It’s a strange world:
When doctors conspire to kill innocent people; when the president who insists on tough sentences for criminals lets a convicted felon who is a friend out of doing jail time; when a government that failed to protect its citizens from a killer hurricane’s wrath still hasn’t helped them rebuild two years later.
It’s a puzzling world:
When a once-popular presidential candidate, John McCain, is written off after raising “only” $24 million in six months; when a presidential candidate blasts the president for leniency toward a friend-scofflaw while her own husband, standing beside her, did the same thing; when the government pays farmers not to farm while importing tainted food.
It’s a perplexing world:
When the vice president in the same week both pleads executive privilege in refusing to give documents to the Senate and also says his office is not part of the executive branch in denying other documents to the National Archives; where the government that bans drugs that other countries insist save lives lets in thousands of tubes of poisonous toothpaste.
It’s an incomprehensible world:
When the only foreign leader the president invites to his family’s ocean-side vacation home is from Russia, thwarts U.S. policies and represses democracy; when the Supreme Court, designed to protect the rights of minorities, rules in favor of segregation; when Congress, deploring the fact that an estimated 12 million immigrants have no legal status, cannot figure out what to do about it — and states start forcing employers to find out if their employees are legal or risk going out of business.
It’s a baffling world:
When one of the president’s stalwart supporters, Indiana GOP Sen. Richard Lugar, says the war in Iraq, which has claimed the lives of more than 3,500 Americans, is a de facto quagmire and the president says he’ll respond in September; when the United States refuses to help the Palestinian government until it’s too late; when the Bush administration essentially says, “OK, if the courts don’t want us to suspend habeas corpus at Guantanamo, we’ll get Congress to pass a law letting us hold foreign terror suspects on U.S. soil.”
It’s a confusing world:
When states ordered flags flown at half-staff on behalf of soldiers killed in Iraq while federal flags just across the street flew at full-staff (a policy only now being changed, four years into the war); when a federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is used to prevent relatives from getting patient information to help safeguard hospitalized family members.
It’s a stupefying world:
When the president who vowed to spread democracy around the world has gotten majorities in 33 of 47 countries surveyed by the Pew global opinion poll to express hostility to democracy; when federal support for mass transit has eroded despite more dependence on foreign oil; when the head of the Smithsonian Institution was to get $915,698 a year while taking 10 weeks of vacation annually before he resigned.
It’s a weird world:
When two of the hottest possible contenders for the White House are 1) a billionaire and 2) famous for being on TV; when, despite the July Fourth holiday, the state of New Jersey says it can’t afford to preserve and mark the graves of five of the signers of the Declaration of Independence; when the federal government says the Seneca Indian Nation may open a $125 million, 5,000-square-foot casino in downtown Buffalo, N.Y., on land not owned by the reservation.
It’s a paradoxical world:
When the Labor Department refuses to share with the public the results of tests on workers for toxic substances in the workplace; when the Vatican proposes negotiations with China’s atheist leaders over repression of the country’s Catholics; when an economic rebound could greatly expand the risk of inflation, which could join with weak business spending, a correction in the financial markets and weaknesses in the housing market to weaken the economy; when the president and Congress support subsidies for corn-based ethanol to “save” energy, although energy is used to make ethanol and it all makes no economic sense.
But, hey, it’s only July. Maybe the world will straighten itself by August.
(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail amcfeatters(at)hotmail.com.)