And it's not just a rhetorical point. It's a question worth considering in very real terms. How much would things be different if Barack Obama had been sworn in on November 5th? The question, to some degree, gets at the very different policy perspectives of Bush and Obama. But at least as much, it points to how much things might be different right now if we had an actual president in office -- one who had some legitimacy, some level of public approval and, most importantly, knew he'd be able to see his policies through years rather than weeks into the future.
It's no one's fault, per se. It's written into our constitutional structure. But though our real and fundamental problems are profound, I think we're paying mightily for having no captain at the helm at one of the most perilous points in our recent national history.