Case in point: There hasn't seemed to be any legitimate political weight behind objections to Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, but the noise around her "reverse racism" has been loud and unpleasant — so loud, in fact, that Colin Powell (South Bronx shout out!) has taken it upon himself to defend her. Powell knows a little about this machinery, and has had a good chunk of his career ruined by it, so maybe he's taking this personally — but you just have to marvel at how poisoned the ground has become over the last 15 years* when a former Secretary of State has to defend a qualified Supreme Court nominee over the willful misinterpretation of comments she made. Scarier still, perhaps, is how normal this seems to us.
*I date this ugliness to Newt Gingrich's conservative revolution, a time when Rush Limbaugh and the party leadership spoke as one, and spoke loudly. Since then we've seen the rise of guys like Karl Rove and Frank Luntz, and the decline of Greatest Generation decorum, to be replaced by the narcissistic campus psycho-dramas of the 60s and early 70s — I pretty much blame the Boomers for everything wrong with America.