It's time for a different perspective on this page

So here we are. Peeking around the curtain before tentatively stepping onto the printed stage.

To most everyone's surprise, some people's anger and other people's delight, The Sun offered me the opportunity to write a weekly op-ed column. It's unlikely that anyone was more shocked at this development than I was.

One accusation made against liberals in academe and the media is that while they preach the joys and benefits of racial and sexual diversity, they shun diversity of thought - political opinions that contradict their own. Suffice it to say that over the years there have been significant and sometimes well-publicized differences of opinion between the folks on North Calvert Street and the man (me) behind the microphone afternoons on WBAL radio.

So the decision-makers at The Sun must think it is good for business to provide diversity of opinion. There can be no other explanation for allowing me this platform, since I've been known to cruelly mock liberal pieties and am not willing to control that impulse.

In the same issue of the newspaper that revealed this working agreement, my horoscope said: "Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, sometimes you should keep those opinions to yourself."

I can't do that. Never could. The compulsion to opine has been a mixed blessing, making it hard to work in corporate settings, causing quite a few problems during my time in the Marines - who, in case you haven't heard, are pretty authoritarian - but helpful in providing me with a living as a talk-show host.

I believe in truly limited government and would much prefer to have legislative sessions that repeal unwise or excessively intrusive laws rather than concoct hundreds of new ones. There was a time when I was seduced by the so-called conservative movement, when I believed that Newt Gingrich's "Republican Revolution" and its "Contract With America" would put the brakes on ever bigger central government, and that the newcomers to Congress who said they would abide by term limits would live up to their word. As they say, live and learn.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton proclaimed that the era of big government was over. In 2000, George W. Bush promised a more humble foreign policy if he were elected president. I'm sure you've noticed that government is bigger and more intrusive than ever, and that our foreign policy is one marked by invasions, occupations, bullying and bribing, just as it has been for decades, and even more so since the events of 9/11.

And if you think that a Democrat in the White House will make a difference, good luck to you. Sen. Barack Obama's stump speeches may send a chill up Chris Matthews' leg, but Mr. Obama is just another politician, bought and paid for by the usual suspects.

It's not as though the American public is unaware of the shortcomings of our political system. Even in presidential election years, little more than half of those eligible to vote bother to do so. Voter apathy is fueled by the long-established refusal of major party candidates to address primary issues of great concern to ordinary people.

In the 1940 presidential election, when the overriding question was whether we should intervene in World War II, both candidates promised to keep the United States out of the conflict. The Republican, Wendell Willkie, was a sacrificial lamb in that election, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, even as he promised nonintervention, was implementing a policy of military aid to Britain that all but guaranteed our involvement in another European bloodbath.

Leap ahead a quarter-century or so and you'll find that despite polls showing that at least 75 percent of Americans were against affirmative action, nearly all Republican and Democratic presidential candidates were either in favor of such programs or silent about them.

Currently, a big concern to most Americans is the ongoing invasion of our country by millions of illegal immigrants. It is unprecedented in its size and scope - estimates are that about 7 million Mexicans live within the United States - and yet the government has done virtually nothing to defend our borders, much less to expel any of the intruders.

People have learned the hard way that elections come and go, but the real power lies in the hands of pressure groups that, through an approving and compliant press, propagandize and indoctrinate day after day, election cycle after election cycle.

As comic Lily Tomlin remarked, "No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up."

Ron Smith is heard weekday afternoons on WBAL-AM. His column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is

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