Pre-inauguration assessment - Ed Brock

True to my word, I will begin with some praise for our president re-elect.

First, I'll give kudos to President Bush for having the wisdom to speak a few nice words over the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Ironically, one could compare Arafat to Moses. He led his people up to the border of the promised line, but his past sins kept him from entering. Maybe his death will be the salvation of the Palestinians.

Of course, it would have been better for us to send someone a little higher up to attend the service for Arafat in Paris, but Bush's tribute seems to have given at least one Palestinian man I spoke with hope that the current administration means to help the peace process.

Bush has done fairly well in this important endeavor with his "Road Map to Peace," but now is the real test. Let's see how it goes.

Also, Bush gets a gold star for rescuing a member of his entourage from the clutches of Chilean security forces. It wasn't like he braved machine gun fire, but it was a touching demonstration of "Don't mess with Texas" loyalty.

Perhaps it is that need for loyalty that has led to the following deductions from Bush's record.

Half a point off for appointing Condeleeza Rice as his next Secretary of State and two to 10 points off for his appointment of Porter Goss to head the Central Intelligence Agency, both for the same reason, that Bush is surrounding himself with "yes" people.

Rice's appointment is only a half-point deduction because Rice is a fairly savvy woman who is possibly quite competent despite her part in this Iraq debacle. Also, she is from Alabama, which for me is good.

But the president calls her "sweetness," according to some guest speaker on CNN. That may or may not be true, but it is undeniable that Rice is a long-time friend of Bush and the Bush family in general.

It may be good to promote those you trust, but I wonder how much she'll do to fight a Bush decision she thinks is wrong. Of course, I've heard she's one of the people who makes Bush's decisions for him, but again, I can't say that with certainty.

Goss' deduction has a range because it's still early and the trouble that has begun in the CIA may just be normal transition pains or it may be what the critics are calling a "purge" of the "disloyal." Goss and his new crew are, again, deeply loyal to Bush and from what I gather they could have a tendency to suppress opinions that run counter to the administration's policies.

That's the fear, anyway, and if it turns out to be true then Bush gets the full 10 point deduction. The mere fact that he would offer this important position to an obvious party supporter and thus roughen the transition at such a delicate time is worth the two point deduction. So we'll keep our eye on that one.

Now, a brief word on Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that come Thursday I'm going to drive down to Mobile with my wife for an entire weekend of turkey and fun with family and friends. I'm especially thankful for this because yesterday I got to speak with several of our troops who were on their way back to the war after two weeks at home.

That's right, they'll be spending the holiday eating sand and dodging bullets. Or, as one of them said, they'll be spending it with their "new extended family." I may not agree with the way this war began or how it's being run, but I want nothing but the best for those people I met yesterday, and I want them all to spend next Thanksgiving where they belong, at home.

By the way, these soldiers go through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport pretty frequently. Feel free to drop by and talk to some of them, I think they might like it.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or at ebrock@news-daily.com .