Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- This is the week when Americans gather together to express our gratitude to the Almighty for the blessings He has bestowed on this nation of inexhaustible abundance and freedom.

The pollsters tell us that Americans have never been more pessimistic about the country's direction, expressing deep disapproval of its leaders and institutions at all levels of government. And heaven knows we've got some troubles that have stretched our patience, from the Iraq war to a sharply polarized electorate whose political leaders can't seem to agree about anything on behalf of the common good.

Seen from the nation's capital, where politics is a blood sport fueled by nonstop bickering and backstabbing, things look pretty bleak. But public perceptions, shaped by a 24/7 news cycle that is overwhelmingly negative, can be misleading.

Go out into the country, and a very different picture emerges of the land we inhabit. Americans go to work each day to run our businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, churches and charities and everything in between. They work very hard -- and the productivity data backs this up -- and usually without rancor, guile or complaint. The atmosphere at a typical luncheon gathering of Kiwanis or Rotary clubs, and other community civic organizations, is one of fellowship, charity and tolerance -- in sharp contrast to the poisonous, self-absorbed climate we experience in the capital.

So perhaps this Thanksgiving week provides an opportunity to take stock of what's right with our country, instead of just focusing on what's wrong.

Certainly the war in Iraq has taken a turn for the better, with the levels of terrorist violence and civic unrest down sharply as a result of the U.S. troop surge. No one knows how long this relative calm will last, but there are signs that life in Iraq is improving as a result of our efforts to strengthen a democratic government in the midst of a violent and volatile region. Iraqis refugees are returning home. More Iraqis are signing up for the military and police. Baghdad is a far more stable capital than it once was, setting the scene for progress and reconciliation among its many political factions. Most important, if the lull in the fighting lasts, it means that some of our troops will be coming home sooner rather than later.

Here at home, we are blessed with a full-employment economy where more Americans are working than at any other time in our history. Indeed, we have labor shortages in many sectors -- from health care to technology to agriculture.

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, where economies like those of China and India are exploding with growth, we remain the largest and most affluent economy on the planet.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.