Monday, December 24, 2007

2007: the Year of Our Discontent

In January 2007, Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. The American electorate had punished Republicans the previous November for their perceived failures with regard to the war in Iraq, the corruption in Washington typified by the Abramoff scandals, excessive spending as revealed by the growth in Congressional earmarks, and their penchant for posturing rather than governing on real issues. Democrats responded this year by doing virtually nothing on Iraq (except ignore the seeming improvements in the situation there and impugn the character of the general leading the "surge"), attempting to put a former judge impeached for accepting bribes in charge of the House intelligence committee, passing legislation including over 11,000 earmarks, and constantly preening for the political left. Americans were quite concerned about immigration, both legal and illegal, so Congress did nothing about it. By the end of the year, Congressional approval ratings are even lower than the historically low ratings for the President.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did attempt to use the power of his position to silence a specific broadcaster with whom he disagreed, Rush Limbaugh. He failed. A bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, causing lawmakers, who spend highway funds on all sorts of things unrelated to highways, to complain that taxes are not high enough to maintain roads. Privately, staffers explained that road maintenance is just not exciting enough. Perhaps we should elect lawmakers without ADD.


In spite of the bad reputation of Washington -- or perhaps because of it -- there was no shortage of desire to move to the top of its political hierarchy, as men and a woman set up residence in Iowa and New Hampshire in anticipation for next year, slinging mud and hoping for political momentum at a time when no ordinary Americans were paying attention. At the start of the year, a Washington Post column breathlessly warned that Hillary Clinton was not leading in Iowa polls. She had not yet campaigned there. At the end of the year, she stands in danger of losing her lead. Ms. Clinton's campaign was aghast that Barrack Obama had shown political ambition at an early age. Another Democratic mouthpiece, the Associated Press, printed a story warning that Mitt Romney's monogamy was inconsistent with the lifestyle of his great grandfather. Man of the people John Edwards got a haircut at the cost of a fairly high car payment. John McCain crashed and burned, and then seemed to get up again. Fred Thompson entered the race late to much fanfare, then seemed to go back to sleep.

Knowing that foreign policy is important in the post-9/11 era, many of the candidates sought to disqualify themselves. Mr. Obama, who opposed military action in Iraq from the start, threatened military action inside the borders of an uneasy American ally, Pakistan. Mike Huckabee distinguished himself by comparing the need to deal with terrorists with nuclear weapons to a skirmish among middle school boys. Bill Clinton, seeking to help his wife by drawing attention to himself, said that he had opposed the war from the start. Video clips demonstrate that the claim was what the nation has come to expect when Mr. Clinton's lips are moving.

The economy remained relatively strong through the year, though not without concerns. Lenders had made risky loans to borrowers who accepted the risk so that they could buy more house. When the risks proved risky, the stock market swooned and Congress ran over themselves looking for ways to help all the risk takers. The price of gasoline fluctuated, but seemed never to stray far from $3.00/gallon for very long, leading Congress to pass an energy bill that did little about domestic oil production, though they did considerable tilting about windmills. They also decided that we should divert the nation's food supply to energy. The cost of food began to rise.

Americans were also concerned about healthcare. The governor of California promised to make healthcare more affordable by raising state taxes by $14 Billion. Democrats opposed the plan vehemently, in spite of the fact that it is indistinguishable from the one proposed by Ms. Clinton. Mr. Romney, who signed a universal care plan in Massachusetts, complained that others proposing similar plans were socialists. National Review, preferring Mr. Romney's flips to his earlier flops, endorsed him as the most conservative candidate with a chance to win.

Proving that extremism in the pursuit of centralized control is no vice for some, Al Gore had a good year, winning both an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. Mr. Gore, the Johann Tetzel of the 21st century, helped alleviate any guilt created by his moral certainty by promoting the sale of indulgences, uh, carbon offsets.

The Boston Red Sox won their second World Series since trading away Babe Ruth. The Mitchell Report destroyed the reputations of numerous current and former players, sometimes relying on corroborated evidence. Bud Selig, who presided over the steroid era, promised to punish others for the scandal. The Indianapolis Colts got a monkey off of Peyton Manning's back, but he refused to show gratitude by ceasing with the endless commercials. Confronted by mounting evidence of permanent damage done to players due to multiple concussions, the NFL dropped back and punted. In college football, everyone decided to lose this fall.

The media -- the Charlie Brown's of modern America -- had another losing year. Dan Rather sued CBS for not standing behind his incompetent use of clumsily forged documents. Philosophers questioned whether Katie Couric's evening news broadcast really made a sound. It was also decided that it is in good taste to ridicule, nationally and endlessly, an 18 year old who answered a question about geography badly in a beauty contest. In Hollywood, the writers went on strike. No one seemed to notice.

However, it was a good year for movies. Denzel Washington deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of the dangers of compartmentalized ethics in American Gangster. George Clooney also did well as a lawyer who fixed things, and Tom Hanks excelled as a playboy congressman. However, a screening of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 started in the spring, and the credits still are rolling.

In legal news, the Supreme Court appalled liberals by coming down in favor of free speech and against racial discrimination. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court threw out a workers' comp claim originated by a woman who's boyfriend had murdered her ex-husband -- allegedly at work (hence the claim). It only took 14 years to resolve the claim. On the other hand, in Tennessee a dispatcher who saw a bloody scene on a monitor successfully argued a claim for permanent disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder.

In law enforcement, in Dallas the DEA found a large, developed marijuana field within a few hundred yards of DEA snack machines. Tennessee lawmakers, impressed by the growing length of lines at airports, required carding persons of all ages buying alcohol in stores. Mr. Gore's son was arrested with prescription drugs without a prescription, as was the sheriff of Williamson County, Tennessee. Lawmakers did little about the most crucial drug addiction problem in America today.

Lady Bird Johnson passed away. Before her death, she had made a large donation in support of a project of a church she had attended. No one would have known about it, except that her wish that her gift remain anonymous was violated following her death. Such public minded generosity and selflessness are rare in our day, and her example shines as a bright light in an otherwise dismal year for public figures. It is with the memory of that generosity we will close our summary of 2007 and look forward to 2008.

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