What Obama needs to talk about in his “big speech” tomorrow night is economy, not Afghanistan. What we need is a wartime economist. Like a war president, but for the economy. The Punjab may be falling apart but so is the American economy. The economy is the greater crisis and the people are getting brittle.

The new push in Afghanistan is Obama’s second phase of denial, healthcare being the first. He has the issues in complete reverse priority. Healthcare first, he goes, then Afghanistan and then the economy. It is just the opposite. Economy is first, the war second and healthcare last and dependent on the outcome of the first two. That he claims now that he is going to “finish this thing,” suggests he is reading that issue of GQ with his picture on the cover and Admiral Mike Mullen’s happy face briefs. That this comes at the critical moment when his approval has slipped to 45 percent suggests the classic “patriotic war” so favored by Russian czars and commissars to firm up peasant support. The language, “finish this thing,” is pure jive. No one believes it and we are expected when we hear it to enter into that state of agreeable disbelief and patronization that we use with children and innocents. We do not treat children as equals. We do not treat innocents as adults.

But it is a very good day for Mitt Romney. If America wanted a competent war manager she would have voted Romney in in 2008. This will provide invaluable background and market research for him as he eyes 2012. And it will do nothing but swell the Ron Paul ranks of the youngish Republicans; a cake that is rising anyway.

The heartland insurgency which the Pauls, Ron and son Rand, speak to is making the people brittle. Just two years ago it was all middle-class fat and happy walking slowly across the Washington mall or the college campus in a self-satisfied Starbucks-induced trance. Then last year the victorious bliss with a new black president and nothing clouding the horizon but pirates, bed bugs, a plague of suburban coyotes and that feral wolf girl from Alaska who says she travels with God and Todd. Today we read in Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column that there is no love for Obama among Democrats, that questions of integrity are arising among his core professional support and there is throughout “ . . . the growing perception of incompetence.”

So it is getting brittle. Those very vulnerable mall cultures and uptight exurbs — globalization’s transitory, disposable, techno-societies — which seemed to spring up overnight out of the South’s red clay, are beginning to feel the edge of a new rural angst. And they are blaming it on the wolf girl.

Next year, the year after, things could actually start to shred if Obama doesn’t find the path and head the economy in the right direction. This president who so likes to be compared to Lincoln has been misguided by Krugman & Co. The Keynesians have led him into the wilderness. They are Obama’s George McClellan; stallers, busy-makers and in the end, incompetents. He needs to fire them as Lincoln finally fired McClellan. He needs to find an economist like Grant if he wants to be a Lincoln.

Worth noting this week when Obama speaks to our honored soldiers to kick off his new campaign in Afghanistan, an item on page 20 of The New York Times on Thanksgiving day. Ron Paul proved to be a “surprising” presence in 2008, it said, and his son Rand is an “unexpected” candidate in the 2010 Senate race in Kentucky.

Surprising to whom? Unexpected by whom? Obama needs professionals who are not surprised by the life’s predictable vagaries of sin and joy. The fate of the republic depends on it.

Visit Mr. Quigley's website at http://quigleyblog.blogspot.com.