THE BULLY IN CHIEF. Back in the 1990s, we were treated to all manner of stories regarding how Bill Clinton, his wife, their marriage, and his presidency were all coming unglued at once. When they were sourced at all, they were sourced as well as the average story concerning Ferris wheels on Mars. The crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree. The tossing of the vase -- or was it a book, a globe, or a bust of Grover Cleveland? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

Somehow, though, it all stayed behind closed doors -- and within the lurid imaginings of people like Gary Aldrich -- since Clinton himself remained capable of sailing through press conferences and interviews by drowning them in wonkish minutiae. No Nixon-shoving-Ziegler moments for him.

This all came back to me because, quite frankly, I think the president of the United States is getting ready to slug somebody. And, based on several recent on-camera performances, all of them readily available to anyone who wants to watch, you wouldn't have to say anything about his momma, his wife, his kids, his dogs, or the fundamental legitimacy of his pedigree to get him to throw down on your ass like the genuine Earnie (The Acorn) Shavers. It appears that all that would be necessary is for you push a question about his policies beyond the limits of whatever talking-points he has on the subject.

First, there were several petulant moments on the sidewalks of New Orleans with NBC's Brian Williams, and then there was that stone-weird episode where he started poking at Matt Lauer while the two were talking in the Oval Office. Then, there was Friday's press conference, and nobody will ever tell me that he wasn't thinking about popping, say, David Gregory in the bazoo around the second or third follow-up. My old friend and mentor, the late George Reedy, wrote extensively thirty years ago about the destructive isolation that is the inevitable byproduct of White House sycophancy and careerism. There are presidents who can rise above it, and presidents who can't, but none of them ever looked like they were ready to toss hands because people questioned their right to torture. It's become truly startling how close we seem to be coming to the "Because I said so, that's why" moment.

--Charles P. Pierce