1. Iraq and the 2000 election. It turns out a lot of people who watched George W. Bush claim the presidency and later invade Iraq really hate him and all his works. We have never, I think, in our history seen this level of loathing for a chief executive, not in Franklin Roosevelt's day, not even in Bill Clinton's, when disgust and contempt -- distant relations of hatred -- were the dominant emotions. Some of us seemingly can't think of anything other than the "evil" their president -- and, of course, lackeys like the speaker -- has done.
2. A new media culture -- one of constant accusation, overstatement and hyperbole -- tailored to the needs of the Internet with its insatiable appetite for the shocking. On the worst of the blogs -- a highly overpopulated category -- you're not just mistaken or misguided; you're a stupid, evil #!*%!# who'd sell his cooing infant daughter for a few votes or bucks. The preternatural ability of these obsessed accusers to capture and hold our attention has not been sufficiently appraised -- and maybe can't be just yet.
Meanwhile, the North Koreans, metaphorically, prepare and light their fuse. Who can say authoritatively what the real danger is, or what counter-measures are indicated? We can figure out, even so, the importance of such a matter relative to the importance of another -- yes, another! -- Capitol Hill sex scandal.
Are we on the verge of questioning the frivolity and self-centeredness that customarily drive modern national conversations? Probably not with the seriousness requisite to the task. On the other hand, it's almost a relief to consider seriously a matter of life or death, instead of our usual speciality, a matter of spite and sleaze.
Now wouldn't be exactly the worst time in the world for Americans to ... grow up.