We liberals have used the language of empire since nearly the beginning of Bush's reign - since even before his policies in Iraq took it from an allusional to a literal reference.
But behind the photo ops, behind the carrier landings, behind the neocon machinations, behind even the bumbling, ham-handed press conferences, most of America - even some liberals - assumed that there was a hardnosed competency lurking behind it allowing America to keep ticking along like it "always" has.
As weird as it may sound, the majority of this country has developed the kind of faith in our government that - despite the complaints about taxes, immigration, blow jobs - that, at its base, the grand experiment that is the United States has been and will be served by a government which knows how to keep it afloat.
In short, much of America believed that, no matter how naked the Bush administration appeared, it was really clothed in the robes of American exceptionalism.
Hurricane Katrina was the boy who stood up and shouted "But he's got nothing on!" - loud enough for Joe America to listen.
New Orleans, forgive them their years of deafness.