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EDITORIAL

Hopes for 2005

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Be careful what you wish for, it is wisely said. Okay, we're exercising all due caution. This is some of what we wish for in the New Year:

We hope for the improbable: that President Bush, elected for real this time, will recall his 2000 pledge to be a "compassionate conservative," stress on the first of those words. We are not greatly heartened by his new cabinet decisions -- notably, to retain Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and to appoint Alberto Gonzales, an attorney-general designate even more indifferent toward civil liberties than predecessor John Ashcroft. But at least the president seems to have fashioned an ethnic rainbow of sorts, and maybe this diversity can be its own reward.

We are encouraged by the increased outspokenness of several key Republicans in Congress about the mounting debacle in Iraq. May Senators Lugar, Hagel, McCain et al., along with their counterparts in the House, continue to speak out. More than that, may they actually have an influence on policy. For better or for worse, one of our Tennessee senators, Majority Leader Bill Frist, must press the Bush agenda. Let us hope that his colleague, Lamar Alexander, gravitates to a more critical position -- one that might crown the former governor's once-promising career as a thoughtful moderate.

We earnestly hope too that the Democrats -- both in Tennessee and in the nation at large -- get their act together and their tails out from between their legs. The defeats they have suffered should not further debilitate them but should spur them on to discover new and constructive ways of fulfilling their role as an opposition party. The 2004 election results demonstrate what they should already have known: that trying to ape the ways and attitudes of the ruling Republicans is futile monkey business. Our own congressman Harold Ford, who aspires to be a U.S. senator and to rise even higher in the national pantheon, disappointed us with his repeat-after-me stance on Iraq and other issues, but he has an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership potential in defense of Social Security, Medicare, citizens' legal recourse, and other currently threatened bulwarks of self-government.

Let us hope also that Memphis mayor Willie Herenton and Shelby County mayor A C Wharton can resolve their dilemmas, shelve their demons, and work in harmony with their legislatures -- the City Council and County Commission, respectively -- to solve the potentially crushing fiscal problems that confront us. And while they're at it, may they also see to the long-overdue restructuring that is required for local government to work. Yes, that probably means -- in short- or long-term -- consolidation. Though we intend to maintain an independent perspective, we cannot help but be impressed by the bold and generally effective steps taken by Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen to cut through red tape and rhetoric and resolve some long-festering issues -- that of TennCare among them. Bredesen has adopted a genuinely nonpartisan mode in the process, and this too is worthy of emulation.

We have some druthers on the social and recreational spheres too. We want the mojo back for University of Memphis basketball, and we want it to continue for Tiger football. Let Mike Fratello follow in Hubie's footsteps with the Grizzlies, and may many a warm-weather day pass pleasantly for thousands of Memphians at AutoZone Park. Let the salons and saloons of our revivified downtown continue to multiply, and let Memphis music trumpet forth yet another new sound to redeem an errant and restless species.

How's that for a start? •

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