The year just passed was not the best of times. Depending on your political bent, it might not have been the worst of times, but it certainly would not be a year you would plan to mark in your scrapbook to revisit. And for the president, it was a particularly bad year--and it was only the first year of his second term. If "lame duckness" were a political virtue, then this president has achieved the highest of the high in the shortest time in recent history.
Mesopotamia--Then and Now
But first, let's take a brief trip down memory lane. The Iraq war dragged on with no discernable progress other than the increase in the number of American and Iraqi deaths. There was a vote on their constitution, but after 5,000 years of tradition where democracy was Greek to this desert country, one vote cannot provoke much optimism. To be sure, the Code of Hammurabi came from this region, but memories for other than current slights seem lost. We had Abu Ghraib, where the virtue of women in the military was made apparent as they were deployed by the CIA to degrade our prisoners. Imagine, men who were ready to martyr themselves by strapping bombs to their chests cowering in front of young women guards posing with thumbs up. A new super-weapon has been unleashed!
And to compound the Iraq problem, Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania called for the recall of the troops. Immediately, this decorated Marine was called a coward by the non-veteran Bush Administration only to recant the very next day when the dishonor of this attack became apparent even to the speakers of this insult. (Whew!! That was a bit over the top.)
Other Disasters at Home and Abroad
And 2005 was a year of natural disasters. There were the tsunamis in Indonesia, where we were able to provide immediate relief. This was contrasted with the days and days it took to mount a response to Katrina in our own country. Was Grimaldi the only one surprised to learn what a great job Michael Brown, now defrocked head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, did for the citizens in New Orleans as he stated under oath at a House hearing?? He must have been very good indeed, because he was kept on as a consultant for months after the debacle that was the federal response. And late in the year he opened a consulting firm offering expert services in what else but EMERGENCY PLANNING!! One has to ask if the mission statement deals with the emergency that occurs AFTER one's ineptness is exposed to the American public or something else. Grimaldi never ceases to be amazed at the over-reaching of the inept in Washington.
Another form of natural disaster was the natural and automatic consequence in politics of hubris. Whether it was Scooter Libby spreading the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative or Majority Leader DeLay's colleague, Michael Scanlon, who took millions from Indian tribes to lobby about casinos for them by sending the powerful to Scotland to play golf. That probably has as much to do with Native American interests as the casinos themselves have to do with preserving their culture. And let's not leave Vice President Cheney's friends at Halliburton and its subsidiary Brown and Root out of this category. These huge firms were the willing recipients of billions of no-bid contracts, as if these are the only firms in the country who are capable of overspending taxpayers' money.
In the world of sport, the owner of the Redskins had them on a coaching carousel--four coaches in five years--that led the team to the lower ranks of the National Football League. But then he stumbled on a solution: rehire their last successful coach! Now the most valuable franchise in the league has made the playoffs, at least the first round. But will the …