PORTSTEWART, N. IRELAND -- In America, the party out of power gets to respond when the president makes a major address. The outs try to contrast their viewpoint with the president on one or more issues, hoping to show their ideas are more worthy of voter consideration in the next election. Britain's new Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, has come up with a new scheme. He appears to be trying to identify with the philosophy and political tactics of the Labour Party and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
John McCain had a very good day this week. It occurred Tuesday when super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to various charges of corruption and when, across town, the Homeland Security Department announced it would henceforth depart from its customary procedure and award its anti-terrorism grants on the basis of merit. Here, in a single day, was Washington as McCain always said it was. It could make you sick. Abramoff, of course, is the very personification of the Washington McCain has long railed against.
Illegal immigration will likely be an election issue in 2006, especially after Gov. Tim Pawlenty's call Tuesday for "get tough" proposals on this politically charged issue. Pawlenty announced a series of proposals, most which would require legislative approval, including establishment of a 10-person immigration enforcement police unit to make it harder to obtain and possess false identification documents. The governor held meetings held around the state.
The ongoing logic of the Minnesota Department of Transportation overwhelms and confuses me. With a new four-lane highway going through my community of Spicer, life in our city has changed, and I am not certain that it is for the better. Initially, the traffic on Highway 23 supposedly traveled at 30 mph (occasionally a lot more than that). With the increased lanes, the speed limit is increased to 35 mph. Now, after MnDOT observed traffic through Spicer, it has increased the speed limit to 40 mph.
On Dec. 16, my mother, Margaret Norton, died of Alzheimer's disease. Her last 13 years were spent in Willmar. I write to thank this community for taking care of Margaret. As her memories and abilities slowly failed, many of you reached out to care for her. From taxi drivers to store clerks, from healthcare professionals to bankers, senior volunteers to clergy -- each of you touched her life. You maintained her dignity, kept her safe and offered comfort. Margaret's last years were about forgetting. Now that she has left this world, I know she is remembering each and every one of you.
As I opened my year-end e-mail, I was greeted with a letter that caught my attention -- and my breath. So rare, it was. So simple, and so stunningly disarming. It was an apology from a reader, who wrote: "In going through my 'out' file the other day I came across an e-mail I sent you concerning something or other that I was obviously exercised over. I said to you, 'I used to think you were worth reading, etc., etc.' That was uncalled for and rude. I apologize." I quickly wrote back: "What a nice way to begin the new near. Apology accepted.
AUSTIN, Texas -- My theory is that they don't tell him anything, that's why the president keeps sounding like he doesn't know what he's talking about. There he was at Brooke Army Medical Center over the weekend, once again getting it wrong: "I can say that if somebody from al-Qaida's calling you, we'd like to know why. In the meantime, this program is conscious of people's civil liberties, as am I. This is a limited program ... I repeat, limited.
This is my final response to Joe Raines (Public Forum, Dec. 24). He doesn't seem to get it. If I am living in the past, at least I am learning from it. Raines apparently has no concept of what the future holds for his children or grandchildren. He seems to be caught up in the now, not learning from the past nor looking forward to the future. If he would check with his local Chamber of Commerce, he would find that every dollar spent locally is circulated locally an average of 11 times.
WASHINGTON -- Elections at midterm can be low-interest affairs or immensely important. This fall's congressional elections will be a big show with large consequences because 2006 is looking a lot like the political years 1958, 1966 and 1978, all of which heralded major political transformations. The Democratic sweep in 1958 presaged the party's strength in the Kennedy-Johnson years. Democratic dominance peaked in L.B.J.'s 1964 landslide. But just two years later, big Republican gains signaled problems in the Democratic coalition that the party still struggles with.
WASHINGTON -- The University of Illinois must soon decide whether, and if so how, to fight an exceedingly silly edict from the NCAA. That organization's primary function is to require college athletics to be no more crassly exploitative and commercial than is absolutely necessary. But now the NCAA is going to police cultural sensitivity, as it understands that. Hence the decision to declare Chief Illiniwek "hostile and abusive" to Native Americans.