It started with a martial drum roll already in motion as the case was made–or made up–for marching into the second major military campaign in two years. We paused briefly at the beginning of the year, to take in the horror of a space shuttle disaster, then back to putting the heat on Baghdad. Freedom fries, the WMD shell game, sideswiping and sidestepping the United Nations followed, and in the spring the President could stand the itch no more and pulled the trigger.

While most of the attention was on shot and shell or shock and awe, more corporate crimes were uncovered, environmental protections were rolled back further and another round of congressional tax cutting and trough gorging ensued. By summer the war was supposed to be over and Iraqis were expected to be dancing in the street over their new-found freedom. But what was going on in the streets of Baghdad and the so-called Sunni triangle wasn’t dancing. Apparently the $1 million photo op declaring “mission accomplished” got lost in translation and the steady flow of caskets home–though kept out of sight–are about the only return flights available.

Here in North Carolina we started the year with two Miss America reps, two House Speakers and $2 billion worth of red ink in the state budget. We were quickly down to one senator, though, while John Edwards, who announced he wouldn’t run for his Senate seat again, figured out how to spend millions getting the attention of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. He managed to accomplish the former without much success in the latter.

While Edwards clearly stepped aside for next year, the other top Democrat in the state, Gov. Mike Easley, sent the message loud and clear that he would seek re-election by refusing to reconsider a slew of scheduled executions even though ample evidence existed of prosecutorial misconduct and an uneven, unfair application of the death penalty. The state House backed him up by refusing to consider a moratorium on the death penalty that had cleared the state Senate by a wide margin. Meanwhile thousands lost their jobs on a single day in July when Pillowtex added its name to the role of failed textile operations. In all, the state has lost more than 50,000 manufacturing jobs in 2003 and though the economy is supposed to get a boost by a set of generous corporate “incentives” passed late in the year, you have to wonder if the Wright flyer’s brief liftoff followed by a nose dive in the mud wasn’t a harbinger of what’s ahead for the economy.

But no matter how you slice it, 2003 was George W. Bush’s year. So, in addition to our annual season-by-season look at the year through editorial cartoons, we’ve added some of our favorites of the President. We’ve also added a set on one of the Indy’s favorite topics: media consolidation. Next year, the two topics are sure to converge as Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove prepare to spend hundred of millions convincing us that two wars, angered allies and a runaway deficit equals sound stewardship warranting re-election.

Serious business, yes, but don’t forget to laugh. Humor after all, is subversive and legal. At least for now.