AUSTIN, Texas -- Since the political world ranges from poor to icky these days, you may think we are gratitudinally challenged this Thanksgiving. But a mere soupcon of sunny optimism goes a long way toward getting us to dwell on how lucky we are. We are abundantly blessed with lemons. Let us make lemonade.

I am grateful for the extraordinary number of readers who sent along their ideas on How to Fix All This. The ideas ranged from the sublime to the practical, from the universal and global to the price of milk. The country is teeming with good ideas, all of which we need.

I was particularly intrigued by this thought from peace activist Gen Van Cleve: It's 2009 and the Bush people are gone, leaving in their wake fury, suspicion, distrust -- basically, our name is mud, whether we've left Iraq by then or not. Most of the rest of the world considers us: A) insane, B) imperialist and C) morons. What to do?

Remember when John F. Kennedy announced that America would go to the moon within 10 years? That we would put all our technological, scientific and government expertise into making a grand project happen? And we did.

Suppose we announce a new project: to find and make available inexpensive forms of renewable, nonpolluting energy. We could put all our available federal resources in science and technology into making that happen and enlist the private sector -- and also announce our intention to share this technology with the rest of world. Not to own it exclusively, but to help spread it all over the world. Good for them, good for us, no downside -- except for the oil companies.

I am also grateful that Vice President Dick Cheney -- that little ray of sunshine, that bouncing ball of light and happiness spreading joy where'er he goes -- is so well prepared for a brilliant second career. He's perfect to play the heavy in films. Not since Jimmy Cagney was a gangster have we seen a sneer like that. In the remake of "Jaws," Cheney can play the shark.

The Progress Report has come up with some dandy things to be thankful for, starting with American troops. It also lists:

-- Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., for showing it's patriotic to speak your mind.

-- The 90 senators who stood up to Cheney to say that torture is not an American value.

-- The 79 senators who demanded the Bush administration detail a plan for Iraq.

-- That Sen. Bill Frist is not our physician.

Consider these additional delights: Tom Delay is under indictment, Heckuva Job Brownie is no longer on the public payroll, and for some inexplicable reason, the administration found a Republican prosecutor in the Plame affair who seems to care more about the law than politics.

I am grateful for the Rev. Pat Robertson, who was upset by the school board election in Dover, Pa., where the creationist-supporting candidates lost. Quoth he: "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God -- you just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because He might not be there." On the other hand, the same is true of FEMA.

If that's the voice of Christian love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness, I'm a monkey's uncle. I am grateful Pat Robertson does not speak for me or the Lord.

The Progress Report urges us to look at it this way: At least Judy Miller won't be reporting on WMD programs in Iran for The New York Times ... and we don't have Scott McClellan's job.

There's music in poor bleeding New Orleans again, Ted Koppel and his hair put in a commendable 25 years, some terrific new films are out, my puppy has not eaten a shoe for an entire month now, and the Mountain West is moving from red to purple.

So let's all loosen our belts and get right down to the all-American tradition of overeating on Thanksgiving. It's still a great country, even if it is a little strange. I am grateful for all my fellow citizens -- how would we know it was America if we didn't hear regularly from the nincompoop faction? Happy turkey to you all.


Crow Eaten Here: In my Thursday column last week, I inadvertently referred to Rep. Henry Waxman as a Republican. That would come as quite a shock to the longtime California Democrat.

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