Certainly there are some shortsighted players here. Connecticut Rep. Rob Simmons, a Republican, said he is not concerned about the plight of Social Security in 2042 because "I will be dead then." Simmons, who was born in 1943, probably will be. But his constituents who turn 30 this year will turn 67 -- retirement age -- in 2042. They may not appreciate it if their congressman is indifferent about the solvency of Social Security in the year they're scheduled to retire.
On foreign policy, and particularly on Iraq, the stakes are also long-term. Bush believes that the emergence of a democratic Iraq will change the political and religious culture of the Middle East for the better. There is at least some evidence, mostly not covered by mainstream media, that this is starting to happen: public demands for democratization in other Arab countries; criticism by Arab intellectuals of the dead-end policies of existing regimes; the victory among Palestinians of a candidate who says violence is futile.
Democratic critics of Bush on Iraq fear that the United States has committed too much manpower and money to an enterprise that is impractical and quite possibly counterproductive. Better, in their view, to accommodate received opinion in Western Europe and the Arab world.
I have my own views, and you have yours, on who is right on these different issues. But many of the politicians on both sides deserve some credit for considering the long-term future.
George W. Bush has been criticized for ignoring voters' current priorities. But that's because, right or wrong, he's taking a longer view. As a result, the decisions made by Congress and the actions of the Bush administration over the next year or two will determine, more than most congressional decisions and administration actions, the kind of America and the kind of world we will live in 20 years from now. That's important whether you are one of those who expect to be around then or not.