of the White House with their pay, their benefits and their retirement assured when they should be walking into jail to pay their dues to a society they have left in ruins. Not exactly the kind of change I, and a whole pile of other Americans, were hoping for.

And what did congressional Democrats have to say about this latest travesty? “Looking forward, not back” and “not in this land” are their lame responses. Again, you have to ask why not? High crimes and misdemeanors are valid reasons for impeachment. Torturing prisoners, suspects and innocents is against both U.S. and international law, as is bombing and invading sovereign nations. If we don’t hold those in our highest offices accountable to the rule of law, how exactly are we going to change how the world views us? Allowing scofflaws to go unchallenged and unpunished, no matter the harm they have inflicted on the nation and world as a whole, is not the change we were promised.

The signs that change is not happening are everywhere. The same old Senators and Representatives will be chairing the same old committees with the same old campaign contributors pulling the same old strings to deliver the same old results.

Change, however, is what the American people voted for and what we expect to see—and now is the time for it to happen.

Helena’s George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at opinion@missoulanews.com.

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