Did you watch the president’s first press conference, the one that began, “Why all the glum faces?”

Humility becomes him, doesn’t it? He sounded like a different person — far more real. The cockiness is gone, along with that contradictory little undertone of appeal — I don’t know quite how to describe it. When Dubya spoke he always sounded as if he was struggling to defy and ingratiate at the same time. He’d heavy-breathe with the effort — I always visualized cartoon drops of sweat flying from his brow — then smile to measure the effect of what he’d said, with a mixture of doubt and brazen daring.

That Bush is just . . . gone. That one sounded like Mighty Mouse on a trapeze. This one sounds like he has his feet on solid, modest, common ground. And I wondered . . . am I imagining it, or . . .

Rush Limbaugh said, “I feel liberated, and I’m going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don’t think deserve having their water carried.”

Do you think Bush feels liberated too? Do you think he is relieved? Has the election released him from the thrall of an ideological cabal who didn’t really suit him? Is he, on some level, glad that his handlers, minders, jailers, have been proven wrong?

Politics Dubya Unchained?