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Commentary: Washington is a sucker bet

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Jack Cafferty is a commentator for CNN's "The Situation Room." He's also the author of the new book "It's Getting Ugly out There"


Jack Cafferty says the priority of any politician is to get re-elected.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Guess who said this:

"I think that the country, after the last couple of years, has a bias in favor of change -- I think probably starting with Hurricane Katrina and coming through Baghdad and the whole sense of too much spending."

Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?

Nope. It's a Republican.

It's former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaking to "The National Journal" about why he thinks Democrats are poised to walk off with the big prize in 2008.

Gingrich cites a lack of enthusiasm in the Republican conservative base and a stunning level of intensity in the anti-war left. He says when you add it all up, the odds are probably 80-20 in favor of Democrats winning the '08 presidential race.

Of course we have to remember that Gingrich may run himself.

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Part of the reason he's painting such a dire picture is no doubt to convince Republicans that if he gets into the race the odds will improve in the Republicans' favor.

Gingrich says one of the things lacking in the GOP field is a candidate capable of forcing Clinton or Obama to defend the failed bureaucracies of Democratic administrations past. The problem, as Gingrich sees it, is no Republicans are calling for dramatic change.

On the contrary, it seems like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- who is leading the GOP field in most polls -- often sounds like President Bush.

But Gingrich is onto something. I, too, sense a strong bias in favor of change. The problem is that whether a Democrat or Republican is our next president, and regardless of who controls the Congress, we are unlikely to get any meaningful change. And that's because there is very little discernable difference between the two parties anymore.

Oh sure, they fuss at each other about abortion, gay marriage, flag burning -- all the wedge issues -- but if you look at the big picture, it's all pretty much the same. And it's not pretty.

Both major parties are consumed by the obsession of getting into power and holding onto it. Don't kid yourself: The No. 1 priority of any politician is being re-elected. Because if he's not re-elected, he's out of business. And that's where we get into the real similarities between Republicans and Democrats.

Because of the way we fund campaigns, lots of money is required. That money comes from big corporations and special interest groups that usually have an agenda at odds with the general welfare of Mr. and Mrs. Taxpaying American citizen. And once their guy is elected, well, it's payback time.

The immunity these people have crafted for themselves over time allows them freedom to pursue their own agendas at the expense of yours. No term limits, no independent ethics oversight, and campaign finance laws that invite corruption. What do they care if you don't like the way they run the country? There isn't a hell of a lot you can do about it. And they know it. And they take full advantage of it.

So don't kid yourself as we roll toward the next election, no matter how much change we think we're voting for, the odds are that you and I will continue to lose.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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