LORAIN, OHIO -- The Steelworkers hall here is a musty monument to American labor's glorious past. On the walls are photos of Franklin Roosevelt signing the Wagner Act in 1935, and of Philip Murray, president of the United Steelworkers of America from its inception in 1937 until his death in 1952. Newer images are nowhere to be found, and the hall itself, while functional, is cheerless and stark.
To the extent that the American public has any image of him at all, House Speaker Denny Hastert seems to be an avuncular presence in an otherwise thuggish town, the good cop to Tom DeLay's bad one, the gavel rather than the hammer. But seeming more nuanced than DeLay is about as low a bar as a person could ever clear, and over the past month the speaker of the House hasn't even done that. In fact, Hastert has engaged in the kind of slander that should prompt his colleagues to censure him.
I've been confused for some time about the president's economic vision, as, I suspect, have many of you. After months of close textual analysis, though, I think I've narrowed down the source of that confusion. It's the word "opportunity," or, more precisely, what the president means when he says it.
"This changed world can be a time of great opportunity for all Americans to earn a better living, support your family and have a rewarding career," Bush said in his acceptance speech last week in New York. Perhaps it can, but on initial inspection, it sure isn't yet.
There is apparently not much to George W. Bush's presidency except his resolve.
Judging by the speeches of Sen. John McCain and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani on the Republican convention's opening night, the president has no record whatever on matters economic, nor -- remarkably for a wartime president -- much of one when it comes to conducting the war in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
What the president does have is leadership -- pure, undiluted determination, a virtue that transcends such considerations as where exactly he is leading us. At other periods in our history, issues might matter, Giuliani noted, but "in times of danger, as we are now in, Americans should put leadership at the core of their decision."
NEW YORK -- On Eighth Avenue Wednesday afternoon, New York union members have gathered to tell the president what they think of him and his economy and his war (and that just begins the list). But the most indignant reaction I encounter from the assembled workers comes from Harold Aken, a firefighter from Rye, New York, and his ire is not directed at the president. When I tell Aken that the New York City local of the Firefighters, the first union to back Kerry way back before the primaries began, has just broken ranks and is endorsing Bush -- and, worse yet, had decided to welcome Bush to the Big Apple -- he is apoplectic.