Today was a 1995 flashback, with Jim Bunning shutting down core government functions, sneering, growling and flipping the bird to a reporter, while Jim Kyle pronounced that unemployment benefits make people unwilling to work (cf. banker Potter in in It's a Wonderful Life: home mortgages breed "a discontented, lazy rabble instead of a thrifty, working class"). What Democrat doesn't smell overreach? On the same day, an IRS building is evacuated and a Hazmat team called after a suspicious substance is found -- two weeks after an anti-government Kamikaze flew a plane into another IRS building.
Today's apparent attack may have been illusory - the latest report claims that the substance in question was not hazardous -- and Joseph Stack's paranoid rage was politically heterodox. But one needn't tag these assaults -- or pranks, or even mirages -- as coherent political acts to catch a wave of Gingrich-era deja vu.
In April 1995, the Gingrich Congress was in full flush of its "First 100 Days" when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City -- and Clinton reasserted himself as Consoler-in-Chief and started talking about the fires of anti-government rage stoked by hateful talk radio. A few months later came the government shutdown, when Clinton faced down Gingrich, Dole et al and forced them to back off what he called "cruel" cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, education, the earned income tax credit, etc. (helped by Gingrich's public boast that he'd shut down the government because Clinton snubbed him and Dole on Air Force One, seating them at the back). Clinton's poll numbers soared in 1995 and basically never came down.
Of course, Clinton only regained his moxie after failing to reform health care and losing the House and Senate. He was never able to pass major legislation thereafter. Is it too much to hope that Obama has suffered his Dunkirk early? That right now the latest bout of anti-government fever will break, Democrats will breathe and pass health care reform, and go on to weather normal midterm losses?