I've spent the past three days in Hilton Head Island, S.C.; the recent Easter getaway is a useful reminder that when you get outside the Beltway, this is still an awfully nice country. Your mileage may vary; perhaps when you're the parent of small children, everyone sympathizes and is a little extra patient with you. But at the airports, in the beach, on the road, the vast majority of the people I've encountered these past few days have been friendly and helpful. Perhaps it's southern hospitality, or spring, or the holiday.
So outside the political realm, America seems like the land of the kind, courteous, and decent. Everybody seems so reasonable, so easygoing. And then, as I return to writing the Jolt, and step back into the world of politics, it's as if I've stamped my passport and immigrated to a vastly different, more hostile country, with a culture driven by sneers and egos, torn asunder by nasty battles among hostile factions. It's a piranha tank.
Are we seriously arguing over whether Trig Palin is off limits? Is Paul Krugman at the New York Times seriously arguing that the problem with our politics is that everyone is too nice to each other? Oh, I'm sorry; his argument is simply that his side is too nice to everybody else. Every Republican contender for 2012 has to weigh in on birtherism, lest he be accused of dodging the issue. Since every thought that pops into the head of Donald Trump is expressed forthwith, the narrative in these early months is driven by the not-so-subconscious political id of a self-promotional army of one who makes the Salahis look shy. With a $1.5 trillion deficit set for this year (perhaps more!) do we seriously have to argue that our entitlement programs are unsustainable, or that the government has to spend less?
I feel as if I'm doing play-by-play during a riot at the insane asylum.
You almost could understand a flirtation with oddball political figures when the country thought it was at peace and had prosperity -- the 1998 election of Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota, for example. But take a look at what's going on. .
. . . with Jim Geraghty
NRO Newsletter . .