08/08/2009 05:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Five Reasons to Be Cheerful in America

It's so easy to be negative, but today I'm all about optimism and the power of positive thinking. Here are five reasons to be happy, all of which occurred or came to a head in the past week.

1. The Republicans do something in the tradition of Lincoln. Lincoln was not only our greatest president; he was also a hell of a hell of a politician. His political machine packed the 1860 Republican convention -- out machining the mighty Governor Chase of New York -- to win the presidential nomination. Today, Republican Astroturfing fronts -- e.g., Freedomworks -- are seeking not to win the debate over health care reform but to disrupt and prevent it. That's the 21st GOP "grassroots" machine in action. As Paul Krugman points out in today's column, the attempt of such groups to bully politicians conducting health care town hall meetings may actually backfire. The approach humanizes an issue that all too often is abstracted for political gain. And when voters connect to issues emotionally, they are far more likely to support change.

2. Bill Clinton reminds us what mojo looks like. He went; he rescued; he returned. He did all of this without giving a press conference or hurting in any way the American negotiating position vis-à-vis North Korea. That's not too shabby for a man who was once impeached for having sexual relations with someone other than his soul mate. (On a related note, kudos to Jenny Sanford for making the South Carolina governor's mansion a bachelor pad.)

3. Billy Tauzin got the blues. Billy Tauzin was so cocky about the $80 billion cap on concessions that he'd wrung from the White House that he trumpeted the fact. The resulting uproar ultimately queered the deal, and now PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) is back to square one -- no deal and to comprise rather than submit to real scrutiny and regulation. That's bad for pharma, but good for America.

4. Justice Sonya Sotomayor is a reality. Since just about one in six Americans are now Hispanic, the successful nomination of a wise Latina woman to the highest court is truly something to celebrate. And for anyone who worries about her being an activist jurist, I'd humbly suggest that the strict constitutionalism that expands the second amendment is already pretty active.

5. Joe Morgenstern gave a bad review to a movie he didn't see. The film he panned was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The reason he took this unusual step was because Paramount greatly and rightly feared bad reviews. So unlike the usual talking heads crapping on what they don't bother to learn about, Morgenstern took a hard line with Paramount because it would not allow normal scrutiny. In effect, he acted less like critic and more like an old-fashioned journalist -- going beyond the party line to get to the heart of the matter.