All the King’s Media: “Amid the smoke and stench of burning careers, Washington feels a bit like the last days of the ancien r?gime. As the world’s finest democracy, we do not do guillotines. But there are other less bloody rituals of humiliation, designed to reassure the populace that order is restored, the Republic cleansed. Let the perp walks begin. Whether the public feels reassured is another matter.

George W. Bush’s plight leads me to thoughts of Louis XV and his royal court in the eighteenth century. Politics may not have changed as much as modern pretensions assume. Like Bush, the French king was quite popular until he was scorned, stubbornly self-certain in his exercise of power yet strangely submissive to manipulation by his courtiers. Like Louis Quinze, our American magistrate (whose own position was secured through court intrigues, not elections) has lost the ‘royal touch.’ Certain influential cliques openly jeer the leader they not so long ago extolled; others gossip about royal tantrums and other symptoms of lost direction. The accusations stalking his important counselors and assembly leaders might even send some of them to jail. These political upsets might matter less if the government were not so inept at fulfilling its routine obligations, like storm relief. The king’s sorry war drags on without resolution, with people still arguing over why exactly he started it. The staff of life–oil, not bread–has become punishingly expensive. The government is broke, borrowing formidable sums from rival nations. The king pretends nothing has changed. “

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