Fellow member of the reality-based community Matthew Yglesias looks into the abyss that he brilliantly labels the 'Putanization of Amercian life'. It's ugly down there.
Christopher Hitchens, in one of the few insightful things he's said about the war on terrorism, took the chance in his final Nation column to criticize those on the left “who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.” At the time, I thought it was a very sharp remark. I never supported Bush and always hoped he would lose in 2004 since I thought his policies were misguided, but many people seemed to me at the time to have lost all sense of perspective about who the really threatening enemies were. Suskind's article along with other pieces of evidence of what one might call the creeping Putinization of American life (the Sinclair incident, the threatening letter to Rock The Vote, the specter of the top official in the House of Representatives making totally baseless charges of criminal conduct against a major financier of the political opposition [shades of Mikhail Khodorovsky], the increasing evidence that the 'terror alert' system is nothing more than a political prop, the 'torture memo' asserting that the president is above the law, the imposition of rigid discipline on the congress, the abuse of the conference committee procedure, the ability of the administration to lie to congress without penalty, the exclusion of non-supporters from Bush's public appearances, etc.) are beginning to make me think this assessment may have been misguided. Terrorist forces operating in and around Chechnya have done some horrible things — I was in Moscow for the big apartment bombings — but ultimately the most harmful thing they have done was to enable Putin to tighten his grip on power.
Update: For an example of how common culture produces similar responses, see this post by Kevin Drum on the same Yglesias text, using the same “abyss” metaphor for its headline!