free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Speaking of groupthink ... time and tide turned against GWB while nobody was looking.

Sept. 11 brought a tsunami of American solidarity. Under external threat, any group tends to pull together ... minimizing internal differences (and recognition or expression of same), exaggerating external differentiators ... standing together, waving the flag, sharing the umbrella, withholding criticism, suspending dissent.

This warm glow of unity was part of GWB's 9/11 "Trifecta" (war, recession, and national emergency), and it's fading out.

Pollsters have decades of baseline on American attitudes to religion. Are you religious? Most subjects say "yes", and this never changes much. Are your fellow Americans religious? Most subjects say "hell, no" ... at least in ordinary times. Are they becoming more or less religious? "Less religious", of course, decade after decade, except in very special circumstances. This series is a robust, sensitive indicator of the solidarity effect.

When threatened and girding for war, we describe our neighbors as religious ... and becoming more so by the minute. (Generally, we answer all questions more positively. Consumer product satisfaction? Great! Job satisfaction? Great! Sexual satisfaction? Great! We're not about to give any lurking foe the satisfaction of knowing we're not satisfied with something.)

Sooner or later this Fog of Harmony lifts. Coaches turn back into pumpkins, public sentiment reverts to business as usual. Reversion happened, just moments ago.

From a Pew Research Center survey:
Is religion's influence on American life increasing?
Mar 2001: 37%
Nov 2001: 78%
Dec 2001: 71%
Mar 2002: 37%
The corner has been turned. We're heading back to the old normal. With the gauzy filter removed, we tend to see our leaders "warts and all" ... maybe even worse.

GWB will not fare well in this harsh light. The recent round of static over steel tariff spinelessness and Middle East policy fecklessness is just a taste of what's to come. In conjunction with the Trifecta, Bush's most severe limitations -- simplicism and an adolescent bellicosity -- served as wellsprings of the decisive confidence that won America's heart.

More later on the Bush43 that might have been ... a decent, harmless POTUS who might even re-center and diversify his party, conciliate and change the tone in Washington, draw support from both sides for a limited agenda ... "a uniter not a divider" who would set the stage for more decisive philosophical playoffs down the road.

Bush now has limited time to cash his chips, and he's gone out on a lot of limbs at once. Maybe he can coast through a favorable November. Maybe not. But you don't win a Trifecta every time out and -- all appearances to the contrary -- GWB is running on empty.