So, what do you think about recent events in the news?
A lot of good news all 'round.
How can you possibly say that? You think it's good about the baseball scandal - with even Barry Bonds saying he thought steroids were flax-seed oil? You think it's good about American kids ranking 24th in mathematics skills among 29 industrialized countries? You think it's good about one Catholic diocese after another going toes-up because of litigation from rampant homosexuality in the priesthood? You think it's good that more and more colleges are now trying to cope not only with knee-deep alcohol on campus - but with soaring suicide?
Of course not. Major League Baseball has been ignoring its own problems for too long; John McCain and others are right to jump on it big-time. The Paris-based PISA study, building on earlier studies showing too many American youngsters can't read, now shows too many American 15-year-olds have trouble counting - even on their fingers: bad business. Homosexual abuse among the Catholic priesthood, particularly toward boys, is shredding one of the nation's - the world's - most estimable institutions. And news from the country's campuses suggests Tom Wolfe, in his "I Am Charlotte Simmons" about the descent of life there, is not so hyperbolic and far off the mark as his detractors might wish.
So how can you say things are not going to the dogs?
A lot of the good relates in some way to George Bush.
You can't be ser -
Think about it. Bush has resisted appeals from John Kerry and Saddamite disciples to delay Iraq's elections. The military successes in Fallujah and Mosul have moved those elections from fluffy dreams to prospective realities. As Bush told Marines at Camp Pendleton Monday:
"When Iraqis choose their leaders in free elections, it will destroy the myth that the terrorists are fighting a foreign occupation and make clear that what the terrorists are really fighting is the will of the Iraqi people."
What one hopes will emerge in Iraq now is a Lech Walesa (as in Poland), a Vaclav Havel (as in the Czech Republic), a Hamid Karzai (as in Afghanistan) - even a Yulia Tymoshenko, who just may raise democracy to unimagined heights in Ukraine. The jury will be out for a while regarding whether democracy can work in Iraq, but there are countless impoverished people around who have bet the moon that a given jury will return a specific verdict.
Hmmmm. And at home?
At home, the news seems very good indeed.
Look. The prospects for some solid strict-constructionists to win confirmation to the federal bench - even to the Supreme Court - are better than they have been in years. With most of a winning economic team suited up at last, Bush is gearing down for major initiatives (a) to simplify the tax code - perhaps the world's only document more incoherent than a U.N. report on aggression - and (b) to touch the dreaded third rail of American politics, Social Security, by injecting it with a private investment component.
And now Congress has passed the much-discussed and too-long delayed post-9/11 intelligence bill. To the screams and whines of ACLUists everywhere, it gives the government broad new surveillance and immigration powers, notably affecting illegal immigration most - as it should. The principal complaint about the measure is its failure to contain a provision denying driver's licenses to illegals (that is, immigrants would have to show they are here legally to drive legally and to obtain the document that is the closest thing to a national ID card).
All this is in the works because of George Bush?
You might say that. Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, in conjunction with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, is beginning to talk about reshaping the post-election role of U.S. troops there so they can begin to come home. Instead of performing as the primary line, they would become a secondary line. Principally, they would ramp up efforts to train more Iraqis to provide for their own security. The only way out, it has to be done - and soon.
On the political front -
No, here at home. On the political front here, new studies show astounding things for the Republicans. In the November elections, Bush carried nearly all those states and localities with the highest population growth rates; Kerry carried nearly all the states with the lowest. Which is to say voters in Republican (or red) states are tending to have more children, who usually grow up to vote the way their parents do.
Not only that. Bush now boasts his highest leadership-index rating in a year, and his numbers among Hispanics are steeply higher. With Mel Martinez from his administration about to be sworn in as a Florida Senator, and with his recent naming of a Hispanic Commerce Secretary and a Hispanic Attorney General, Bush's approval among Hispanics has rebounded to 52 percent from a 2004 low of 38 percent hardly more than a month ago.
So you think Bush may be doing a lot of the right things to avoid the second-term stigma and to keep Republicans rolling for the long haul?
Yes - and more. The saying goes that the flag still flies. These days, seemingly, the flag doesn't just "still fly." It's madly flapping everywhere.