Let me finish tonight with the politics I've come back to.
I have seen the glory of this country these past weeks. I have seen the beauty of the Snake River in Wyoming, the wonders of Yellowstone and Shoshone National Parks, the best rodeo in the world in Cody and sat for two hours looking up at the man-made wonder of Mount Rushmore. Two hours looking up at those four faces - the proud, if a bit uncertain Washington, the upward looking, hopeful Tom Jefferson, Teddy stern, wary for the wilderness he historically protected and Abraham Lincoln clear-eyed and true.
I now confront here at the beautiful Reagan Library this great week in American politics - when we'll know what the President has - what he really has to bring this country back economically - to restore the hope on which he ran, the hope that lies waiting for the one who can lead. And we will learn who leads the Republican Party once led by Abraham Lincoln and the great Teddy Roosevelt, to see if it is the Republican party that holds to conservative principles or has been won over by the anti-government zealotry of the right.
Those are the questions on the table - the big ones to be answered this week: Is the president able to win back the faith and hopes of the American majority? Can he display a strong hand in rebuilding the American economy brought low by unsound financial risk-taking? Can we fix the housing market, create jobs, and stimulate investment and consumption? Can he create the basic economic demand that remains the essential ingredient of recovery? Or not?
And what has become of the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt? Is it now the Tea Party? Is it now undergoing what became of the Whig party prior to the Civil War when it was taken over the abolitionists? Has the modern Republican party been taken over by those who see government as the evil, much as the abolitionists saw slavery? When you listen to Congresswoman Bachman speak of having taken a job in the IRS with the purpose of studying the enemy, when you hear Governor Rick Perry speak as he did of "secession," are you listening to Republicans or to something more radical, something a traditional Republican would hear as alien?
Here's what I'm hearing. Ask a regular Republican to choose between Palin and Obama, she'll say, grudgingly, Obama. Ask her to choose between Bachman and Obama and she'll say, again grudgingly, okay, Obama. Ask her to choose between Obama and Perry and she'll ....... start to think.
That, I believe is the Republican situation. If Perry can sound solid out here tomorrow night, it's going to start looking like a real challenge is coming the president's way because moderate Republicans are looking for an alternative and that means independents may be looking hard for one, too.