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Great wall of ambition surrounds Washington, D.C.

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Posted: March 16, 2008 12:32 a.m.
Updated: May 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.
After listening to what seems like a decade's worth of presidential debates and after having come of age, politically, during the blow-out sale at Bush's big government bonanza, I was recently taken by the chin and clued in that before impressive speeches about health care reform or nuanced discourses on entitlements reform are given, a more vital subject must be addressed.

For conservatives, this will take the form of a needed remedial course. For the Democratic presidential candidates, their absence of stump rants about this subject reveals a twisted understanding of what they are pursuing.

This November, we will elect a new president of the United States.

When electing a president, understand that we are electing a person to constant battle. A battle not primarily of Democrats against Republicans, but a bare-knuckled fight pitting that person against what Barry Goldwater rightly pointed out in "Conscience of A Conservative" as "the chief instrument for thwarting man's liberty."

The opponent? Government.

I do not mean to say that government cannot be, nor has never been, used to achieve grand ends. But as Sen. Goldwater, again rightly, said, "note that the very instrument by which ... desirable ends are achieved can be the instrument for achieving undesirable ends."

Insulated conclave
Government, despite the best efforts of an LBJ or John Edwards, is not - by its nature - a ready-made reservoir brimming with only good fortunes for the taking. Quite the opposite: Government is actually the representation of power in the hands of some individuals to regulate the lives of other individuals.

That power base, called Washington, acts as an insulated conclave faithful to profiteering, grandstanding, and the power grab that consumes elected politics. An ill-prosecuted war, said Bill O'Riley in 2007, born of administration arrogance and the congressional Black Caucus' racially fueled fidelity to glossing over the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Alcee Hastings and William J. Jeffersons of Washington, betrays Washington's Napoleonic syndrome.

And as Sen. Goldwater warned, this seizes when "the holders of government are left to their own devices. This is because of the corrupting influence of power, the natural tendency of men who possess some power to take unto themselves more power." Truer words could not better define Washington.

A president must be resolved to challenging this free-wheeling imperialist complex. Rather than applying what Alan Greenspan calls "Bush's collaborate - don't confront - approach" with Congress and submitting to its every whim, a president must be a check on congressional aggression. Simultaneously, a president must guard against the lust to ambitiously enlarge presidential powers.

At a time when the presidency seems legislatively uninhibited, I ask if a Hillary Clinton White House would further that bloated Oval Office condition by being the picture that John Kerry painted in 2006 when he said that the Clintons care about two things: power and themselves. Breaking this imperial stride will require a president who, as ol' Goldie said, understands that his first duty is to divest himself of the powers that he has been given.

Outsider in one's own country
Without that president, the cronyism that placed Alberto Gonzalez in the attorney general's chair and the naked ambition that caused our 42nd president to treat the Lincoln Bedroom like a Motel 6 will only continue to snowball.

Frankly, I distrust distant, isolated power. I distrust complex, reclusive agendas that feed on money, power, and applause. I find it hard to believe that what I think about as I fall asleep at night or as I drive to work competes in that world.

If those concerns happen to intersect with a politician's power grab and applause meter, then my well-being will get the overflow of that ambition. That puts me at odds with my own government, like an outsider in my own country. I have no entrenched, well-paid personal lobbyist and no sizable financial contribution that will open doors for me. Without them, there is no audience for me in Napoleon's court.

A president who wants only to wield the levers of power that the White House offers is not what we need. Talk of "streamlining government" or "managing the economy" is not what we need. That talk betrays the ideology that power and what it brings are the necessities for civil good.

The reach for power always dulls the senses to outside needs. In that way, I guess that Washington has its own Great Wall of Ambition surrounding it.

Andre Hollings is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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