We're headed in the wrong direction. Americans across lines of race and region, in red states and blue states -- moderates, independents, liberals and increasing numbers of conservatives -- have now come to understand that. In Washington, the Bush administration and the DeLay Congress stagger from scandal to failure, adrift when we need direction.
We have lost a sense of common purpose -- a sense of the better angels of our nature. I remember immediately after Sept. 11, when Americans asked what they could do for their country. "Go shopping," the president recommended, as he pushed for another tax cut for the wealthy. Instead of asking anything of us in that crisis, he fought the war with our children's money.
This fundamental divorce from our basic values has become a hallmark of this administration and the Republican Congress.
President Bush hails good news from Iraq in the completion of the new Iraqi government and the death of al-Qaida's feared leader in the country. Then he announces not a plan to withdraw our troops, but a commitment to keep troops there indefinitely. We are spending more than $10 billion a month on this war; soldiers are dying in ethnic and religious civil wars that we have no stake in. Why would success not accelerate the withdrawal?
Bush hails the new jobs created in the economy and pushes for another tax cut -- a repeal of the inheritance tax -- that applies only to the wealthiest 1 percent of families. But inequality is at a record level. The economy is working only for the few. CEO salaries are soaring, but workers' wages aren't even keeping up with costs. Why would the president consider this a successful economy if Americans are -- for the first time since the Great Depression -- spending more than they earn?
The president calls for us to move beyond partisan politics. Then he pushes an amendment to the constitution to ban gay marriage -- knowing that it will not pass. The debate can only divide us, yet even the radical right knows this is a cynical gesture done for political purpose.
Right-wingers push to build a wall around our border -- and to deport 12 million people who work here without documentation. They would refuse even those who work, pay taxes, obey the laws and learn English a path to citizenship. The reality is the administration has failed to enforce the laws we have. It has refused to crack down on employers who exploit illegal immigrants. Those employers are happy to have a pool of workers without citizenship who can be exploited and used to drive wages down.
The nation, the president says, is addicted to oil. But his energy plan is based on subsidies to Big Oil and scorn for conservation. He has simply refused to launch a concerted drive for energy independence -- to invest in alternative energy and energy efficiency, to retrofit buildings in our cities and put people to work.
We have children still in poverty, going to schools on dangerous streets, and those schools are overcrowded and under-repaired, too often with the least experienced teachers. And Congress makes the largest cuts in the budget from education.
We are running a $1 trillion deficit with the world this year. We're shipping good jobs abroad. We're borrowing more than $2 billion a day, largely from Chinese and Japanese bankers. Yet the president's economists say outsourcing is good for our economy. They say workers just have to fend for themselves. But we're running up foreign debts -- more than $2.5 trillion -- that our children will have to repay.
Hurricane Katrina exposed nature's wrath as we begin to feel the effects of global warming. After being in denial for five years, the administration finally recognized that global warming is a reality. And its reaction? Nothing. No initiative, no policy change, no response.
This list could go on. On voting rights, on enforcement of civil rights laws, on poverty and opportunity. But the point is clear: We are adrift as a nation. We have an administration and Congress that simply are not able to reflect basic decency or address common problems. Clearly we need new leadership and a new direction before it's too late.
2006 The Nation