Another year in the war against terror. Osama bin Laden? Who knows where he is, or if he is. The new U.S. enemy is an old nemesis of another president named Bush: Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
The more things change, well, we know what's coming. War is likely, and President George W. Bush remains popular.
But there's an undercurrent of unease after the political tsunami that swept a Republican majority into Congress. Most Americans support Bush on the war but not on the three Big E's --the Economy, Energy and the Environment. On those issues, and on the encroachment of civil liberties in this war against terror, we the people want our president to take us in a very different direction.
Most Americans are concerned about anti-terrorism tactics that usurp our constitutional rights. We're concerned about Bush's overdependence on drilling as the answer to the nation's energy needs, at the expense of the environment. And people are getting jittery about the economic slump that began before the terrorist attacks and has yet to correct itself, particularly with Bush's penchant for tax cuts as the old trickle-down solution that has yet to materialize.
Bill Clinton raised taxes on the richest, the top 2 percent of Americans, and the economy thrived. Go figure. The numbers speak for themselves. The budget crisis from coast to coast threatens every American. States face shortfalls the size of the Grand Canyon. The National Governors' Assn. calls it "the most dire fiscal situation since World War II." Already, 11 states have cut back on health insurance coverage for poor people.
Yet public-opinion surveys tell us most Americans want health care to be affordable. They would have preferred the budget surplus that existed when Bush took over to be spent on stabilizing Social Security and Medicare instead of tax cuts.
They want clean air and beaches and plenty of God's green earth protected, yet Bush has set out to water down anti-pollution regulations and refuses to accept the notion that the nation's over-reliance on petroleum is overheating the planet.
I had hoped Bush would bring some common-sense leadership to the three Big E's and protect our civil liberties from government assault, too. This year, with Bush's Republican Party at the helm of Congress, the ship of state can move us all forward or sink us into despair. I'll sound the horn of alarm at every bad turn and ring bells if the commander in chief finally gets it right.