Last year in October, I did a book tour of Germany. Every night I was there, after my reading, I would have dinner with some of the Germans who were kind enough to have hosted me on the trip. And almost without fail, after enough time had passed that they felt comfortable with me, the more-or-less same question would come up. Paraphrased, it is thus: “Okay, seriously, what is going on with your politics over there? You’re scaring the hell out of us.” And specifically, they wanted to know what was going to happen to President Obama, which the Germans, to a person, saw as a reasonable and moderate leader. They were terrified that he would not be re-elected.

Here’s more or less what I said to the Germans then: “Look, all the political noise is going to get much worse in 2012 because it’s a presidential election year and…

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