For those of us who consider ourselves political moderates, life is a dispiriting slog, a sorry mix of rectitude and ineptitude.
That was the miracle of Abraham Lincoln, politician. He pursued the high purpose of moving justice forward via the low arts of patronage and patronization. Indeed, in a democracy, it is usually the only way great deeds are done.
Back in George W. Bush's second term, when diplomatic realism began to overtake foolish bellicosity, the president developed one of his patented nicknames for the two most powerful neoconservative journalists, William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer: he called them 'the Bomber Boys.'
When politicians began to see that every last thing that they did in public could be broadcast to a mass audience, the fact that the stakes were so much higher now that every moment became fraught caused them to become more cautious, and the consultants very gradually but inevitably became literal reactionaries.
Ever since John Kennedy, Democrats have had a weakness for dashing younger men like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and, I suppose, Jimmy Carter. They balance their tickets with senior statesmen - Lyndon Johnson, Joe Biden, Walter Mondale. (Al Gore was young but played ancient).
If there was one fact that sent me hurtling off to write 'Politics Lost,' it was when I learned that John Kerry had focus-grouped Abu Ghraib. We knew about the Justice Department memo in June of 2004, and Kerry didn't raise that in any one of his three debates with George Bush.