Kevin Drum wonders:: "I wonder how long it will take America to recover from George Bush's uniquely blinkered and self-righteous brand of ineptitude? In the past five years he's demonstrated to the world that we don't know how to win a modern guerrilla war. He's demonstrated that we don't understand even the basics of waging a propaganda war. He's demonstrated that other countries don't need to pay any attention to our threats. He's demonstrated that we're good at talking tough and sending troops into battle, but otherwise clueless about using the levers of statecraft in the service of our own interests. If he had set out to willfully and deliberately expose our weaknesses to the world and undermine our strengths, he couldn't have done more to cripple America's power and influence in the world. Beneath the bluster, he's done more to weaken our national security than any president since World War II."
I think the answer is never.
There's some chance that a political realignment will put the rational adults back in charge, or not.
The loss of America's ability to think and act rationally and competently, goes deep. It is not just that the President is remarkably inept. He has attracted to himself a significant slice of the American electorate -- a working, voting majority -- who, in various ways, are committed to being inept, stupid and corrupt.
Bush's policies have been actively praised and supported by a lot of people: conservative evangelicals, the rich and greedy, closet authoritarians masquerading as libertarians, lots of corrupt Republican politicians and silly Media pundits.
Pointing out that Bush is corrupt, inept and stupid is not going to persuade Bush's base to not support him. They support him, because they are themselves, willfully stupid and corrupt: they see in him, themselves, and they like what they see! You can deride it as bad taste, but they are not likely to be persuaded that they have made a mistake.
Sterling Newberry says that the main trick in politics is to create an implicit alliance, of the rational and the sane against the insane. The rational and the sane are usually not entirely in one Party or other political grouping; the alliance of the rational and the sane is more of a working arrangement, implicit in the interaction of competing elites, which marginalizes "radical" elements across the political spectrum.
The mobilization of Republican power, which culminated in Bush's election, has overthrown the coalition of the sane and rational, which had ruled American politics since the depths of World War II. The combination of the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor allowed FDR to bury the insane, authoritarian, isolationist wing of the Republican Party; it rose from the dead in the McCarthy era, only to bury itself in Goldwater's 1964 campaign.
The coalition of the sane was able to bring down Nixon, when that job had to be done, aided in the final hour by Nixon's own commitment to sanity -- his one redeeming quality.
Whether a coalition of the sane can put the politics of Karl Rove back in a bottle remains to be seen. A political storm is building, the likes of which has not been seen in the United States since the Civil War.