Meanwhile the government has gained new powers. The FBI can demand your library records and school transcripts. Agents can meander through e-mail accounts at will. As always, the feds infiltrate public meetings; the mere taking of a pamphlet has led to arrest and months in prison.
Economy. Even without threats from overseas, the economy remains dead in the water, with no new jobs, only a slight increase in wages, and unemployment near 6 percent. At the onset of the Bush presidency, we were looking at a budget surplus of $405 billion. Halfway through his term, the surplus had become a $157 billion deficit. Foreign investors are pulling back. The S&P 500 has fallen 37 percent from its peak in early 2000. As mutual funds tank, 401(k) pensions have disappeared. Leadership. Foreigners don't know what to make of America. To an outsider, Bush looks like a puppet run by VP Dick Cheney, who last weekend single-handedly created a new foreign-policy concept, the doctrine of the "preemptive strike," to rationalize an attack on Saddam Hussein. But what happens if China were to take up the preemptive-strike doctrine and attack us?
And then there are always Bush's cuckoo utterances. "The world must understand . . . that its credibility is at stake," he said after a recent Cabinet Room meeting with 18 Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. Notwithstanding their guitar-playing cocker spaniel chief, Brits polled lately held Bush as the third greatest threat to peace, trailing only Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.