Mike Baker: You Want Change? Give Me a Break

I’m pleased to report that the “What a Load of Crap 2008 Cross Country Tour of America” is coming together nicely.

Except for the title, which is a bit wordy and definitely won’t look good painted on the side of the RV. In a previously unseen display of efficiency, members of the PWB staff bought a big map of the United States, stuck it on a wall in the mailroom and have been busy pushing pins in to all the locations where readers have suggested we stop by for free booze and a chat.

We’ve got pins in all the states except for Hawaii… no small disappointment for all the staffers who think they’re coming along on the tour. It’s just as well… getting the RV to Hawaii would require the sort of planning and logistics that, frankly, we couldn’t muster. It’s gonna’ take all our bandwidth just to get the fridge stocked and the rig gassed.

While this started out as a goof, and a way to drink for free, I have to admit that it’s now taking on a life of its own. Crisscrossing the nation and having the chance to meet and talk with crazed PWB readers of all ages, backgrounds and experiences could best be described as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Or, alternatively, it could be described as a chance to blow through huge amounts of coins while burning fuel at the rate of about 9 miles to the gallon.

Contrary to what many might think, the PWB mobile command center is not powered by hot air.

The offers for drinks, pie and coffee, conversation and some porch sittin’ are very much appreciated. No doubt you’ll regret your fine displays of hospitality when you realize we’re actually rocking up on your hometown. I promise not to overstay the welcome, unless we’re low on gas money and end up needing to take temporary jobs in your area to restock the kitty.

Using a scientific method involving a calendar and a show of hands, we’ll soon be deciding when during the summer we’ll back the RV out of the driveway and start this goat rope. I’ll keep you informed so that you’ve got plenty of advance warning and can skip town before we arrive.

You may well ask yourself… what exactly are we going to talk about when Mike shows up on our porch? Anything you damn well want to talk about is the answer. Security, homeland defense, immigration, taxes, a good corn pudding recipe, why James Coburn had such a crappy Australian accent in "The Great Escape," Putin’s plan to remain in power till the ice caps melt and maybe even the November presidential election.

Speaking of which… today is Super Tuesday II. Today, voters in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and somewhere else (damn the crappy PWB researchers) go to the polls in an effort to keep the political pundits, strategists and media employed.

I’ve asked this question before, but how do you qualify for the title of Democratic or Republican Strategist? It seems like everybody but you and me is wielding that title now. Who are these people and what did they do to earn the description?

Sure, some are former campaign managers from past failed elections. I can see how that qualifies you to bang on about any future campaign. But what about all the others? Where does the expertise and insight come from? I don’t want to sound churlish, just curious.

Up until this point I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my piehole shut over the current campaign rhetoric of Democratic candidate Sen. Obama. Mind you, I don’t have a dog in the hunt on that side of the aisle. It’s also important to note that I am neither a Republican nor a Democratic Strategist, although I am taking night school courses to earn my Strategist degree. My opinion is my own, which means nobody of any real intelligence endorses it.

However, after listening to one too many Sen. Obama platitude-laden speeches awash in catchy phrases and feel-good blather, the PWB crap-meter was overloaded and set off the alarms.

Now, I think he’s a smart guy, decent, well-spoken, interesting and relatively sincere. But so is Marv who works at the accounting firm next door, it’s just I wouldn’t want him in the White House. Admittedly, Sen. Obama has more political experience than Marv, but not much.

The situation with Sen. Obama reminds me of the recent campaign of former GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani. What the hell was that all about? A former mayor of New York City with an OK track record rides 9/11 to the point where he becomes a front-runner until people come to their senses.

For the most part the media loved him and seemed to actively avoid digging into his past performance or business activities. Again, street-smart guy with an impressive ability to excite people, but would you put him in the White House?

The media clearly has been complicit in the feel-good tsunami generated by Sen. Obama. Name one other candidate, Democrat or Republican, during the past several presidential campaigns, who has received such favorable, non-combative treatment for no apparent reason? Rudy would take second place but it’s a distant second.

For the past several months, Sen. Obama’s campaign has been coddled and carried along by the mainstream media. I wouldn’t object except the same media also wants to be known as objective and above the fray.

