There are 48 months in President Bush's second term. As a Democrat a fraction of a decade away from Social Security, I am marking off my calendar month by month.
In my long and winding life, something strange has happened. The Democrats and Republicans have traded places. They haven't traded places in their politics, but in the way they address government or see the role of government.
I remember Republicans saying that no man was safe in his life or home as long as Congress was in session. The Democrats were always coming up with some new idea or program or policy, some of them stellar and some of them pretty crummy I have to say.
Now, every time you turn around the Republicans are trying to find another way to push government into our lives and the Democrats are just taking the leave things alone play.
Take, for example, the Social Security "reform." I have never been lucky with changes. I would work hard to stay somewhere long enough to earn three weeks vacation and that same year they would reduce the number of years needed to earn three weeks. I would hang on longer and earn four weeks and that very same year they would change the rules again.
I will not sleep soundly at night until President Bush is convinced that the fear factor of losing some or all of the money average bums like me need to retire will make sure this plan to start making changes goes nowhere.
And Republicans are staying up late at night to think up other active things rather than the old Republican stance of trying to stop aggressive Democratic proposals. All of this saber rattling on the world stage also shows a shift of positions. Republicans used to say that we can't be the policeman to the world. Now we are in country after country and eying others. I remember World War I started over one assassination of someone we can't even remember and I fear that we look up one day and are in World War III over some adventureism.
I liked the first eight months of Bush's first term when he went on vacation a lot. Hasn't he earned a rest? Can't we just send him to summer camp? I'm not sure I am going to be able to make it through 47 more months.
Here is the way I figure it as I tick off month after month of his second term. When the 2008 election season opens, everyone is going to be too busy to make any dramatic changes. Then there is the convention and then the election and then Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I am chopping about 10 months off the 48 in which he can't do much danger to personal rights or personal safety. Added to the one month that has already gone by, that leaves 37 months to worry about. Bush's personal ratings already are dipping below the 50 percent mark. I figure after a grueling, take-no-prisoners Social Security fight and another six months of killing in Iraq he will drop another seven or eight points. And so my optimistic reasoning is that if we can get past the 24-month mark he will be sliding in ratings with a presidential election looming and so I might be able to get some sleep at the 25-month mile marker. By about nine months into the second term the picture should start clearing about whether this is going to be a very active term, changing everything helter and skelter, chiseling away at this amendment or this program, or whether we might escape with the Constitution and lots of our basic rights intact.
Doomsayer you say and maybe so. But as the Republicans used to say: We are not safe in house and life as long as the President and Congress are in session.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.