All year long it’s been one piece of bad news after another, but now it’s time to put on the rose-colored glasses and list some of the good things that happened in 2005. I had to e-mail about fifty people to come up with these items, but that’s OK. Keeping you cheerful is part of my job. I mean, the war could be wrong, but the Iraqi elections could still be good. So fill that glass half full with whatever and…and…well, just drink it.
1. The Bush Administration is on the defensive. The President’s poll numbers rival Nixon’s at his nadir, most voters say they don’t believe him on Iraq, he’s had to admit that the prewar intelligence was wrong, Plamegate stalks the White House. Social Security reform is off the table. Hurricane Katrina proved the grown-ups were definitely not in charge–“You’re doing a heckuva job” enters the lexicon as Bushese for “You have screwed up totally but I don’t care.”
2. The Republican Party is mired in corruption and cronyism. DeLay’s on trial, Randy Cunningham’s going to jail, Frist’s AIDS charity ladled nearly half a million to his friends, Jack Abramoff seems to have the whole party on his payroll. The Supreme Court is looking into that mid-Census redistricting in Texas that gave them five new seats in 2004. David Brooks openly wonders why working-class people should vote for the GOP. Good question!
3. The media are waking up. In The New Yorker, Jane Mayer revealed the shocking role of doctors and psychologists in torturous goings-on at Guantánamo and the CIA’s role in the killing of a detainee at Abu Ghraib. In the Washington Post Dana Priest exposed the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. The LA Times‘s Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi reported that the Pentagon paid the Iraqi press to publish pro-US stories. The New York Times finally got rid of Judith Miller and just this December revealed that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens without a warrant. Too bad the Times didn’t break the story when they got it, before the 2004 election.
4. The Christian Taliban is going too far. Terri Schiavo, pharmacists denying women birth control and emergency contraception, creationism in the public schools–oh, excuse me, “intelligent design,” just bounced from the Dover, Pennsylvania, school system by federal court Judge John Jones III as, well, creationism. When your claim to be victims of secularism rests on Wal-Mart greeters wishing shoppers Happy Holidays, you are clearly a bunch of great big babies.
5. Civil liberties are making a comeback. ACLU membership is at an all-time high of more than a half-million. The Senate failed to reauthorize the Patriot Act, at least for now. The House banned “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of detainees (but it also voted to deprive them of habeas corpus).