It was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times, to steal an opening line from Dickens. It was neither the age of wisdom, nor the age of foolishness. We mixed belief with incredulity, light with darkness, enjoyed good and feared evil. Looking back on 2007, we mixed comparisons as if on a seesaw.
Suicide bombing looked to be less fashionable in the Middle East, but the assassination of Benazir Bhutto stunned everyone, reminding us that evil is always lurking in the shadows.
If the Iraq War once looked unwinnable, it now appears that the surge is working. It's no longer the single most important issue in the quickening presidential campaign. When Hillary Clinton bet on her vote for the war to help in the general election, she didn't foresee the extent to which it would hurt her, with the bizarre far left in her own party in the run-up to the nomination. Rudy Giuliani once looked like the toughest man to take on the war against terror, and now John McCain again looks like the man with the steady hand, a man proved right all along with his call for enough troops in Iraq. He faded in the fall, but now he's drawing support from a diverse array of sources, including Henry Kissinger, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Des Moines Register, the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader and the Boston Globe, at least until the Republicans choose their man. He's enjoying his own surge in Iowa and New Hampshire.
George W. has suffered high negatives at the end of his administration, but not nearly the high negatives of the Democrats in Congress, who, try as they might, haven't thwarted his aims. Though the president didn't do much to curtail government spending earlier in his administration, he promises to do more with his budget for 2009 (we can always hope).
Hillary Clinton once looked inevitable, but now she's merely one of three Democrats with uncertain prospects in Iowa and New Hampshire. Her glamour as a "first" among women with serious ambitions for the presidency has been challenged by Oprah, who put another kind of glamour on the line on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama. Hillary's "pro-gender" campaign doesn't play to a monolithic female audience.
This was the year celebrity became double-edged. Barbra Streisand, working the crowds for Hillary, looked anemic on the hustings, judged against Oprah in the battle of the divas. Voters may be asking why anyone should think an entertainer knows any more about a candidate or an issue than a Volkswagen mechanic or the check-out clerk at the supermarket. The stars attract attention, but do they change minds? They bring out the crowds, but do they bring out the votes? They may spread sunshine (or at least noise), but can they impart information?