Can the nation survive?
By ANN McFEATTERS
Wrapped up as we have been in presidential-election hoopla, machinations and drivel, we have to sober up and realize we still have another entire year of the Bush administration to deal with. What should we expect?
Ed Gillespie, senior White House counselor and one of the few experienced work-a-day Republicans who haven't fled the administration, says President Bush plans to spend this year in a "lot of travel."
He says the time frame for getting anything through Congress will expire on or about July 4 as senators and representatives race home to campaign for re-election.
The basics: No major new initiatives on foreign policy, another try at extending No Child Left Behind, more funding for the troops in Iraq, a reprise of past State of the Union speeches, some vague effort on reforms to make the housing market more stable and, as always, making the tax cuts permanent. Oh, yes. More fights with Congress over last year's budget.
Folks, this is depressing.
It's for certain we don't want any more disasters from this president. His legacy involving the war in Iraq, the tragic, botched response to Katrina, the confused non-commitment to saving the planet from greenhouse gases, the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, the catastrophes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the loss of American prestige, the probably illegal destruction of the CIA torture tapes and a huge national debt is bad enough.
But Bush has only a little more than 365 days to try to save his presidency from a thorough trashing by historians. (begin ital) And the former co-owner of the Texas Rangers has no game plan! (end ital)
The last edition in 2007 of Parade, the ubiquitous Sunday-newspaper supplement, has a smiling picture of Bush on the cover advertising an article called "What Made My Year Special by President George W. Bush."
In an article the president most assuredly did not write personally, he says that as he and his wife Laura took stock of the past year, they found themselves thinking about the "extraordinary people we have met."
The article then spoke about the president's inspiration at presenting the Medal of Honor to a dead soldier's mother, presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a genome scientist who believes in God, visiting the bread factory of a "single mom" in Tennessee, holding the HIV-free baby of an HIV-positive South African woman visiting the White House and meeting with the wife of a doctor imprisoned in Cuba for advocating democracy.
"The caring, compassionate, hardworking people who use their skills and talents to build a better America and a more hopeful world" are what keeps the president going and makes him "so optimistic about America's future -- in 2008 and beyond," the article concluded.
I don't know about you, but I am disheartened that the president thinks the most satisfying thing about being the most important elected official in the world is meet-and-greets with neat people, all of whom have sacrificed more, worked harder and accomplished more against greater obstacles than he has.
We elected Bush the first time because he seemed to be a nice guy (despite the irksome smirk) and because Florida has messed-up ballot procedures. We elected him the second time because John Kerry was not a compelling alternative and we didn't feel like jumping to a different horse mid-stream in a post-9/11 world.
Bush almost assuredly will never again run for elective office. He has the rare luxury of being able to set aside electoral politics to become a statesman and a whole year to try to correct his mistakes. But this president does not admit -- publicly, at least -- to having made any mistakes. He seems absolutely, arrogantly convinced that he made all the right decisions.
So the coming year will be much like the past seven dreary, tumultuous, conflict-riddled years.
The next president will have to deal with the war in Iraq, restoring respect for the United States, figuring out what to do with 12 million people illegally in the country, agreeing on a framework to prevent a meltdown of Social Security and Medicare, strengthening the weak dollar and bolstering a faltering economy. Not counting all the crises and surprises that bedevil every president every year.
The Iowa caucuses solved nothing. We still have big decisions to make. Let's hope this time we get it right.
(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)nationalpress.com.)