When word got out that a filling station in the Atlanta suburb of Buckhead had received a fresh supply of regular unleaded, the line began forming well before dawn. Thanks to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which crippled Gulf Coast refineries, drivers in the Southeast are creeping around town with their gas gauges on empty, searching for a pump that isn't dry. And while oil companies said supply would improve by Columbus Day, the long lines aren't the only thing giving us déjà vu. We've got an unpopular President in the White House, trouble with Iran and economists raising the specter of stagflation. Russia has invaded a neighboring country. The Yankees couldn't make the playoffs. Breaker 1-9: Was that a purple Gremlin that just rolled by?
The credit crisis has commentators dusting off comparisons to the 1930s, but so far, this feels more like a '70s flashback. It's not just that Zac Efron's hair is almost as shaggy as Shaun Cassidy's or that jeans are once again worn tight enough to read Braille through the back pocket. It's the whole feckless, zipless, helpless vibe that has settled across the land, from the factories of Motor City to the gas lines of Charlotte, from the boardrooms of New York to the subdivisions of California. What's that word again? Oh, yes: malaise.
It's as if the muse of history had turned out to be a Hollywood exec, green-lighting a bad remake of a crummy original. (The guy who decided to give us another Knight Rider, for instance.)
Democrats may smile as they remember the first time they watched the GOP struggle with a battered Administration, a sour economy and a controversial war. The Dems cleaned up in '74 and won a majority of the popular vote for President in '76--the only time they've managed that in 40 years. But they should not forget how the movie ended four years later.
Meanwhile, as President Bush turns down the White House thermostat and slips into a cardigan, the American people must do what they've always done in times of trouble: keep on truckin'.
A Brief History Of: Bracelets PAGE 22
Drawing Room PAGE 26