Time Magazine featured a cover with Sen. Obama’s head, photographed from behind so that the spotlights formed a halo around him, with a title “Does Experience Matter.” Have we lost our freakin’ minds? I don’t know about you, but I like my presidents seasoned with a little smattering of experience.

I suspect what set off the crap-meter was all the pandering to voters, particularly young voters, declaring he’ll bring an end to partisan politics and will deliver change, real change, to Washington. What the hell does that mean? Does it mean Sen. Obama will abolish the two-party system? Does it mean he’s got a special potion from Hogwarts Academy that he’ll use to bring us all together? Why doesn’t anybody stand up at one of his rallies and say “… what the hell are you talking about?”

Just the other day, while watching television, I saw an old friend, an experienced Washington lawyer, who has recently declared his allegiance to Sen. Obama. Now this old friend of mine is one of the most clever, creative lawyers I know. Yet when asked about the senator’s political leanings, he sidestepped the question and let forth with something about how Sen. Obama was going to get rid of the old red state-blue state politics and how he was bringing a whole new reality to the political landscape.

Honestly, if I didn’t know the guy, I would’ve categorized him as an idiot with a crush on his candidate.

It’s like watching a zombie movie where you wake up one morning and people around you have been reduced to platitude-reciting Obama supporters incapable of asking for specifics. Except, unlike real zombies, these folks can move about during the daytime.

We are the change we’ve been waiting for. Believe in yourselves. Change you can believe in. What a load of crap. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great sayings for a team building conference next time your office has to go away on one of those forced management exercises. But we’re talking about running the damn country.

I will admit that he’s getting far better mileage on the whole Change Smoke and Mirrors trick than I would’ve ever imagined. I was under the impression that voters of all ages would want more… more definition, more substance, more experience.

Apparently, what the voters want is to feel good for a while. And honestly, I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as the voters don’t turn ugly after the inauguration when change isn’t forthcoming.

I tell you what, rather than voting for someone who tells you what you want to hear, let’s vote for someone who tells you the painful stuff. The crap you don’t necessarily want to hear. How’s this for an independent campaign five-point platform:

• The economy is in a slowdown… you want change? Quit being greedy, save more than you spend, work hard and quit whining. Oh, and nobody has the right to keep up with the Jones’ and have a flat-screen television. Live within your means. It’s not some other country’s fault that we’re not as competitive as we used to be. The world’s shrinking and we either adapt or we get kicked to the curb.

• Iraq is difficult, painful and not going away any time soon… you want change? Fine, we’ll pull the troops out now because it’ll garner votes, then we can spend twice the coin and put even more lives at risk when the place falls further into hell and we need to go back. Quit moaning about the intelligence failures and poor planning that led us into the current situation. It is what it is and we better deal with it properly.

• Washington is broken… you want change? Give me a break. Quit with the crying over partisan politics unless you got a plan for revamping the two-party system. Candidates have been winging that old chestnut around since George Washington’s days. There’s nothing broke about Washington, D.C., that can’t be solved by politicians simply doing what they’re supposed to do… representing their constituents, working hard and being honest.

• Immigration… you want change? OK, everybody except Native American Indians shut up and figure out how to compromise between secure borders and a nation that continues to offer hope and inclusion to people from other countries. Last time I checked, we all came from somewhere else. It’s going to require big brass ones, but we need to figure out a way to balance security, costs and opportunity, and that’s going to take flexibility from everyone.

• Universal health care… you want change? Great idea, come up with a plan that can be clearly explained to someone with a high school education and I’ll believe you might be on to something. If only your advisors can figure out the math, I’m assuming you’re blowing smoke up my butt. Which can’t be healthy.

I realize all this makes me sound surly and somewhat anti-hope. In reality, I think it’s excellent that people are excited about voting and that, regardless of substance, Sen. Obama’s campaign has people all frothy about the election process. It’s just that I can’t help but be reminded about that fable with the kid, the emperor and the new clothes.

Simply my opinion. As always, we look forward to your comments, questions and insight. Write to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com

Till next week, stay safe.

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Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.

Mike Baker is the Co-Founder of Diligence LLC, a leading global intelligence, security and risk management firm. Prior to starting Diligence, Mike spent over a decade and half with the CIA as a covert field operations officer. He is a regular contributor in the national and international media on intelligence, security, counterterrorism and political issues. He appears regularly on Fox News, as well as other major media outlets.