It is a country worn down by present dangers (the economy) and exhausted by commemorations of grief (9/11). Around the corner is an election where retrenchment and lost ambition will trump hope. Oh, for the days of... what or who? Oh, for the bright beacon days – of course – of Camelot.
Tonight a wish will be granted by the fairy godmother of the nation. Imagine she has dropped in and asked: "Which figure in your recent history, taken too young, should I restore to you, at least in voice, to give you distraction?" So some might answer Elvis or Tupac Shakur, but it's a decent bet that many will have looked up and said Jackie. Give us Jackie again.
There is a health warning posted before we board. Passengers may experience brief periods of vertigo. The tapes, made four months after JFK's assassination in Dallas, do offer confirmation of a wife unstintingly loyal to the husband she has lost and the father of her children. But they swerve alarmingly – or deliciously – when Mrs Kennedy turns to describing characters she didn't quite approve of.
The trailers for the tapes – The New York Times boasted its own synopsis yesterday, and ABC primed its ratings numbers with a few juicy audio excerpts on its news bulletins – read like those saucy teasers in the tacky tabloids. Which women's rights pioneer did Mrs Kennedy dismiss as a "lesbian"? Which American civil rights movement icon did she consider a womanising "phoney", and which leader of a European nation an "egomaniac"? And what scared her husband most about Lyndon Johnson?
Maybe it was the skill of Mr Schlesinger, a Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicler of American public affairs who died in 2007, that drew Ms Kennedy into becoming, well, a bit bitchy. Just about everyone she dishes dirt on has a legacy, by the way, rather more substantial than hers. Did she really say that about Indira Gandhi?