By People Staff
December 30, 2002 12:00 PM

It was a year of shocking revelations that shattered the trust we place in time-honored institutions. Greedy corporate CEOs were caught making off with millions, devastating investors. Abusive priests caused a crisis in the Catholic Church. And the threat of weapons of mass destruction jeopardized our safety. But we also found a balance in everyday joys: An Oscar milestone, an Emmy for a Friend, a trip to the altar, a healthy new baby. As President Bush says, “In the events that have challenged us, we have also seen the character that will deliver us.”

Remember when some people said he had no aptitude for the Presidency? That George W. Bush was just a former frat boy too lightweight for the job? That was before Election Day last November, when it would be fair to say he aced the great aptitude test of 2002. In any midterm election it’s customary for the President’s party to lose seats in Congress. George W. turned that wisdom on its head, leading his party to gains in both the House and Senate, a first for any President since FDR in 1934. More than that it was a triumph that also put the Senate back in Republican hands, good news for the President’s agenda. Just three days later Bush scored another major victory, this one on the global stage, when the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution giving the U.S. much of the latitude Bush wanted to use force if Saddam Hussein does not convince the world that he has given up all weapons of mass destruction. But no one is surprised when Bush is willing to act without hesitation. He proved his decision-making capabilities in the risky U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, which rid that country of the Taliban regime. The President good at making friends is also good at standing up to enemies. All the same, there are minefields ahead, and he will need every bit of his charm and skill to get through them. Osama bin Laden is still at large. The U.S. economy has a barely detectable pulse. The federal budget has dipped back into the red, and some of Bush’s domestic priorities—like oil drilling in the Arctic wildlife preserve—won’t be as popular as the Afghan war. Above all, a confrontation with Iraq could become a lethal misadventure, especially with the U.S. now hinting that it would be willing to reply with nuclear weapons if Hussein launches attacks with any weapon of mass destruction. But the promise Bush made in January in his State of the Union Address—”We’ll prevail in the war [on terrorism] and we will defeat this recession”—came from a man who knows his own measure. The onetime puppy President is now Top Dog for sure.