- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The next few weeks and months may be the most dangerous time for wise public policy circa 2009-2016. Unless someone else gets into the presidential race and wins, one of the current crop of candidates will be the next president. (For anyone trying to get off the bottle — that ought to sober one up.) And, regretfully, one can’t count on a newly elected president to go back on all his or her campaign policy pronouncements once ensconced in the White House.

For some new presidents they may feel ashamed at breaking all their promises in the first year. For the less scruple-driven new presidents, it will just seem to be politically unwise to flip too many issues off the Truman Balcony before even the first snows of winter fall upon the new president’s Capitol.

Thus, what the successful presidential candidate says in the spring and summer of his or her ascension year might actually become federal law and policy. Thankfully, most of the candidates haven’t yet announced in much detail their policy plans.

For example, as Sen. Barack Obama said last Thursday night in Iowa, he is in favor of addition, rather than division. This is a proposition that most fifth graders struggling through math can heartily agree with. But for us adults, what exactly is Mr. Obama planning to add up? New federal programs? And, if he likes addition, does he also like its handmaiden, subtraction. If so, is he planning to have the IRS subtract more of my income? On the other hand, Sen. Hillary Clinton believes that experience is useful in life and in the presidency. All of us over a certain age who no longer have youthful vim and vigor will nod approvingly as Mrs. Clinton sings her praise of experience. Of course, the danger for Hillary on that is that some of us won’t be nodding so much as we will be nodding off. And given her experiences in life, is she planning to learn from them or to continue them?

Mike Huckabee wants to help the little guy. Who can argue with that? I know more than a few multimillionaires who sincerely believe that they are little guys — compared to the multinationals and big New York and London finance houses they have to deal with every business day. It’s all a question of the definition of little.

But the danger is that in the next few months the presidential candidates will be forced to either support or renounce the various foolish and ill-considered positions they have taken in life so far. Of course, until one of them becomes president it never really mattered what he or she said. Young politicians on the make grab ahold of all sorts of stupid ideas. God know what a young Obama might have once thought was a useful throw away line in left-wing Chicago community action politics. Or what cozy-sounding nonsense Mr. Huckabee offered up when trying to get elected governor of Arkansas? One shudders at the thought of what left-wing drivel Mrs. Clinton pronounced — blood still dripping from the meat — to an audience in some rust-belt union hall back in the old days.

Certainly we have all believed foolish things in our callow youth. But for one of the candidates (the winning one, whoever that is), it is all about to get real — and for us, too. So, I for one am prepared to offer all the candidates 60 days of policy amnesty, just as urban police department episodically give an amnesty for people to bring in their illegal guns — and in fact pay them a few bucks for them. It’s just a matter of practical civil hygiene.

Each candidate should now come forth and tells us that he or she really doesn’t want federal law to outlaw this industry or that (which he or she found it politically useful to attack a few years ago.) God save us if any of the candidates really want to enact the Kyoto treaty requirements — returning America to energy levels used during the 1990s — which would cause a crushing depression.

The winning candidate is about to represent and govern all the people — not a mere faction. As an electorate, we should have the maturity to let the candidates get serious about things now. (And the candidates should stop and pause before lurching forward with fresh commitment. It is easier to drop it now than after you are president.) This is not a matter of flip-flopping in order to pander to a constituency. This is about permitting the next president to shed youthful and factional excesses in preparation for governing the greatest country on the planet.

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