"Since Sept. 11, 2001, the world’s opinion of the United States has plummeted, with the largest short-term drop in American history. The United States now garners as much international esteem as Russia. "
--Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.), Foreign Policy, May/June 2006
"Not for a long time will people listen to US officials lecture on the virtues of free financial markets with a straight face."
--Martin Wolf, The Financial Times, 12/12/2007
"It hurts to see our national pastime ripped apart by allegations and scandals. I am seeing former teammates and opponents go under the HGH/steroid crosshairs, and it makes me wonder what else was happening in the 15 seasons I was part of [Major League Baseball.]"
--Doug Glanville, ESPN.com, 12/20/2007
As the Bush Administration counts down its final months, we Americans can look forward to picking ourselves up and shaking off a bit of the dust. It has been a rough few years for our country; a period of self-examination is in order. And what we find on the threshold of 2008 is the following: a foreign policy that inspires revulsion across the globe (witness the string of electoral defeats suffered by key Bush allies such as the sitting governments of Spain, Poland and Australia, as well as the retirement of Britain's Tony Blair); a financial system that will face dozens if not hundreds of lawsuits over the coming months for fraudulently presenting packages of subprime mortgages as "investment grade" to international clients; and a national pastime -- baseball -- whose fans literally cannot believe their eyes because so many players have been artifically pumped up on steroids. Even for a nation where the snake oil salesman has thrived for centuries, and where millions believe that a New York farmer named Joseph Smith found gold tablets left on his farm by God, this is a lot to take.
Yet one can assert that there is no reason to be pessimistic. The US has put its disheveled house in order countless times before, following the Civil War; the Great Depression; Vietnam; Watergate; and the S&L crisis. Next up for resolution are the grotesque aftermath of the housing bubble and the morally (and financially) disastrous occupation of Iraq. As the country goes about tackling these issues, it seems the best advice for the citizenry is to be reticent to trust its self-anointed "leaders," and instead insist that humane and intelligent policies percolate from the enlightened grassroots upward. Because when Uncle Sam comes strolling down the sidewalk, eager to tout a needless war or to sell a bundle of worthless paper, the best thing is to grab the kids, check the wallet, and cross over to the other side of the road to join your neighbors.