On national security, Brian Katulis says progressives need a story to tell, and Matt Yglesias says they need some confidence. On climate change I’d make basically the same points: the progressive line is too much prose and too little poetry, and it’s delivered from a defensive posture. I liked Bill Richardson’s energy plan, but every time he launched into his list, christ … cap-and-trade of X percent, fuel economy of Y percent, appliance efficiency of Zzzz …

To the extent one hears a tune through the notes, the mood is melancholy. Brothers and sisters, we must sacrifice. It’s time to pay more for what you use, on behalf of brown people far away and your distant descendents. Won’t you send your check today? I guess so, say majorities, dutifully. They don’t mean it.

How about a little swagger? How about tapping into some American archetypes? A little bold leadership mixed with steely-eyed determination, flavored with can-do entrepreneurialism and topped with a soupçon of exceptionalist triumphalism. Now that’s good eatin’! How about we get excited about doing this? It’s the No. 1 task that needs doing in the world right now, and who better than us to kick its ass? When did we become a nation of uptight weenies? Why don’t we stride out and slay monsters anymore? People are tired of cowering at home in front of the tv and taking their shoes off at the airport. This old rig’s still got some juice — let’s fire it up and go conquer something. Even now, we’ve got the smarts and the money no one else has got. This time, instead of conquering a country or an army we can conquer a bitch of a problem.

To deliver a story about climate change that intrigues and challenges and galvanizes, the candidates need to really believe that this is a necessary and a great undertaking. They need to believe that it will ennoble and enrich us, that it will make us a nation of history once again. We’ve become so small. This is how we can become large again — large of ambition and spirit. Say it like you mean it.

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