Since the advent of the high postmodern period in the early Nineties, I have come to be something of a connoisseur of po-moments in public life. Of course, in the arts and in the academic world, postmodernism has been around for some time, but I date its debut in the public square to 1990 when George Bush reneged on his “read my lips” pledge of less than two years earlier. It wasn’t, of course, just that a politician broke a promise. That was nothing new. But this was a promise by which the politician was identified in the public mind. It was the one thing that everybody knew about George Bush. “Read my lips . . .” is probably still his best hope for winning an entry in Bartlett’s. He knew this at the time, and he broke the promise almost off-handedly, without shame and without being held to account for it by the opposition party (who of course rejoiced in private) or the press.

The result, for me, was...


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