The "fierce urgency of now" must have got up and went.
Because there certainly is no evidence of it anywhere in Washington today as politicians applaud themselves for cutting $38 billion from this year's budget.
Putting that into perspective, the amount of debt owed by the United States jumped $35 billion in a single day last week to a record $14.3 trillion — certainly an alarm for more fierce urgency and less backslapping.
President Obama first deployed his "fierce urgency" line from Martin Luther King Jr. during a speech in Iowa in 2007 when Hillary Rodham Clinton still seemed to have a lock on the Democratic nomination and few outside partisan politics had heard of the guy with the funny name.
It was a promise that Mr. Obama would cure a wide assortment of America's most-pressing ills.
"I am running in this race because of what Dr. King called 'the fierce urgency of now.' Because I believe there's such a thing as being too late, and that hour is almost upon us," Mr. Obama said.
What, after all, could be more pressing than stanching the geyser of debt that currently is drowning this country?
The line is memorable because it captures Mr. Obama's towering humility as well as the national media's trademark skepticism when it comes to smooth-talking liberals. Reading the press coverage from that speech, it remains a mystery that there were any reporters left after all the fainting spells to actually record the rapturous moment.
More specifically, Mr. Obama promised in that speech to be a beacon of hope and freedom for the "yearning faces beyond our shores that says you matter to us, your future is our future and our moment is now."
(Left unsaid was the fine print excepting all the yearning faces in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Ivory Coast and any other countries where uprisings may occur. In Libya. where there is oil, yearning faces are partially eligible for this offer. For a limited time only. Check warranty for details.)
Speaking domestically, Mr. Obama's speech that night in Iowa was a more general promise to be a different kind of Democrat who would not refight the battles of the 1990s. His presidency would usher in a new kind of Washington where the Left is not reflexively pitted against the Right but sanity shall reign.
"I don't want to pit Red America against Blue America," he assured us. "I want to be the president of the United States of America!"
In the White House, he would be a wise, thoughtful and mature grown-up rather than one of those silly old big-spending, big-government liberals from the past century who shoved us onto this glidepath to self-destruction.
It should be noted that among those busily backslapping themselves in Washington today are Republicans who deployed their own version of "fierce urgency of now" rhetoric in last year's elections.
It was a call to arms to stop the spending Armageddon. It was as if our Founding Fathers had wakened from the dead and discovered us passed out in the great house they had built for us, surrounded by all our whores, drugs and gilded baubles.
Preaching this fierce urgency of Patrick Henry, Republicans won by historic margins.
And — to their credit — if they had had their way, they would have made deeper cuts. But, up against Mr. Obama, the Republicans settled for much less.
It was as if their fierce urgency of Patrick Henry was replaced by the fierce urgency of a druggie who so earnestly swears to get clean if only the judge will go easy on him.
• Charles Hurt's column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.