Back in January 2003, Bill Keller wrote that George W Bush had big ambitions to unleash a conservative era making him worthy of being Ronald Reagan's son.
What is Bush's morning in America? He clearly has the instinct to do big things, and barring some failure of leadership -- a serious misadventure abroad, a corroding economy -- he has the license. What does America look like if he succeeds?
Two years ago the question would have seemed ridiculous. We knew America had to be governed from the center. That was the lesson of Bill Clinton's popularity, it was the constraint imposed by a divided electorate and in Bush's case it was the price of a minority victory. Bush had no mandate. But Bush, like Reagan, seems to believe that presidents make their own mandates.
What Bush is striving for, on the evidence of the choices he has made so far, is bold in its ambition: markets unleashed, resources exploited. A progressive tax system leveled, a country unashamed of wealth. Government entitlements gradually replaced by thrift, self-reliance and private good will. The safety net strung closer to the ground. Government itself infused with, in some cases supplanted by, the efficiency and accountability of a well-run corporation. A court system dedicated to protecting property and private enterprise and enforcing individual responsibility. A global common market that hums to the tune of American productivity. In the world, America rampant -- unfettered by international law, unflinching when challenged, unmatchable in its might, more interested in being respected than in being loved.
If he fails, my guess is that it will be a failure not of caution but of overreaching, which means it will be failure on a grand scale. If he succeeds, he will move us toward an America Ronald Reagan would have been happy to call his own.
Six years later it is stunningly clear that he failed on a grand scale. Such a monumental achievement from someone who, as Frank Rich notes, is smaller than life. The only good that came of his failure is he took down the Radical conservatives with him. Now it's time to clean the Augean Stables left in his wake.
Your turn now.