Saturday, December 31, 2005

Top Story of 2005

Years seem to come and go too quickly these days. Maybe that is just part of growing up and getting old. It seems like just yesterday that I posted about what I thought were the top stories of 2004, and how I thought they would impact 2005 (second post from the top of the page). For the record, some of my predictions were off, but hey, if I was that good at making predictions, would I still be working in the public sector?

I spent part of the last week thinking about what the top stories of 2005 were, but I kept coming back to the same theme: 2005 seemed like the year that many groups -- Democrats in Congress, liberal lobbyists, and their allies in the mainstream media -- set about to destroy the Bush administration and undo the results of the previous fall. Whether it was the grand jury probe into the alleged release of information by the administration about the covert agent that wasn't, or how the administration was solely responsible for the damage done by a hurricane to a city that is below sea level, or how Iraq was a supposed disaster, there was a sense, intentionally fostered by the administration's opponents, that all that went wrong this year could be laid at the feet of George W. Bush.

Does that mean that 2005 was a bad year for Bush and the GOP? Hardly.

As a conservative and a Republican (in that order), even I was a little glum about the administration's conduct, not so much because I bought into the anti-Bush drivel being spooned out, but because I was frustrated by the administration's abject failure to punch back. Bush's initial refusal to help himself was not only depressing -- it was embarrassing. And that inaction had a price: plummeting poll numbers, congressional Republicans holding the White House at arm's length, and predictions that the Republican Party was slated for an electoral bloodbath in November 2006.

Then something interesting happened: President Bush -- perhaps for the first time in his administration -- began punching back. Putting aside the Miers debacle, he nominated two textualist judges for vacancies on the Supreme Court; one has been confirmed, the other will be. On the eve of the latest round of elections in Iraq, he became unapologetic about fighting enemies abroad and the need to commit troop indefinitely. He let people know in no uncertain terms that the American economy was not just staying afloat, but was booming with growth. When The New York Times released a story about how the administration had wiretapped foreign nationals and other enemies who were known to be inside the United States (a release that was timed to scuttle renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act and promote a New York Times' contributor's new book), he acknowledged it publicly and said he would keep doing it, for the well being of the country, FISA courts be damned.

The full-court-press liberal onslaught that was 2005 essentially forced Bush to abandon that ridiculous "compassionate conservative" desire he had early in his administration to befriend hostile forces in Congress and elsewhere. Perhaps the president has finally learned that these people are not his friends and never will be, no matter how many times he says nice things about them or invites them to White House movie screenings or trips on Air Force One.

And now it's on. Bush understands that he effectively has one year to accomplish key policy initiatives and solidify his legacy, and I have no doubt that he will waste no time. Part of cementing that legacy is working hard to prevent Congress from falling into liberal or Democrat (same thing, really) hands.

Make no mistake: Democrats made great public relations strides in 2005. They were extremely vocal, and there was just enough turmoil to give some of the Democrats' criticisms traction among mainstream America. Had 2005 been an election year, it is safe to say that the Democrat Party would have picked up seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, perhaps even returning them to majority status in one or both houses.

My lone prediction for 2006: the Democrats peaked too early. When you combine the fact that Bush is now fightin' mad with the fact that some issues dear to conservative hearts are gaining momentum in the public forum (read: spending cuts and immigration reform), I cannot see how the Republican Party loses congressional seats. Barring the intervention of major and unforeseen events, Democrats will once again fail to understand that what keeps them from winning elections are their socialist policies and the shrill tone with which they promote them.

The Republican Party will pick up one seat in the House and two in the Senate. Democrats will be quiet for about two days after the election, after which they will announce that their inability to pick up any ground was somehow a victory for their party (they did this after each of the last two elections, by the way). Democrats will also say that they will need to do a better job of getting their message out in the next election cycle, ignoring the obvious: that it was their message, and their ability to successfully convey it, that drove them to defeat in the first place.

This will all set the stage for the 2008 presidential election, where the Democrats will (God willing) nominate another liberal northeastern senator with a flexible approach to the truth.

I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year. See you on the other side.


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