Friday, September 23, 2005

Am I Blue?

Retired economist Paul Krugman stands Johnny Mercer on his head from his insecure bunker behind the NY Times wall; he decides to accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive, and not mess with Mr. In-between:

Katrina did more than physical damage; it was a blow to our self-image as a nation. guess is that Katrina's shock to our sense of ourselves will persist for years.

America's current state of mind reminds me of the demoralized mood of late 1979, when a confluence of events -- double-digit inflation, gas lines and the Iranian hostage crisis -- led to a national crisis of confidence.

Except for the fact that we don't have gas lines, inflation and a hostage crisis--thanks to Ronald Reagan--you mean something will turn down if you hope hard enough, Paul?

In the early months after 9/11, America's self-confidence actually seemed to have been bolstered by the attack: the Taliban were quickly overthrown, and President Bush looked like an effective leader. The positive perception of what happened after 9/11 has, needless to say, been a mainstay of Mr. Bush's political stature.

But now that more time has elapsed since 9/11 than the whole stretch from Pearl Harbor to V-J Day, people are losing faith. Osama, it turns out, could both run and hide. It's obvious from the evening news that Al Qaeda and violent Islamic extremism in general are flourishing.

And the hapless response to Katrina, which should have been easier to deal with than a terrorist attack, has shown that our leaders have done virtually nothing to make us safer.

And here's the important point: these blows to our national self-image are mutually reinforcing. The sense that we're caught in an unwinnable war reinforces the sense that the economy is getting worse, and vice versa. So we're having a crisis of confidence.

It's the kind of crisis that opens the door for dramatic political changes -- possibly, but not necessarily, in a good direction. But who will provide leadership, now that Mr. Bush is damaged goods?

Not any of your Gloomy-Gus friends. That's for sure.

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