This time four years ago, the mantra of “change” took center stage in our national political lexicon.

It was Barack Obama’s rallying cry as a then-presidential hopeful, and it’s sure to dominate the airwaves again in the coming months as he narrows his aim at a second term.

However on a national level — the macro outlook, so to speak — many from all sides of the aisle are clamoring today that things either haven’t changed all that much, haven’t changed at all, or have changed only for the worse.

On a micro level, the view — at least from the GOP angle — isn’t all that different. But maybe, just maybe, it should be.

It’s easy to believe that the morning of Nov. 5, 2008, was a cloudy one for Arizona’s Republican base: Its own adopted hero, John McCain, lost the big race rather handily.

Yet even as Arizona continues to be a punching bag for television pundits and a no-fly-zone for celebrities and other open mouths put off by the way it’s handled its business, there’s something Arizona’s Republican base isn’t seeing clearly: They’ve actually been better off with Barry in the big chair the last four years.

From gun control to birth control, abortion rights to (of course) illegal immigration — to that pesky “birther” issue itself — Arizona’s anti-Obama, righter-than-right contingent has certainly chucked enough desert dirt in the face of the 44th president.

But maybe that’s the mistake. Maybe they should be thanking the him instead.

A Tribune reader shared some thoughts last week (Letter to the Editor, May 16) that tackled an interesting thought: Is President Obama actually responsible for the success of SB 1070 and Arizona’s continuous immigration storyline?

No way, you might dismiss.

But this reader, Kyle Fishman of Beachwood, Ohio, actually backs it up a bit. He asserts that it was Obama’s selection of Arizona Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to be his homeland security czar — thus allowing a Republican, Jan Brewer, to ascend to the state throne in Phoenix — that’s to blame for the situation.

It really is a tale of two Jans.

“President Obama failed to evaluate the side effects of his cabinet selections,” Fishman said. “He should evaluate not only who he appoints to his cabinet, but who is expected to replace them in their current positions, especially when their current position is state governor; that comes with a lot of power.”

Fishman’s point has some merit, although I’m hard-pressed to think it’s the president’s “fault,” per se. After all, 50 governors and nearly 550 members of Congress is enough to keep track of, even for the leader of the free world.

But let’s argue for a minute that former State Senate President Russell Pearce and his supporters in 2010 would have still pushed SB 1070 to the governor’s desk — even one with a “Napolitano” nameplate. Is there anyone, anywhere, who doubts that Napolitano wouldn’t have pulled out the veto stamp?

Sure, it’s easy to fall back on the fact that she was in her second term and wouldn’t have been in office past that year’s election, so maybe Pearce could have held off and waited for the new governor.

But it’s not as if Pearce’s own track record has ever screamed of self-control, and it’s also not like Brewer (or another Republican) was a lock to replace Napolitano either way.

But let’s fire up the flux capacitor again anyway and keep on going. Say the Maverick pulled it off and defeated the Chicago kid in ’08 after all. What then? Well, Napolitano — again, a Democrat — would have had the power to appoint whomever she wanted to fulfill McCain’s Senate term. Arizona law requires the replacement to be of the same party, but far be it for me to believe that Napolitano, or anyone in that position, wouldn’t have been able to find as moderate of a Republican replacement as possible to take the elected president’s spot.

Turn the key one more time, and imagine if — with McCain on Pennsylvania Avenue — Napolitano’s replacement signed off on a Pearce-backed Senate bill. Even back-and-forth a few times, wasn’t McCain long an amnesty supporter himself? What makes us think some sort of challenge still wouldn’t have made it to the Supreme Court?

And all of this says nothing of the political theater we’d have missed out on locally.

Not that it would be a bad thing, but Arizona wouldn’t be the butt of its neighbors jokes; traditionally the president’s home state, by default, has been met with a bit less indignation. And what fun would the last year have been without the Brewer-Obama “tussle on the tarmac” or seeing Mesa host a national GOP debate on CNN (forget that with McCain as the incumbent)?

I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of person, and even I admit I might have lost it here.

But yet, as we look forward to another gritty campaign season, and as our national political landscape seems as divided as ever, maybe we all just have to come to the grips with the idea that the grass isn’t always greener (even in Arizona, where the grass usually just ends up being replaced by a pile of rocks).

Brett Fera is the East Valley Tribune’s web editor. He can be reached at

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