“President Obama gave a terrific speech Wednesday night.”

John McCain in the Washington Post, 1/16/11

Remember that bridge to the 21st century Bill Clinton used to talk about? It turns out to be easier for some to cross than for others. For those born, raised, and brainlocked into the 20th century, last week’s “terrific speech” from Tucson is a prime example of how far we’ve fallen behind.

Not as a partisan carp but simply as an observation: I can’t recall any prior presidential address at a memorial service that brought on sustained cheering and standing ovations. I’d tuned in for what I presumed would be – as the President had previously called for – a moment of “prayer or reflection” and instead found myself watching the equivalent of a celebrative political rally.

That, however – or so I’m advised by editorialists and commentators – is the way it’s done nowadays.

It seems that L.P. Hartley had it only half-right. “The past is a foreign country,” he wrote. “They do things differently there.” Add to that, from this observer’s perspective, that for some of us it’s the present that’s a foreign country. They do things differently here. Or should I say, terrifically?