Keep your eye out

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Keep your eye out and you’re bound to see this argument — now floated by many conservative columnists — that Kerry may win because voters need a breather — a time-out, if you will — from the turbocharged rush of history we’ve experienced over the last three years under George W. Bush. The president has simply accomplished so much, bent the world so mightily to his will, that Americans are craving a return to normalcy, as that campaign neologism once had it.

We thirst for mediocrity — the road more travelled — and Kerry quenches us.

But, really, how many times has the American electorate punished a president for accomplishing too much? Franklin Roosevelt? Harry Truman? Theodore Roosevelt? Where are the examples?

The reference Peggy Noonan put forward was with Kerry playing the Warren G. Harding to Bush’s Woodrow Wilson. But Wilson’s presidency, in tandem with his health, had collapsed over his efforts to secure a settled peace after World War I.

Rather than taking it on its merits, though, I have a different take on this argument. It’s a rhetorical or logical reasoning halfway house on the way to a realization of how badly the president has screwed up what one might generously call his ambitious plans. As with Kubler-Ross’s grinding five stages of grief, first we have denial. Then anger. And with this argument we have something akin to that tipping-point stage of ‘bargaining’ — the sensible pundits’ first tip-toe out onto a serious consideration of the impact of the president’s term of office.

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