Nothing dates the 1990s as much as the conscientiousness of its public life. The US agonised over scandals that would struggle for air time now. Operational squabbles during the Balkans interventions counted as discord with allies. And the ogre of the day was, Democrats and Republicans agreed, the budget deficit. In retrospect, the "holiday from history" was not so complacent. If scandal and brusqueness abroad have assumed new magnitudes, then at least it is the stuff of political controversy. Americans discuss it. Some will protest by voting against Congressional Republicans in November. It is the collapse of fiscal conservatism that is being normalised with a shrug and a yawn. Democrats are campaigning against the inequitable distribution, more than the aggregate cost, of Donald Trump’s deficit-widening tax cut. Republicans, such fiscal worry warts under Barack Obama, roll around quite happily in the red ink spilt by their own president. It is natural to locate the blame right her...

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