As America staggers out of 2005, it's time to look back at what hit us. There were five major events: Bush deflation, Republican corruption, Iraq quicksand, American shame, and Mother Nature.
"Oh yes, I'm the great pretender, pretending that I'm doing well."
Shortly after being reelected in November 2004, George Bush bragged about his new political capital. The President promised Republican donors that they would see new tax cuts and entitlement reductions. He promised to "reform" Social Security. One of the big stories of the year was the scuttling of Bush's ambitious agenda. Congressional Democrats united and the President's political capital evaporated. By the end of the year, congressional Republicans were abandoning battleship Bush. Separating from the Administration on torture, renewal of the Patriot Act, and his economic legislation. Dubya lost so much face that he was forced to do what previously had been unthinkable - admit making a mistake.
"Even the President must sometimes stand naked."
This was the year when America's worst fears about the Bush Administration were confirmed: The Republican congressional leadership - Tom DeLay and Bill Frist - was accused of financial improprieties; Delay was indicted. Veteran Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham was convicted of accepting bribes and numerous other Republicans are being investigated. The "Plamegate" scandal resulted in the indictment of Presidential adviser Scooter Libby and placed Bush guru, Karl Rove, under a cloud of suspicion. The accumulated evidence of Republican malfeasance constituted the worst Washington corruption in over 100 years.
"We were waist deep in the Big Muddy and the damn fool kept yelling to push on."
President Bush remained upbeat on prospects for "victory" in Iraq. He insisted the US will not withdraw until there are viable Iraqi security forces. However, these troops seem unable to fight without the support of U.S. forces. There were three elections during the year and millions of Iraqis voted. Nonetheless, the civil war intensified and the number of insurgent attacks dramatically increased. While two-thirds of Iraqis oppose the presence of US forces in their country, only 26 percent want us out "now." Americans are similarly divided about withdrawal. Some feel we should stay as long as it takes to defeat the insurgency. Others want us to withdraw at once. In November, hawkish Democratic Congressman, John Murtha, announced he had changed his opinion on the war and now felt that we should withdraw our troops within six months. This galvanized Democratic opposition. As a result almost all Washington Dems favor a timetable for withdrawal. George Bush opposes this, saying that reduction of forces should be "condition based." At year-end, only he knew what these were.
"Louisiana, they're trying to wash us away."
The years' most shameful event was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of New Orleans residents, mostly poor and black, were abandoned when the city was evacuated. For days the nation watched as old folks, women and children waded through flooded streets searching for food and water. The dreadful response of the Federal Government proved what many had been warning about - the Bush Administration learned nothing from the 9/11 attacks. The nation was woefully unprepared for disaster. The desperate circumstances of Gulf Coast residents also reminded Americans that we have become a deeply divided nation - one where the rich prosper, while the plight of the poor become ever more desperate.
"Crazy mama, where you been so long?"
While Time magazine named the "person" of the year as philanthropists Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates, the award should have gone to Mother Nature. However, she was far too busy to sit still for a picture. This was a year that big mama cut loose. In the United States these were horrendous hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. In Asia there were tsunamis and earthquakes. While some of these events had nothing to do with global climate change, the ferocious hurricanes were almost certainly the products of elevated seawater temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. Throughout the world there was mounting evidence of the reality of global warming. Nonetheless, the Bush Administration continues to insist that the jury is still out on climate change. As a result they resisted all efforts to change national policy or to join international treaties. For most Americans, 2005 proved that it's not smart to mess with crazy mama.
"He's a real nowhere man. "
This was the year when a majority of Americans realized that they could not trust George Bush. Unfortunately, he was elected to a four-year term and will be with us for three more years - unless impeached. While there were encouraging signs at the end of the year, Democrats have yet to mount an effective opposition. As a result, America is leaving 2005 a deeply divided nation without a clear sense of direction. Adrift on a sea riled by an increasingly irascible Mother Nature.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.