Last year at this time we editorialized with a wish list for 2005. Looking at it now, we find a mixed bag of disappointments and pleasant surprises.
On the first score, for example, we hoped that a newly reelected President Bush might remember -- and act upon -- his erstwhile campaign rhetoric concerning "compassionate conservatism." Instead, we got more of the same old corporate welfare state -- tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by the middle and poor classes who have been freshly gouged by an egregious "bankruptcy reform" bill that basically nullifies altogether the option of filing for real bankruptcy relief. The good news: Bush's predatory scheme to privatize Social Security was booed off the stage and dropped from the congressional agenda.
We also got more, not fewer, casualties and catastrophic costs in the needless, and seemingly endless, war in Iraq. The good news here is that many of those who formerly acquiesced in the war or even supported it, like Congressman Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, have soured on the folly and even called for a timetable to end it. At least one serious presidential candidate, Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold, has made opposition to the war a plank in his platform. Good for him, and shame on those politicians who continue to equivocate.
Last year we expressed the hope that 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr., a politician of rare potential, might prove a leader in shoring up our social safety net and in restoring sane and effective foreign policy goals. Not to belabor the point, but Ford, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, seems for strategic reasons to have blunted the edge of his promise -- supporting ill-considered initiatives ranging from the GOP's Terri Schiavo flim-flam to the aforesaid bankruptcy bill. We hope for better things in 2006 but aren't exactly holding our breath.
Nor are we as optimistic entering the election year of 2006 as we were last year concerning the administration of Governor Phil Bredesen, whose economies, reform instincts, and administrative skills, all of which we praised back then, seem to have been taken up to the edge and over in the case of the state's now seriously truncated TennCare program.
Not to accentuate the negative, though, there were, after all, areas in which our hopes were not only realized but exceeded. Last year, for example, we wished to get "the mojo back for University of Memphis basketball." Wow, did we! As we speak, John Calipari's talented Tigers are ranked fourth in the nation, and so far (we are holding our breath here!) there's not a hint of the grungy behavior that afflicted last year's underachieving team, on or off the court.
Mike Fratello's Grizzlies ain't doing too bad, either. And, though the great DeAngelo Williams was hobbled here and there and didn't realize his (and our) Heisman hopes, he led the football Tigers to the team's third consecutive bowl game.
Yes, yes, the sports world is what the late Howard Cosell called the "toy department" of life, but we take our blessings where we can -- and who knows? Maybe some of this success will bleed over into the real world in 2006.
This week it starts in earnest — the questioning. You can't escape it. It comes from your spouse, your kids, your parents — at the breakfast table, in the car, on the phone, via email: "What do you want for Christmas?" ...