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2008–2009: After an October Surprise …

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2009: President Romney confronts the bank meltdown.  

Romney’s second great legislative coup—a comprehensive energy policy with a place for the new “micro-nuclear” plants that were about to come online in India—attracted no opposition from his predecessor, which many took as yet another sign that a long-awaited postpartisan era was at last at hand. In realms besides the strictly political —journalism, pop music, TV, and movies—pundits detected, and were quick to celebrate, a temperate, optimistic “new civility.” Media outlets that failed to heed the trend, such as the ever-quarrelsome Fox News, were rewarded with plunging ratings, while public figures identified with conflict, like Sean Hannity and Kanye West, drifted toward obscurity.

A prudent Romney, aware that most of his term still lay ahead of him, resisted taking credit for the new mood. At a festive Thanksgiving Day dinner in the White House whose dessert course was open to the press, he turned to the man beside him, raised his glass (filled with seltzer rather than Champagne), and toasted the man he now called “Uncle Al” for “smoothing and broadening the way.” Warm smiles were exchanged. The cameras drank them up.

The Tabernacle Choir broke out in song.


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