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A lesson in history

Democratic Voices

Posted: September 29, 2008 8:32 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

One must have the gift of a storyteller and a wide breadth of knowledge to provide historical narratives for future generations.

How does someone weave a story that illustrates the complexities of an era in a manner that provides insight into the very soul of a nation and its people?

What will future historians observe about America in the early 21st century? Economic turmoil has wreaked havoc on individuals as well as once-solid financial institutions.

Environmental and economic debates regarding the price of energy and the health of the planet have accelerated in intensity.

Certainly the escalating price of oil and America's dependence on foreign crude has been the impetus behind those who advise and those who question the benefits of drilling for oil in environmentally sensitive areas.

Lost in the shadow of questionable short-term solutions is the reality that America has to rethink its long-term energy policies in relation to our nation's insatiable energy appetite.

The dialogue about America's multi-faceted military/economic presence in Iraq and Afghanistan may have waned in the past several months, but only because the financial roof of many families is being buried under a mountain of debt.

In addition, hot-button social issues regarding immigration, gay marriage, and abortion continue to ignite the passions and volatility of personal and public opinions.

These issues have invariably become political; forcing those who are considered the major political players of our day into the media forefront. Historians will no doubt choose the political arena as a starting point for discussion, simply because politics brings the whole social enchilada together.

Trust me, the world is watching America's political race for the presidency. What will history reveal about the judgment and policies of the man who next resides in the White House?

After a primary season that was both surprising and exhausting (for the public as well as the players), we have two candidates whose biographies, temperaments, and ages are poles apart.

I doubt that many people would have bet that either Barack Obama or John McCain would have clinched their respective party's nominations for president, but despite the never-ending speculation by political pundits, the American people chose two men who represent a change in the status quo. Or do they?

Personally, I think that both candidates are a validation that the American people are sick of the state of the union. While the dreadful legacy of the Bush administration is no longer questioned, the strategies for renewal and the plans to implement changes (as opposed to endlessly talking about them or watering them down until they are worthless) are being hotly debated by both candidates.

While John McCain sees himself as a political maverick and crusader who is aghast by the shenanigans of Washington and the K Street lobbyists, his choice of advisers for his campaign illustrates his true colors and makes me question just about everything he says.

Two men who have played pivotal roles in McCain's political camp just happen to represent everything he publicly disavows.

If McCain is campaigning about lobbying reform, why did he chose Charlie Black to be his top political strategist? A brief bio of Black quickly dismisses any chance of lobbying reform in Washington under a McCain administration.

Charlie Black is considered a "company man," heading up a top Washington lobbying firm. Until House rules forced Black to take a leave of absence from his lobbying firm, he had regularly conducted business from inside McCain's "Straight Talk" headquarters.

So whom has Charlie Black lobbied for? The influence he has peddled has benefited Blackwater (the contract mercenary army who answers to no legal authority), AT&T (the company that agreed to spy on Americans), Rupert Murdock (head of the right-of-center communications conglomerate), Lockheed Martin and Phillip Morris. You have to admit that these corporations buy influence and manipulate public policy and have poured money into McCain's campaign coffers.

Black's less-than-honorable role as the informational representative of Chalabi, the convicted political Iraqi exile who played a key role in Bush's preemptive attack on Iraq, illustrates that he was a willing player in Bush's neo-conservative foreign policy debacle.

Last, but not least, Black was the political director of Jessie Helm's first run for the Senate (not the kind of guy you think of as a bastion of change).

Another questionable pick on McCain's team of advisers was none other than Phil Graham, otherwise known as "Foreclosure Phil" to many who have paid the price of the deregulation legislation he rammed through the Senate as head of the powerful banking committee.

Compassion for those who live from paycheck to paycheck is not Graham's strong suit, which was obvious when he had the temerity to say that he lacked patience with stories about people facing hard times and that America had become "a nation of whiners"!

Let me add that once Graham left the Senate, his seven-figure income as a vice chairman for U.B.S. (a Swiss banking firm) led him back into the Washington D.C. circles as a lobbyist culling governmental favors.

Graham's securing of financial wealth was directly related to his powerful connections as a senator. While embracing all of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy, he has ignored the plight of the lower and middle classes.

McCain has stated that he is not an expert on economic issues, which I do not fault him for. However, I don't see how the two advisers I have mentioned represent anyone other than the wealthiest segments of society.

Greed and a faith in unfettered free markets fueled the deregulation of financial institutions. The checks and balances that kept mismanagement and corruption at bay were dismantled, and now Americans are being asked to ante up and bail out the wealthy wonks who created the mess.

McCain was not ignorant of Graham's economic philosophy (they were Senate buddies for over 20 years) or Black's lobbying connections.

The truth is, McCain may occasionally be incensed by corruption, but his shoot from the hip approach to problems and his reliance on entrenched, Washington insiders make me question his sincerity and certainly his judgment.

Leigh Hart is a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views,and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Democratic Voices" appears Tuesdays in The Signal and rotates among several local Democratic activists.


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