Before Osama, and after

Posted: Sep 20, 2001 12:00 AM
Sept. 11 changed a great deal, maybe everything. A review of the preceeding weeks - a time away - discloses these happenings.... Internationally: Yasser Arafat lacking either the ability or the will to rein in Palestinian terror against the Israeli citizenry. Mexico's Vicente Fox demanding amnesty for Mexicans illegally in the United States - a viscerally alien notion. The Bush administration failing - that's failing - to oppose China's missile build-up and underground nuclear testing. China belatedly acknowledges an AIDS epidemic there. Continuing chaos in Colombia, Zimbabwe, Macedonia, Northern Ireland; Argentina financially spiraling down. The racism conference that found racism where it isn't and no racism where it flourishes. Longtime Communist Daniel Ortega, declaring himself scrubbed and reborn, seeking Nicaragua's presidency. Russia, where hard life has pushed male life expectancy down to 59, celebrating (Aug. 19) a decade without Communism. Nationally: The left hammering the president on defense, anti-missiles, Vieques (how about moving those necessary exercises to Camp Lejeune?), global warming, arctic drilling, the surplus, tax cuts, stem cells, Social Security, and all manner of money matters. Gary Condit is re-examining his political future. Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms out; Janet Reno and Liddy Dole announcing; Al Sharpton going for the presidential gold. The Fed cutting the federal funds rate another quarter-point (the rate now having dropped three points since January). The surplus dwindling and the stock market stumbling. The kids back in school with the young ladies exhibiting still more skin (yet another argument for school uniforms). SAT scores drifting generally sideways or south. Deer and bears in the 'burbs. Westvaco getting together with Mead, Hewlett-Packard with Compaq. The feds seemingly relenting on Microsoft. Barry Bonds stashing them in the seats. All this occurred prior to the Sept. 11 enormities that changed so much. They did not change how three all-knowing Washington Post columnists view President Bush. Mary McGrory said he "flunked" his first test after the assaults. Tom Shales said the president "appeared on television early in the crisis but proved ineffectual, neither reassuring nor forceful enough." And David Broder said that in not returning immediately to Washington, the president was searching out a "hideaway ... from his own nerves." But in Congress a lot will be different. None of the appropriations bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 has emerged from conference committee; neither house has even taken up the bills on education and defense. Prior to 9/11, newly hard-money Democrats were blaming Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut - predicting "monumental" battles with the White House over education, the budget, an anti-missile system, and defense. On the Sunday prior to the Tuesday assaults, the newly hard-money Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who hungers to succeed Bush, said darkly: "We're going to have a great deal of difficulty avoiding a train wreck." Yet now the train wreck seems unlikely to happen. As Osama et al. have created a new civility and oneness across the land, so they may have forced a new spirit of true bipartisanship on Capitol Hill.