FOR A DAY OR TWO AFTER COLIN POWELL DECLINED TO enter the presidential race, many Americans felt an irritated deflation, followed by a wave of what might be called Scarlett O'Hara syndrome--a pining for the Ashley Wilkes we cannot have.

It is a surreal development in the American electorate's psychology that Powell should be the Ashley Wilkes in this piece, the unavailable paragon. (Pursuing the analogy too far is tough, since it involves transforming either Bob Dole or Bill Clinton into Rhett Butler.) As Powell's case shows, the romance of the withheld is powerful. Scarlett wanted Ashley because she could not...

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