In "Leftward, Ho?, " his lead story for the Sunday Week in Review, reporter Mark Leibovich acted pretty giddy about a possible liberal revival in the U.S. in the wake of Democratic victories in the 2006 congressional elections.
"These are balmy days on the American left - genuine, uncharacteristic sunniness unpolluted by some fluky political climate change. There is even talk of a - stutter, clear-throat, perish-thought - liberal resurgence.
"Or, treading gingerly, a 'liberal moment.'
"'Hell, ya, this is a liberal moment,' exults Thomas Frank, author of 'What's the Matter With Kansas?' - and yes, he even calls himself a 'liberal' writer, eschewing the sleeker 'progressive' stage name that many lefties are preferring these days. [The Times is pretty good at eschewing the liberal label as well - Ed.] Hedeclares this 'liberal moment' loud and proud. Until the inevitable qualifier comes.
"'A potentially liberal moment,' Mr. Frank says, 'assuming that liberal politicians can seize the moment and get beyond their usual plague of incompetence.'
"Oh, snap. Liberal optimism, thy name is caution and caveat.
"But it is optimism nonetheless, and well-founded, too, say Mr. Frank and a broad spectrum of political thinkers and leaders. And, they say, the evidence goes beyond the obvious indicators - the ascendance of Democrats in the House and Senate, President Bush's second-term belly-flop and poll numbers showing the Democratic Party trending left and the nation's political center trending Democratic.
"The chicken-egg riddle is how much this alleged 'liberal moment' bespeaks genuine momentum for the left and how much stems from anti-Bush, antiwar, anti-Republican fervor.
"In other words, liberal moment or conservative slump?"
Leibovich gushed: "Presidential candidates, for instance, can now safely utter 'universal health care' without being tarred as supporters of 'socialized medicine.'"
Leibovich blamed conservatives for any bad name liberals have, as if conservatives are never made fun of by liberals.
"Even in the sweetest of times, liberals tend to be congenitally averse to walking tall, as if they're always half-expecting to be one step away from getting decked by a falling piano.
"Years of ridicule, battering and electoral defeat will do that. The liberal imprint has been trashed by generations of conservative candidates and commentators drilled in every unbecoming association ('tax and spend liberal,' 'big government liberal,' 'ivory tower liberal,' 'limousine liberal,' 'commie, hippie, purple haired, weak kneed, bleeding heart, limp-wristed, weepy eyed, take your choice liberal')."
Leibovich's actual evidence for a liberal resurgenceis limited to increased belief among the public in global warming (a fact helped by a credulous press), California's strict new emissions standards, and the fact that Democratic candidates for president are talking about "universal health care."