What's going on in this country right now, as exemplified in our current politics and the results in Iowa?
I don't know, despite my hoary locks and innate wisdom. I suspect that many who read this column are not in any closer touch with the Delphic Oracle.
Come let us reason together, as Lyndon Johnson and the Prophet Isaiah had it.
I am surprised by the feeling that, after losing Iowa, Donald Trump has had it, whether or not he wins New Hampshire -- and notwithstanding his vast entertainment value. It is the entertainment value that may be deserting him. We've all seen his act. Is that all there is? Just the act? Just the repeated feats of personal ventilation, admired by millions looking for leadership? That's all? No vision? Just Tarzan-like chest-thumping?
I draw away from Trump to bring Marco Rubio into the picture. Indeed he painted some picture as he spoke for the TV cameras Monday night. He said: "We are going to unify this party, and we are going to unify the conservative movement. ... We are going to grow the conservative movement. ... We will defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders." It sounds like something more and better than chest-thumping. Leadership is what it sounds like: moving somewhere, doing necessary things and not just putting on a show.
Ted Cruz -- at more stupefying length -- made overlapping predictions while sounding his own trumpet call to action. Cruz was first in the Republican caucuses. He cannot be underestimated. I mentioned Rubio first because Rubio, while talking to us, smiled often and winningly. Cruz exhibited intensity. One could say he glowered. Does a glowering candidate take frown and curled upper lip onto the national campaign circuit with better odds than a smiling candidate? I need some convincing on this score.
My takeaway from Monday night concerning the GOP is that Marco Rubio possesses political skills -- leadership skills -- easily more remarkable than Cruz's. Cruz bashes. Well, OK. Lots of people need bashing. But that doesn't mean a candidate for president of a highly complex and presently divided nation is likelier to win with a sledgehammer than a back pat or an elbow squeeze. From the look of things Monday night, Rubio is, of the two men, the more natural politician, hence the likelier national candidate.
I am starting to see Rubio on the upward track, passing Trump and Cruz as they make their way downward. Time will tell, to coin a phrase.
As for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, we have a pair here who exhibit in combination the reasons that a rational and, maybe above all, persuasive conservative ticket is the need of the day. Imagine Bernie as president. He wouldn't and couldn't do all he says he would do to turn America into a welfare paradise. But a man who has long advertised himself as a Bible-non-believing, control-minded socialist -- shall we take a chance on his discovering common sense once elected president?
That the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and JFK can't at this stage come up with leaders more plausible than a socialist and the lawfully wedded wife of Bill Clinton shows the political peril we face -- and helps explain the muddle and mistakes of the past decade. A party run by teachers' unions, climate change absolutists and the sexual freedom lobby can't be expected to notice trivialities like declining economic opportunity, increasing regulation, intractable joblessness, family decline and humiliation abroad. What a President Clinton or President Sanders -- now pleasantly yoked at the 49-49 approval level in Iowa -- would contribute to national resurgence is not easy to predict.
What, then, lies ahead for us? My brothers and sisters in the media cannot (and should not) be relied on for prophecy, a trade at which we're no better than anyone else. The mood of the country bears easier examination. There is hunger all over the place for conditions in which things go right. I don't mean right-of-center. I mean right as in correctly: where the joys of freedom and opportunity and social stability minimize opportunities for the yellers, the big-top performers, the social and cultural wrecking crews.