The great Albert Jay Nock once wrote an essay that tried to puzzle out the question of how one might know one is living in a period of decline or the onset of a dark age. It's not that easy a question, since there's a strong tendency among most humans to view the situation and the era into which one is born and lives as simply normal, just the way things are. However, certain evidence from the recent presidential debates suggests to me that we are living in or entering into a period of imperial decline in the United States. The evidence, as I put it in my most recent column for Antiwar.com, is the sheer mediocrity of the candidates for president and vice president. It's not surprising that Sarah Palin doesn't know much about issues beyond Wasilla, but she seems (like W) to see her ignorance not as a reason to learn more but almost as a badge of honor, a condition that makes her all the more sure of things about which she has little or no inkling.
But look at the others. Barack Obama is hailed as a great orator for speeches with virtually no intellectual content. Joe Biden is viewd as a seasoned "expert" on foreign policy yet he makes almost inexplicable gaffes and buys into the standard mythology on NATO and Russia. As for John McCain, he's an unstable angry man who has been that way since childhood who equates honor with bellicosity. If this crowd of third-raters vying for the "highest" offices in the criminal enterprise our imperial government has become isn't a sign of decline, I don't know what would be.