Rotten decade, remarkable year

The gloomy appraisals of the past decade missed a key point: America turned the corner in 2009. In a tough but historic year, we got back on course to becoming a fairer, stronger and more prosperous nation.

Robert Shrum

From left, right, and center, the obits for both the first decade of the century and for that decade’s last year were almost uniformly bleak. But that’s only half right. The decade was very dark indeed, but it ended with a dawn of change that will be brighter in history than it appears in the hangover shadows of today.

No one, except for the depleted band of Bush loyalists who barely dare to speak his name, now tries to apologize for the Bushwhacked decade. That era has earned the biblical epitaph “the years the locusts have eaten.” We suffered a stolen presidency, the horror of 9/11 compounded by a war rooted in deceit and a reckless economics of greed that brought the country and the world to the brink of a second Great Depression. Along the way, the presidency, which should be an exemplar of moral leadership, trafficked in disdain for the environment, violations of constitutional rights and the exploitation of intolerance and fear. For America, it was a low, mean, debilitating decade.

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Robert Shrum has been a senior adviser to the Gore 2000 presidential campaign, the campaign of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and the British Labour Party. In addition to being the chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry-Edwards campaign, Shrum has advised thirty winning U.S. Senate campaigns; eight winning campaigns for governor; mayors of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities; and the Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Shrum's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and other publications. The author of No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner (Simon and Schuster), he is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.