It has been quite a year for the nation, for Texas, and for the Observer. We will always remember 2006 as the year the American public said ¡Ya basta!
Enough of one-party rule, they said emphatically. Enough of a Republican Congress seemingly able to summon energy only for earmarks and religious crusades. The 109th Congress worked a total of 103 days, seven fewer than the infamous “Do-Nothing Congress” of 1948. One would think fewer days with this bunch would mean less harm to the rest of us, but the GOP’s refusal to challenge an incompetent White House has been nothing short of disastrous. With the incoming Democratic Congress, oversight will not be in short supply anymore.
The midterm elections provided a referendum on President George W. Bush’s foolish and costly Iraq war. The American public gives it a thumbs-down. After the elections came the Iraq Study Group’s report. Now the nation and the world hold their collective breaths praying that the reckless boy king will recognize the reality that everybody else already sees. As Al Gore perceptively noted, Bush has “to try to separate out the personal issues of being blamed in history for this mistake and instead recognize it’s not about him. It’s about our country.”
None of that will mean much to the parents and loved ones of the 256 Texans who had died in Iraq as of December 6. The Lone Star state is second only to California in the numbers of dead. As the Observer went to press, the nation was only weeks away from reaching the milestones of 3,000 killed and 50,000 wounded in this quagmire in the desert. We will never know the exact number of Iraqis who have perished, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands.
Yet even as one Texan continues to wreak havoc from the White House, another serves as a poster child for comeuppance. Last year at this time, we would never have imagined that Tom DeLay would have resigned in disgrace, and that his congressional seat in Sugar Land would be occupied by a Democrat. Yet here we are. Jack Abramoff is in jail. Bob Ney awaits sentencing. Texas’ covert lobbyist, Ralph Reed, has gone from the cover of Time to someone who couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in Georgia.
At the Observer, our resident cynics are confused and befuddled. In the ’06 cycle, Texas’ usual GOP sugar daddies—Bob Perry, James Leininger, and Texans for Lawsuit Reform—spent their millions to cherry-pick a friendly Legislature. Only this time, voters didn’t play their part, opting for change instead. This coming legislative session, with its slender majorities and colorful new characters promises to be a wild ride. The Observer intends to bring it to you in all its glory.
Before the reformers retire to rest on their laurels, though, they ought to read Dave Mann and Jake Bernstein’s piece on “Craddickism,” the Texas version of the infamous K Street Project, or behold the true horror that is the Trans-Texas Corridor in Eileen Welsome’s piece, “The Highwaymen.” It’s clear that the reasons for Texas’ reputation for cronyism and dark comedy are still with us.
This year also marks the end of an era for the Observer and the beginning of a new one. We have great expectations for some sizzling journalism with the arrival of investigative reporter Welsome and new managing editor David Pasztor, even as we are sad to see outgoing editor Barbara Belejack leave the Observer fold. In the coming year we promise our readers new voices and compelling stories that capture the strange and wonderful, ridiculous and tragic that is Texas.