Every presidential candidate advocates "change". Each claims to be the real deal, while arguing that others are "all hat and no cattle". In fact, every new president creates "change". Some do it stylistically (e.g., John Kennedy with his youth, his pretty young wife, and his young family). Others do it substantively (e.g., Ronald Reagan, with his emphasis on low taxes, individual initiative, and old-fashioned American gumption). But very few presidents since 1900 have come and gone without making an indelible mark on the country.
In our era, it seems that the less known a candidate is, the more plausible is his claim to be the kind of outsider who can actually change the way things are done in government. On that basis, at least, Barak Obama looks like the current Champion of Change. But that could change as his proposed policies are drawn out and scrutinized by opponents and reporters.
An intriguing aspect (to this observer) of the campaigns being waged by both Democratic candidates is that change is universally considered "good" by both the media and large shares of the electorate. No one is asking, "Change of what? And to what?" For most reporters, these questions are simply beyond gauche and not worth posing.
A related curiosity has to do with climate-change - today's great environmental/political cause celebre. Here, evidently, is a type of change that is considered unquestionably "bad" by the same media enthusiasts and politicians who believe political, economic and cultural change is good. It's worth considering why this discontinuity exists, and what it might mean to most of us who will have to live with both kinds of change.
Since Mr. Obama is riding the "change" horse the hardest, let's look at the kind of change he want to bring. Some of it will be economic. A passage from an article written by Lawrence Kudlow this week is illuminating:
"[Mr. Obama] wants to spend $150 billion on a green-energy plan... establish an infrastructure investment bank to the tune of $60 billion... expand health insurance by roughly $65 billion. He wants to "reopen" trade deals, another way of saying he wants to raise the barriers to free trade. He intends to regulate the profits for drug companies, health insurers, and energy firms... [and] establish a mortgage-interest tax credit. He wants to double the number of workers receiving the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and triple the EITC benefit for minimum-wage workers.
"The Obama spend-o-meter is now up around $800 billion. And tax increases on the rich won't pay for it. The middle class ultimately will shoulder this fiscal burden in terms of higher taxes and lower growth...The Wall Street Journal's Steve Moore [says] Mr. Obama's tax plan... will add up to a 39.6 percent personal income tax, a 52.2 percent combined income and payroll tax, a 28 percent capital-gains tax, a 39.6 percent dividends tax and a 55 percent estate tax...
"Mr. Obama wants you to believe America is in trouble, and that it can only be cured with a big lurch to the left. Take from the rich and give to the nonrich. Redistribute income and wealth. It's an age-old recipe for economic disaster. It completely ignores incentives for entrepreneurs, small family-owned businesses, and investors..."
One doubts most Americans would be very eager for such change, if they knew about Mr. Obama's intentions. (He has not trumpeted his economic plans very loudly.) But most media observers know the details. Why do they think such change is good? The short answer is that media people lean heavily left - by as much as 9-1, according to various polls. Leftists distrust individual wealth, business, and free markets. They are statists and socialists who favor high taxes, government direction of markets, and a command-and-control economy. They view free enterprise as corrupt, vicious and non-compassionate. Only the benevolent hand of government can "civilize" commerce. (Ironically, many of the people who distrust free enterprise are invested in companies whose commerce has enriched them during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush era.)
A leftist mantra is that life is a "lottery" in which there are winners and losers. They believe the winners have an obligation to pick up and carry the losers. The entire idea of a free society in which people control their own economic destinies is anathema to leftists. (To be fair to Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton's economic vision for the country is not materially different.)
Both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton envision fundamental changes for American foreign policy. One is the hoary liberal idea of endless negotiation with enemies and untrustworthy "friends". Another is abandonment of our global war on radical Islamist terrorism, starting with Iraq.
At the heart of their "changed" foreign policy is the belief that all our problems stem from three (imagined) facets of Mr. Bush's personal character: (1) Mr. Bush is evil; (2) he is a megalamaniac; (3) he is a moron. Everything will be put right once the evil, moronic Hitler-wanabe is gone. The view is beyond sophomoric, yet it is an article of faith with academic and media people - not to mention Democrats.
The climate-change-is-bad story is tougher to fathom. We already know that the climate has changed several times during the last milennium without the world ending. The Medieval Warm Period (AD 900-1400) - during which Greenland was farmed, crop yields increased, people were healthier, Vikings plied the North Atlantic in open boats, and Europeans built great cathedrals - was followed by a very cold period called the Little Ice Age (1400-1870). Thereafter came warming (1870-1940), then cooling (1940-1980), then warming again (1980-1998). Scientists now say global temperatures have remained flat for the last ten years.
It took scientists some time to comprehend the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. As recently as the 1950s scientists were still chortling over the Greenland "real estate swindle" that supposedly got hapless Danes to try farming a frozen wasteland. Scientists were no less puzzled by what happened to Greenland's residents after about AD 1400 or so. Evidence now shows that Southern Greenland was farmable during the Warm Period, but that the colony collapsed after the Little Ice Age commenced. None of these periods of climate fluctuation had a human cause.
The difference now is that an unholy alliance of politicians, scientists, reporters and businessmen have seized upon the idea that human carbon dioxide emissions are warming the climate. Dissenting scientists suggest that the warming or cooling is caused primarily by variations in the sun. Astronomer Edward Maunder (1851-1928) showed that a paucity of sunspots coincided with remarkably cold temperatures during the period now called the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715). Scientists are learning that the sun's influence on our climate is complex - involving not just radiant heat but solar winds which play a role in the formation of cloud cover.
These finer points of climatology are largely disregarded by those who see potential profit in the simplistic story that we are causing the climate to change (i.e., warm) by burning fossil fuels. Politicians drool over the prospect of endless taxes and statist control of economies and people's lives to "stop" the warming. Scientists hunger for grants to "study" climate change and invent simulated scenarios to "keep up the skeer". Business is feverishly working on new "green" products whose utility in holding back climate change is highly questionable, at best.
Best of all, reporters anticipate a drama-rich future of the rich becoming poorer, ordinary people giving up their comfortable lives and cars, and the most successful country in history divesting itself of the reasons for its success. Why? Because they like the action. Conflict is their business.
Global warming (a.k.a. climate change) is the bogeyman because Al Gore says the icecaps are going to melt and cause the seas to rise by 20 feet. New York, Miami and Venice will be flooded. (Would that really be bad?) These fright-scenarios - based on models predicting weather a century hence - are accepted without critical evaluation. Honest scientific dissent is called "denial". Politicians like Al Gore and Maryland Governer O'Malley say the debate is over and we "must act".
Meanwhile, the possible benefits of a warmer climate are ignored: e.g., higher food production; less hunger; healthier lives; less need for fuel; less danger from snow and ice storms; and more enjoyable outdoor lives. Likewise, the disadvantages of a colder climate are brushed aside - even as some of the heaviest winter storms in recorded history have hit some of our northern states, causing loss of life and property damage.
Thus, we rush onward to embrace ill-defined political and economic change, while letting ourselves be scared to death about climate change. In the end, it all comes down to the same thing - more government control, less freedom, less personal wealth, poorer futures. Statism isn't dead, it has only been sleeping. We need to wake up, too.
 Lawrence Kudlow is host of CNBC's "Kudlow & Company" and is a nationally syndicated columnist. See his article at http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20080219/COMMENTARY04/624346435/1012/COMMENTARY