June 12, 2008
The Change Hypocrisy (Bob Franken)
@ 10:41 am
Remember in the movie "The Candidate" when Robert Redford's character has run as the reforming outsider and gotten elected? He looks up and mouths, "Now what … ?"
While there are some obvious reasons Redford wouldn't be cast as Barack Obama, I don't need to belabor the obvious: Now that Obama wrested away the Democratic nomination by raising hopes of change, his "Now what?" is very, very tricky.
The Jim Johnson screw-up shows how really tricky it can be when you excite people by running a "Throw the Rascals Out" campaign.
Here's the tough reality: Not only do the rascals run the system, but they're the only ones who understand how it operates. They're the operators. And like it or not, Obama needs them. His team has no chance at all without the inside players.
Jim Johnson is the consummate inside player. That's why he was selected to lead presumptive nominee Obama's search for a running mate. And that's why he had to be cut loose.
Let's face it, the Johnson embarrassment shows just how much difficulty Barack Obama or any candidate can have trying to avoid tripping up on his own pious rhetoric.
What a dilemma: The Washington "Rascals" — "You can't live with ’em and you can't live without ’em.”
So what's a reformer to do? You can't turn the system upside-down and dump out all those feeding on it. They are burrowed far too deep in it. And you can't bully them into accepting change that doesn't keep their sweet deal going.
What you CAN do is outsmart them. The bulk of them gained their influence, not because they were the smartest, but because they were the most opportunistic. They knew how to shamelessly play the back-stabbing, credit-stealing game.
It shouldn't be that hard to outwit them and convince them that it is in their self-interest to shake things up. But it will take a leader who is clever enough to appear like he's playing the game even while he's changing it.
To do that, he will need to assemble a team that combines experience with idealism, a true commitment to restoring fairness and intelligence to our society.
There are people like that — in and out of Washington. The next president will need to start bringing them onboard now, and avoid the same-old-same-old cast of characters. Otherwise, we will continue, as a nation, to sink into our cynicism … and be justified in doing so.