Today Okie Gardener posted two oustanding pieces, "Small Government," which equates big government with hubris and original sin, and "The Mask is Off," which speaks to the latest installment of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East (I also encourage you to read the comments section for some cogent and provocative analysis and invite you to contribute to the discussion).

The two posts, ostensibly unconnected, actually speak to the two great dilemmas of our times, which are inextricably linked.

First, here is a more practical question: what happened to the party of small government? Ronald Reagan came to Washington convinced that people were basically good--but big government made them do bad things. For Reagan, and a generation of conservatives, government was the problem. The Bushies came to town seemingly convinced that big government would be just fine as long as it was in the hands of the right people. And, of course, that philosophy brings us back full-circle to FDR-LBJ-style liberalism, which began the whole conservative counter-revolution.

The Progressive Experiment has worked extremely well in the short term, but we will need to make some tough decisions in the coming years to save ourselves. Can we continue to live our lives of extraordinary luxury and excess without paying a price? The Progressive golden goose killed the republican wise ant. Now we are working the goose at maximum capacity. How long can we endure?

As I intimated, the Republicans are not much better than the Democrats in this regard. For a while I thought the Democrats were self-destructing, with their political correctness, America-bashing and defeatists default positions. But now I am not so sure. They are making a comeback as the only alternative to Republican flatulence. This election will be telling.

No matter, regardless of what happens in the next few election cycles, the Republicans show every sign of moral confusion. Lord Acton's maxim seems especially true with the Republican Party. God help us if they ever achieve supreme power.

I have previously praised the grand and healthy American tradition of "throwing" entrenched politicians out of office. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that "the great advantage of the Americans consists in their being able to commit faults which they may afterwards repair." Ruling cliques come and go. Fresh ideas and optimism constantly replenish good government, pushing out the generation gone stale. To that end, the ruling Republican majority is the perfect example of a party that entered with bright promise but now needs to go. Although I like many of the principals in the Republican coalition, the log-rolling, posturing, incontinent GOP-controlled Congress of 2006 is completely bereft of the spirit of 1994.

But wait, there is a problem. These are sober times. For all the infuriating shortcomings of the GOP, they are at least serious in facing the threat of the terrorists. We are in an unenviable position, to say the least, in which we are afraid to jettison the corpulent ruling party in fear that the opposition party has not the stomach for the dire times in which we live. For this particular development, perhaps even more than any of his other diabolical deeds, I hate Osama bin Laden. 9/11 so changed the calculus of American politics.

Madison assured us in "Federalist #10" that a far-flung republic could not only survive--but succeed. The far-flung, multi-media, micro-focused America of the twenty-first-century, threatened from without and decaying from within, will provide the ultimate test for that prediction. God Bless America. God save the Republic.