For example, piping money to Africa to mitigate the spread of the AIDS virus is a goal backed by laudable intentions. But American taxpayers already are coughing up the funds to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan and God knows where else. And that doesn't even include massive new efforts to secure U.S. borders from attack. Even the noblest concepts of benevolent globalism must have their limits when times are tough at home.
For that matter, the same fiscal realism and discipline -- dare we say leadership? -- need to be applied here at home. It's unrealistic for both elected officials and those who voted for them to believe all our citizens' problems should be solved right now, in the middle of a seesaw economy and ever-mounting government deficits. Promising expanded drug benefits to Medicare patients may read well on a campaign poster, but who will pay for it? Besides, it's questionable these promises will create even short-term political gain when the proposed drug plan wouldn't even start for another two years. It sounds like little more than the creation of yet another big-ticket entitlement that can never be funded.
In large measure, President Bush controls his own fate. To do so, he must take matters into his own administrative hands. He's got to make some decisions that will restore order to the political landscape. Those decisions will be tough and probably unpopular with many people. But when you've lost 20 or so points in the approval ratings, your animating notion should be fairly straightforward: There's only one way to go, and that's up.