Keep the 'Change' - I'll Take a Washington Insider, Thanks
I used to like the word "change" -- until I had to hear it approximately 18,743 times in one week.
I'm all about changing: rotating handbags, buying variety packs, keeping six lip glosses in my top desk drawer just in case I want to change. I like finding change on the floor of the laundry room. "Changes" is a great David Bowie song.
So, in short, change used to mean something promising, uplifting -- until everyone from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney to Oprah began cramming the word down voters' throats.
Has anyone realized that, since our sitting president is termed out and the vice president isn't running, any of the candidates will technically be change? Is it too much to ask that before trumpeting the C-word every three seconds, we pause to think about whether a certain candidate's change will be good change or bad change? Is it too much to ask for hard-and-fast details from the "change agent" presidential hopefuls of the day?
For a change, the races for both party's nominations are true horseraces. But with this vacuous catchphrase-dropping, within months we'll all be scrambling to change the channel.
I, for one, can't really bear to hear the slur anymore that (insert senator here) is a "Washington insider."
As goes the logic, that means he or she does not represent "change."
"If you really want to have change, you don't just want to have a gadfly or somebody fighting for this or fighting for that," Romney said at an event before the New Hampshire primary. "You want to have somebody who will bring change, who will sell the company America has -- it's going to have to be somebody from outside Washington, not a Washington insider." Coming out of his Tuesday win in Michigan, Romney crowed, "Tonight is a victory of optimism over Washington-style pessimism."
Actually, it was a victory for the Daily Kos, who encouraged Democrats to jack up the Republican field by casting a vote for Romney. But for reference, the lineup goes something like this:
-- John McCain and Hillary Clinton: Washington insiders
-- Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and Romney: Washington outsiders
-- John Edwards: Washington insider who pretends he's an outsider
-- Barack Obama: Washington newbie
-- Fred Thompson: Hollywood and Washington insider
-- Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich: Washington entertainment
The most amusing assumption in the "Washington insider" catchphrasing is that someone who comes from a statehouse as opposed to Capitol Hill is somehow untainted by the scourge of politics -- or not willing to, ahem, pander to reap votes.
And then the question is begged: What's really wrong with a "Washington insider" becoming the leader of the free world? After all, you come into the job knowing all the dirty little secrets of the dirty little town, so when you step inside the Oval Office you can actually get to work instead of learning about the tangled web in a D.C. 101 class.
George W. Bush was a Washington outsider who came to lean on insider Dick Cheney when it came to running the country, much to the chagrin of the left everywhere. But such is the role of an outsider president: being the student of those in the know.
Would, say, a newspaper be at the top of its game by hiring a news-outsider as its editor? Or would the best editor be someone experienced at news judgment, libel and ethics knowledge, designing pages, line editing, working well with reporters and publishers, and all the other drudgery that goes with producing a newspaper?
How would that newspaper's quality -- and bottom line -- suffer if the editor had to take time to learn the ropes?
You could bring in someone who, like Romney touts himself, is a good manager -- but they'd have to not only learn the business, but make the industry-wide connections that will enable them to be competitive, pull together their dream newsroom team, etc. You can rally the folks with morale-building speeches all day long, but the bottom line is putting out the top product.
Say a "Washington outsider" is elected president. How much of his first term would be spent learning the intricate inner workings of D.C.? A year? Two? Would he know whom to trust, and who's bad news? Will he lean too much on advisers to get him through the days?
If assuming that a "Washington outsider" is a "change agent," also bear in mind that politicians are politicians. Those running on "change" platforms know just as many backroom dirty tricks, and are running cutthroat campaigns just like everyone else.
Need any proof? Consult the New Hampshire video showing Romney staffers pulling McCain signs out of a snowbank and -- dare I say -- changing them to Romney ones.
Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News.