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"Walking the Walk - Commentary by Joseph C. Phillips"

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The catch phrase for this political season is “change.” Voters want it though they are often at pains to describe exactly what that change is. They are tired of business as usual and desirous of a new politics in Washington, an end to partisan bickering and the beginning of a new vision and a new political culture.

The candidates in this year’s presidential election offer a clear distinction in race, age and temperament. It is clear as well which candidate’s rhetoric is more style over substance.

In August, during the saddleback civil forum on the presidency, Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama was asked by Pastor Rick Warren: “Can you give me a good example where you went against party loyalty, and maybe even went against your own best interest for the good of America?”

Obama responded by offering as an example his work with John McCain on the issue of campaign ethics and finance reform. It turns out however, that this shining bi-partisan moment was anything but. After pledging to reach across the aisle and support Senator McCain’s efforts, Obama withdrew that support one week later. The reneging of support resulted in a scathing letter from McCain in which he wrote among other things: “When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions…”

Here was Obama’s opportunity to display before an eager audience his actual ability to do more than talk about rolling up his sleeves and working with Republicans and the best example he could come up with was a lie.

In contrast, according to analysis conducted by the Washington Times, “Mr. McCain has reached across the aisle far more frequently and with more members than Mr. Obama… In fact, by several measures, Mr. McCain has been more likely to team up with Democrats than with members of his own party.” Not great news for conservatives, but sobering for those truly interested in bi-partisanship.

As we debate the prospects of a trillion dollar bailout of the financial sector voters are emphatic about the need for greater oversight of our financial institutions. It is interesting to note that in 2005, Senator Charles Hagel (R-NE) introduced the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act. The bill sought to establish “an independent Regulatory Agency which shall have authority over the Federal Home Loan Bank Finance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Banks, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac); and (2) the Federal Housing Enterprise Board.” There are 3 co-sponsors of the bill that may have helped curb the current financial crisis. Senator John McCain was one of them; Senator Barack Obama was not.

Obama has been vocal about pay equity. On his website he laments, "Despite decades of progress, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.” Alas, his dedication to pay equity for women seems to have eluded those women actually working for him. Columnist Deroy Murdock, using information compiled on the Web site of the non-partisan group Legistorm examined the pay of female staffers working for both the Obama and McCain campaigns. According to Murdock the information determines that, on average, “women in McCain's office are paid more than the men in McCain's office -- $1.04 for every dollar a man makes.” Conversely, “Men in Obama's office make more than women do; female employees make 83 cents for every dollar made by male employees.”

The information also reveals that, “Only one of Obama's five best-paid Senate staffers is a woman. Of McCain's five best-paid Senate staffers, three are women. Of Obama's top 20 salaried Senate staffers, seven are women. Of McCain's top 20 salaried Senate staffers, 13 are women.”

I will hold my breath waiting for feminist outrage.

This election might be properly titled a study in contrasts: one is black, the other white; one is young and energetic, the other older and more seasoned. And if it is truly change voters want, this election offers a clear distinction between one candidate that talks of new politics and change and one that actually practices what he preaches.

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.


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