BOSTON -- I am not one of those dyspeptic folks spending inaugural week in mourning. No black for this blue gal. I will leave it to the more ardent opponents to turn their backs in D.C., and "not spend one damn dime."
I choose to cast my lot with the congenitally and cockeyed optimists. You know who you are. The 60 percent of Americans who describe themselves as "hopeful" as they look forward to the second Bush term. Of course, only 45 percent of Americans want the country to go in the direction the president is leading, but what the heck, count me hopeful.
My optimism begins with the cry "TGIFB," or "Thank God It's Finally Begun." The worst part of the post-election weeks was the dazed recognition that it was still the first Bush term. Once the $40 million halftime show is over, the clock is ticking.
More than that, my brand of hope springs from the old joke about the optimist given a roomful of horse manure for his birthday. He cheerfully began shoveling on the assumption that "there's got to be a pony in here somewhere."
The particular pony that I am grabbing onto is a little-noticed warning issued last week about Teflon. Mr. Bush's own Environmental Protection Agency announced that even low-level exposure to a chemical in Teflon might pose a risk to human health.
Well, I figure it this way: If Teflon is losing its Teflon image, can the Teflon presidency be far behind?
Once upon a time, Ronald Reagan was dubbed the Teflon president because nothing stuck to him. Today, Mr. Bush makes Mr. Reagan look like Velcro.
The first term ended with a bang that was greeted with nary a whimper.
First, the administration declared an end to the search for weapons of mass destruction. Then the CIA reported that Iraq had become a breeding ground for terrorists. The war to pre-empt WMD and thwart terrorism found no weapons and multiplied terrorists. But not a single head rolled. When asked by The Washington Post why not, the president said that the election was "the accountability moment." No recounts.
The political Teflon runs deep in the Potomac.
What happened to CIA Director George J. Tenet, who said finding WMD would be a "slam dunk"? Teflon. He got a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a $4 million book contract. What happened to Dick Cheney, who kept connecting Saddam Hussein to 9/11? Teflon. He's now connecting the Social Security problem to the privatization solution.
Army Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr. is going to jail for 10 years for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, as well he should. But what about Alberto R. Gonzales, who described the Geneva Conventions as "obsolete" and "quaint"? He's been nominated to become attorney general.
CBS took a big hit for relying on false documents in a story about the president's Air National Guard service. But who took the hit for relying on false documents about uranium that went from Niger to Iraq? Condoleezza Rice, who said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," is set to be the next secretary of state.
If we've learned anything these four years, it's that being a conservative means never having to say you're sorry. Bill O'Reilly still sits in the "no spin zone" after settling a dirty-talk lawsuit. William J. Bennett remains the resident moralist despite his habit as a big-time gambler. Rush Limbaugh hasn't lost a ditto head for being an addict. And Armstrong Williams still has 240K of your tax dollars in his jeans.
There just weren't any sticky wickets on this White House lawn. Nevertheless, in my life as the resident optimist, I figure that if the EPA is worried about what the Teflon chemical is doing to the lab rats, it's only a matter of time before the alarm on what political Teflon is doing to the citizen.
Can the man who scared us into a war scare us into privatizing Social Security? Can he promote the future and run up the deficit? Four more years and we're just beginning to, um, scratch the surface. TGIFB. I think I'll stick around. And stick is the operative word.
Ellen Goodman is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Her column appears Mondays and Thursdays in The Sun.